Remote working is the new normal. As much as it has changed how companies work and manage tasks, it has created concerns over the misuse of company time.
In the absence of physical supervision, we tend to give into the temptation to scroll through our social media or play mobile games longer. And such personal distractions not only draw us away from work but also cause us to lose track of time.
So, if you need evidence that you can trust your remote employees to stay productive, then a remote employee monitoring software is for you!
A remote employee monitoring software is a platform for managers to keep track of work hours, breaks, online activities and progress on tasks.
This post will dive deep into a few popular remote team tracking software that provides transparency two ways; for employees to know what is being tracked and for employers to keep their remote team accountable during business hours. First things first,
What is remote employee monitoring?
Remote employee monitoring are a set of activities that an employer takes to ensure that productivity and performance are optimal in a work-from-anywhere arrangement. It helps to improve transparency by giving context to interactions.
According to Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work report, 80% of remote employees work from homes, which means increased distractions that risk going unchecked. This, naturally affects motivation no matter how self-disciplined you are. The objective of monitoring remote employees, is to prevent mismanagement of work time, while helping workers balance accountability and breaks. When employees are informed of how they are being tracked, they are more likely to remain self-aware of priorities, and would not need constant reminding. More importantly, work is easier to track and reconcile against what is fed back to you verbally. With the right remote work monitoring software, you can detect idle-time, and enhance billable work based on productivity hours.
1. How do you keep employees accountable when working from home?
Keeping work-from-home teams accountable is on every manager’s list. It’s a fact that stress, exhaustion and distractions can get to everyone, including the high-performers. The tips below can help keep you police work from home teams in order to keep employees accountable :
- Create a WFH policy document: A work-from-home handbook lays down the ground rules and puts expectations in writing. It lists the reporting lines (i.e. who to get approvals from for work hour flexibility and time off), equipment to be used, remote access to workstations and meeting standards to be met when working remotely.
- Regularize communication: Remote workers should feel connected to their teammates without getting distracted from what they should be doing. To do this effectively, work and non-work discussions should be balanced. Set aside a fixed hour for formal stand ups but also find time for informal check ins. You could also organize a virtual potluck meal where teams can socialize and share what they have been up to.
- Leverage remote-centric technology: An employee monitoring software alone can’t keep your teams accountable. You should also use tools that integrate with productivity and time tracking apps such that remote teams can self-manage and stay on top of their schedule.
2. Best Remote Employee Monitoring Software
Monitoring work-from-home teams starts by picking a remote-centric employee monitoring software. That being said,the words ‘employee monitoring’ have negative connotations around it, which is why most companies toy with the idea of using a remote work monitoring system.
- It implies that you don’t trust your staff enough to do their job without you in there along with them.
- Employees would feel that they are being spied upon. They would either be uncomfortable or ambivalent about a monitoring tool running in the background.
Trust works both ways, which is why you should first inform your staff of your intention to onboard them onto work from home monitoring tools. The message to be conveyed here, is that work-related activities are being watched.
So this way, they know what they will be held accountable for, and you get to maximize work visibility. Without further ado, here are 10 tools (plus, a bonus tool) that will nudge remote employees in the right direction!
A. Time doctor
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: Time doctor lets employers track virtual logins and logouts, client billable hours and the sites their remote staff visit during work hours.
About: Time Doctor was founded in 2012 by Rob Rawson and Liam Martin. Both of them developed Time Doctor’s features around the belief that the future of work is remote, enabling their customers to set up distributed teams. A few such customers include SEOZEO, Ericsson and Verizon.
Why SIWOM likes them: The core Time Doctor features are attendance, project management and budgeting, payroll, timesheets, website monitoring and time tracking. But what I really like are the distraction alerts. It detects excess social media time and reminds the user to get back on track through pop-ups. This way, you’re getting a breather, but are also reminded of when it’s time to refocus, which is great!
Pricing: While the standard plan, priced at USD 10 per month is the most popular package, there are basic and Premium plans for USD 7 and 20 respectively. If you’re looking for a tool with many integrations and more activity and time tracking components, the standard plan sounds like the one you should consider.
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: ActivTrak is a productivity tracking cloud-based app. It gives businesses visibility into user activity and lets employers configure and enforce remote work monitoring software policies.
About: ActivTrak has been in the market for eight years and was founded in Texas by Birch Grove Software. It is a user activity tracking application that picks up the most productive workflows to analyze employee engagement. A few such customers include Mancosa, Hive360 and Nobu.
Why SIWOM likes them: I liked that ActivTrak has use cases for insider threat detection features, data compliance and privacy, which aren’t commonplace in many remote employee monitoring tools. Also, the key insights are accessible on one dashboard and are bite-sized, making it easier to understand.
Pricing: ActivTrak’s Freemium plan is free (and great!)for 3 users, while the advanced plan starts at USD 7 per user per month.
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: Hubstaff brings up shifts, time off requests and team availability so that employers can plan and assign to-dos to remote teams.
About: Hubstaff is an employee time tracking software that was launched in 2012. Like Time Doctor, Hubstaff is powered by a 100% remote team. Other platforms in addition to time tracking include agile project management and talent management for job finding and remote hiring. Hubstaff’s clientele include Kurve, Groupon and Instacart.
Why SIWOM likes them: The first thing I noticed about Hubstaff, was how User-experience oriented its tracking dashboards are. My personal favorite was the geofencing feature that automatically starts and stops time tracking according to when members login and logout. I also liked the option to add budget limits to new projects. It alerts you of clock-bound activities and lets you know how and where time is being spent.
Pricing: If you intend to be the sole user, you can go for a free plan. The basic, premium and enterprise plans are priced at USD 7, 10 and 20 and lets you add more than 2 users.
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: Toggl helps managers keep remote teams productive with its inbuilt idle-time detection and time tracking facility. It breaks down hours by projects, tasks and client to help you ascertain which all projects make you money, and which ones are holding teams back
About: Toggl is an Estonian-based time tracking app that has been in business since 2006. Like Hubstaff and TimeDoctor, Toggl transitioned to a fully remote team in 2014 and has registered over 1 million users since 2016. A few of them include PerceptionEngineering, Mediacurrent and Mooveit.
Why SIWOM likes them: I liked the Toggl button that sends out tracking reminders. It also has time-sensitive idle detection that activates if you forgot to stop the timer manually. You can then return and review time reports. I also like team members in a remote network can assign billable rates to their work to make sure they’re paid fairly for the time they spend on tasks.
Pricing: Compact time tracking comes with a Starter plan of USD 9. But if you’re a larger remote team, the USD 18 premium or enterprise custom pricing might be more your speed.
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: Teramind is intended for businesses that want to monitor user actions when online. It maintains access logs across all devices to help track and control activity.
About: Launched in 2014,Teramind is based in the US and is a robust user behavior analytics tracking platform. It keeps track of expense and time entries and is used by companies like Globonics.
Why SIWOM likes them: Teramind features Data Loss Protection(DLP) and User Activity Monitoring(UAM), which initially sounded like Greek and Latin to me. However, it was the reports that caught my attention, with comparative metrics like active vs. idle time, productive and unproductive time. I particularly liked Teramind policy and rules engine,which focuses on protecting businesses from data theft.
Pricing: The minimum number of users are 5. There are both on-premise and cloud based plans,which are priced at USD 25, USD 50, USD 60 and USD 90 respectively. The packs are Teramind Starter, UAM, DLP and Teramind DLP (with content-based exfiltration rules)
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: SentryPC monitors, filters and controls user activities remotely. It lets managers specify hours for which attempts to access non-work related sites should be blocked, thereby preventing virtual distractions.
About: SentryPC started out as Access Control Software in 2001, which makes it one of the oldest monitoring tools in the space. The product offerings are for business, families and schools.
Why SIWOM likes them: I like the real-time viewing and time management capabilities within SentryPC. It lets you view keystrokes, conversations and even websites that are frequented. This can seem a tad too invasive, but this is because the product caters to schools and homes and as such, is intended to secure your system against cybercrime targeting the vulnerable.
Pricing: SentryPC’s pricing options are divided according to the number of PCs supported. You can purchase a single system license for USD 59.95 or manage upto 50 (USD 995)and 100 PCs (USD 1595) with the business 50 and business 100 plans.
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: Controlio lets employers monitor PC activity from anywhere around the world. It automatically tracks productive and distracting activities, allowing employers to set productivity scores.
About: Controlio is a remote monitoring tool launched in 2017 by EfficientLabs. Unlike Work examiner which is an on-premise solution, Controlio is web-based. It operates in the background under stealth mode and is free for upto 3 computers.
Why SIWOM likes them: Signing up for the Controlio dashboard is hassle-free. After you install the client program, you’ll get to monitor screens live, and record user activities. Since it’s hosted on the cloud, there’s no limit to screenshots and time-stamped video recordings that can be uploaded.
Pricing: USD 7.99 for Cloud, which lasts for 6 months. Ideal for small and medium-sized businesses. The prices for on-premise and AWS are custom.
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: Clicktime contains timesheeting facilities that even work offline. It helps managers look in on project performance and resource availability and optimizes a remote workforce’s hours.
About: ClickTime is the oldest find in this post,going back all the way to 1997. A division of Mann consulting, Clicktime was initially a web-based timesheet that gradually expanded its capabilities to include reporting, expense and time-tracking, employee hour and performance tracking. Users include Vodafone,BlackRock and American Express.
Why SIWOM likes them: Three things I like about ClickTime are their multi-device time-tracking, workforce planning and in-depth productivity report filtering based on employee, team or project. Also, there are templates for you to start on, such as resource planning,project cost estimation and capacity utilization, which I have not come across in the other remote employee tracking software discussed so far.
Pricing: The names and pricing packages are Starter (USD 9), team (USD 12), premier(USD 24) and enterprise (custom).
I. Veriato :
What problem do they resolve for remote businesses: Veriato’s work-from-home friendly platform lets remote managers create daily activity logs and weekly vision reports (like a vision board). It gives visibility into what a remote resource is working on at any given point in time.
About: Veriato started out in 1998 and was one of the earliest-known entrants into internet monitoring. The different products are cerebral, investigator,vision and ransomsafe. Sony, Northrop Grumman and Amway are some notable names in their client base.
Why SIWOM likes them: Veriato is robust and protects your data from threats. The Vision platform in particular, monitors employee productivity and records online activities,keystrokes typed, messages,online searches, websites footfall,social media sites and even the usage of USB sticks!
Pricing: Vision is priced by the type of device (PC or Mac) and costs $150.00 per License for 3 – 9, $135.00 for 10 – 19 Licenses and $121.50 per License for 20 – 49 Licenses.
What problem do they solve for teams: Rescuetime is a time management platform for remote teams that lets them stay focused on the priorities while on the clock.
About them: Developed in 2008, Rescuetime has been in business for 12 years and automates time tracking. It boasts of a recognizable pool of clients, including Wired, the Guardian and Lifehacker
Why ‘Sorry I was on Mute’ likes them: I’ve mentioned RescueTime in a previous read but felt that it deserves to go into this compilation as well. I like how you can get a 360 degree picture on work meetings, calls, projects and everything else so that you know where you need to scale back, or hit the pause button on busywork.
Pricing: $72 after the standard 14-day free trial.
K. BONUS -Workpuls
What problem do they solve for businesses–Workpuls is a productivity monitoring tool that analyzes web interactions and labels work as productive, or not for employers.
About them: Workpuls was founded in 2015 by Serbian entrepreneur Ivan Petrovic. It has reported to have helped businesses save $10 million in time annual and boost clock-in time by 15%. Clients include Noon Dalton, Loge and Armut all of whom love how the tool visualizes productivity.
Why ‘Sorry I was on Mute’ likes them: I like that Workpuls lets you categorize websites by their relevance to the work you do. This way, you know where to spend your time on. Also, it records attendance by breaking up the day into logins, break-times and work hours.
Pricing: Employee Monitoring starts at USD 4.80, time tracking USD 6.40 and automatic time mapping USD 12. For bigger and better capabilities, go for a custom-quoted Enterprise plan.
4. Benefits of remote team tracking software
The most noticeable improvement from using a remote team tracking software is in the time you save. Rather than waste it speculating on what remote and distributed workers are upto, especially if you have just transitioned to a WFH model, you can instantly analyze productivity metrics and understand how everyone is getting on with their work.
It reconciles information on timesheets as well as the cost and time of work, thereby minimizing the possibility of getting a wrong account of the work completed so far.
After all, at the end of the day, managers are answerable to upper management, and businesses, in turn, are answerable to their clients. If time and effort go into unproductive pursuits, the end results are delays and inflated costs. And no client is going to be happy about that!
So long as you are upfront and level with your teams as to what is being tracked and logged, there are many benefits to using remote team tracking software, which include;
- Accountability: team members take ownership of the work they’re assigned and are motivated to maintain their productivity levels.
- Billing worth: you can retrieve time reports for proof of the hours spent on billable work, busywork and administrative tasks.
- Virtual organizational setup: you can track work no matter where everyone is, eradicating the need for a physical workspace, and its associated running costs.
- Prioritizing work: Decisions on scheduling and allocating work are backed by powerful data- such as work that is more time and labour-intensive.
- Time management and attendance: employees can manage their time better and avoid having to stay late or log in early to remain on top of their workload.
5. How do you know if your employees are working from home?
The truth? You won’t, unless you use a drone to follow them around. Not only is it overstepping boundaries, but it’s also an unnecessary expense that will get you nowhere.
However, with a remote employee monitoring software, you’ll be able to set housekeeping rules for those times that your team opts to work remotely. It lets you manage remote teams without sneaking up on them. And team members can proactively trace outcomes back to the time and effort that went into the work they did.
By keeping work visible and accounted for, you know how to make the most of your day. It also optimizes your schedule by factoring in idle-time and lets remote teams review and account for the time they were inactive for. Most monitoring tools discussed here contain inbuilt time reports, activity dashboards, keyboard loggers and attendance management. But, it is important to select a tool that tells remote teams how they’re being tracked so that they cease to think of monitoring as a virtual watchtower.
Which of these remote employee monitoring tools caught your interest enough to pick it out from the crowd?