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How can employee tracking software impact your global business?

The implications of monitoring employees using computer tracking software.

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Since working from home became the norm early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, employers have been concerned about productivity. Despite 69.8% of remote workers saying they got as much or more work done while working from home in June 2020, some managers remain suspicious of how remote employees are really spending their time. Consequently, the computer tracking industry is booming as employers install monitoring software to track employee productivity.

So should businesses use time-tracking software to monitor employee activity when they’re working from home? And if they do, how can this impact productivity, staff retention, and employee-employer relations? Let’s find out.

What is time theft and what are the repercussions?

Time theft is failure to work for the time you’ve been paid for. Let’s say you’ve been contracted to work eight hours a day with a one-hour unpaid lunch break. Every Friday, you take a two-hour lunch break instead, so you can go to the gym. Over the year, this equates to roughly 52 hours of time theft.

In Toronto, Canada, a former employee was recently ordered to reimburse her company after a tribunal found she was culpable for time theft while she worked from home. The company installed a time tracking program on her work computer. Analysis of this program found 51 hours of non-work-related time that the employee had submitted on her timesheets.

In this instance, the computer tracking software appears to have helped the company gain a fair financial reimbursement for lost time. So is time tracking and employee monitoring the way forward for other companies with remote staff?

Is it legal to track employees remotely?

In many countries, including the US, UK, France, and Germany, it’s legal to track and monitor your employees. Even countries with the strictest data protection laws, like Finland, allow employee monitoring to an extent. But some countries and states require you to disclose this to employees before you install any time-tracking software on their devices.

You must also be careful that you’re not in breach of data protection laws like GDPR if you choose to monitor your staff. In the UK and the EU, employees have the automatic right to know what personal data you’re collecting about them, and how this will be used.

The benefits of employee monitoring

Legal issues aside, there are some reasons why companies have begun tracking employee activity. Here are three of the most important.

1.  Get a true picture of productivity

This is a common goal of most employers who use computer tracking software. Understanding remote working productivity can help them see where additional resources are needed, or where costs can be saved in the organisation.

2.  Reduce security risk

Cybercrime is on the rise. Working from home can make a business network vulnerable to unsecured WiFi connections and poor security practices. So in addition to productivity, monitoring employee devices can ensure every device is patched and updated to prevent online security breaches.

3.  Prevent unauthorised use of company equipment

Many companies use monitoring software to achieve this even in the office. Computer tracking software can deter staff from using company devices (or time) for unauthorised or unprofessional activities.

The downside of employee monitoring

But there are several reasons to avoid (or at least reduce) your employee monitoring practices, too. Here’s why you should be cautious of computer tracking in your business.

1.  It can drive away good employees

Employee monitoring can be perceived by employees as a lack of trust. If employees feel you don’t trust them, this can lead to a breakdown in the relationship, creating a toxic culture and potentially leading to lower staff retention rates. One study found that 18% of employees consider lack of organisational trust a reason to leave their job.

2.  Not all work time is spent online

People with desk-based jobs spend a lot of time on the computer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all their time is spent online. People may need to take time away from their desks to brainstorm ideas, or work on their personal development. Computer tracking software doesn’t account for this acceptable time spent offline.

3.  Being in the office doesn’t always equate to productivity

As managers encourage people to return to the office, they must remember that productivity won’t automatically leap just because people are in the same physical location. In fact, being with co-workers can create distractions and reduce focus, so it’s not necessarily the best place to be for all types of tasks. So giving your staff the quiet time and space they need at home — without being monitored — may be the best thing you can do for their productivity.

4.  It’s hard to roll out compliant tracking across multiple locations

If you have a global workforce, it can be tricky to navigate the legalities of employee monitoring. Consulting with a global expert like Mauve can help you understand laws and compliance considerations in different countries of work, and give recommendations on how to make your international employment compliant.

Want to boost productivity and staff wellbeing while you grow your business? Get in touch with Mauve to find out more.