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9 Ways to Help Employers Stop Searching "How To Know If Remote Employees Are Working"

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In spite of reassuring statistics on remote work productivity, some employers can’t stop typing,  “how to know if remote employees are working” into the search bar. Of course, employers and managers who are now responsible for remote workforce management have always wanted to know how to know if employees are working. It’s a question as old as employment itself. 

When employees can’t be seen, however, the question can feel more urgent. And, with many employees balking at a return to the office and pushing for work flexibility, it’s a question that needs to be put to rest. 

Here are nine ways employers and managers can create a work environment that can take the mystery out of remote worker productivity. 

A good remote work policy will go a long way in setting expectations and providing clarity for remote employees.

1. Institute a clear remote work policy

One way employers may feel more in control is by having a remote work policy that sets expectations, including employee productivity. The policy should cover how productivity will be measured, and include deliverables, outcomes, and the work product or the number of hours employees are expected to spend at their remote workstation or client interaction.

The remote work policy can also include availability and work hours, levels of schedule flexibility, and how they should track their time working. It may be helpful to review work from home policy samples as you decide what your policy should include. 

2. Have morning stand-up meetings for teams or small groups

A 15-minute team meeting focused on the goals of the day can help a team stay connected and create accountability. Each employee shares the “big rocks” they hope to complete during the workday. Additionally, many companies also have employees share an end-of-day report of the things they accomplished during the day. While employees aren’t graded on whether they completed their morning goals, the accountability and open communication provides motivation and focus. 

3. Make use of time and attendance software

Employees can use time and attendance software to clock in and out each day. And many software products include more granular tracking so it’s easy to understand what an employee has been spending their time on. 

4. Adopt project management tools to measure progress

Tracking projects with project management tools allows employees, their coworkers, and managers to have insight into how work is progressing. Whether it’s developing a website, writing a grant, or digitally filing paperwork, project management software can help keep everyone organized and on track. 

Download The Free Remote Work Policy Guide

5. Use software with trackability 

Many digital tools contain automated tracking that can be reviewed. Most documents log when they’re created and last saved, and some keep track of every change with robust version control and tracking. 

While not ideal, some managers have resorted to doing version control forensics to understand the time that it’s taken to create a document. Some programs can show how long an individual is working in an active window, and most computers log the time spent using different programs and websites, making it relatively easy to see if your employee has had a challenging project …or a rough day on social media.

6. Train your managers to be incredible communicators

Communicating expectations, guidelines, and deadlines clearly to employees is a best practice. When working with distributed teams, it’s even more critical. Provide a project manager or point person an employee can go to if they’re working on a specific project and need help. Make sure that you have pathways to recognize a job well done, both formally and informally. Employees who know they are appreciated are more invested and motivated in their work. 

7. Get good at having honest conversations

Of course, if your employees are producing the work that you expect, there’s no need to follow up on them. However, if you aren’t seeing the results you expected, or something's consistently being pushed off, or the quality of deliverables is lacking, it’s a sign something is wrong. 

While this can happen no matter where someone’s working, it can feel especially awkward to address with remote workers. Calmly presenting recent, relevant data and asking the employee an opportunity to answer, “what’s happening?” can provide valuable insight. Outcomes can range from improvement plans and regular work checks-ins to providing additional training. Sometimes issues can be even easier to solve. But, you'll never know if you don’t have the conversation. 

8. Institute progress reviews and quality checks

Of course, if your employees are producing the work that you expect, there’s no need to follow up on them. However, even if necessary. then it may be time to institute work checks for individuals who are struggling.

9. Ensure employees have what they need

It helps to provide employees with the right equipment, software, and other tools to get the job done. Some companies provide a stipend for remote workers to get set up. For some companies, having employees login to an online workspace can provide reassurance that they’re working. Some firms have paid for faster internet for their remote workers, to ensure that they can access all the tools that the employees need –and that employers want them to use.

Employers have wanted reassurance that employees are working for as long as there have been employers.

Give the Search Bar a Rest

You don’t have to adopt all nine of these suggestions to let the search bar have a rest. A good remote work policy alone will go a long way in setting expectations and providing clarity for remote employees. 

You’ll be even more confident in the productivity of your remote workforce by ensuring they have what they need to do their work, using modern tools that can measure productivity, and encouraging open and honest communication. 

And you won’t need to ask, "How to know if remote employees are working" because you’ll know the answer already. 

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