emember a not-so-distant time when the term “remote work available” seemed like an exotic opportunity? Or when working from home was limited at most companies to one or two days a week, at most?

We’ve come a long way since those days. A recent Gallup poll found that close to half of Americans are still working from home, while 44% said they would prefer to keep working from home even when restrictions start lifting.

So it’s safe to say remote work is the new norm, and it’s probably going to stay that way. Especially if employers want to attract top talent, they may not have any other options. What used to be considered a ‘perk’ or a ‘lifestyle’ is fast becoming a mandatory requirement.

Even before the pandemic, Jason Phillips, VP Digital HR & Global Chief of Staff of Cisco, was quoted in LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2019 Report saying that “Work flexibility is becoming the norm. The challenge is how fast can organizations provide it. Those that can are going to be in a far better position to retain top talent over the next three to five years.”

Now that workers have had a year of trying it out, they’ve noticed an improved work-life balance. However, the benefits aren’t one-sided. For employers, remote work can encourage millennial retention, attract candidates, increase productivity, and expand the available talent pool.

This may seem all and well, but it doesn’t come without its challenges for employees and employers alike. It’s not just the kids or pets interrupting Zoom meetings. Without in-person interaction on a daily basis, it’s easy to let recognition, effective onboarding, communication, and professional development slip.

But there are tools and tactics that companies can use to overcome these challenges. Before we get to those, let’s take a look at what hasn’t worked.

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The Pitfalls of Monitoring Software

When working from home orders began at the start of the pandemic, employers were trying to figure out ways to keep a watch on their remote workers. Many quickly turned to computer monitoring software products to track everything their workers were doing on their computers. Products like Interguard and Time Doctor soon flourished during these times. These products can track mouse movements, websites employees visit, and even monitor keystrokes. But does this kind of monitoring really make employees more productive and engaged?

David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder & CTO of Basecamp, has some strong opinions on the matter. He said, “If companies are truly interested in having their workers be more productive, they should leave them the hell alone.” Hansson may have a point. He argued that managers should be looking at the quality and quantity of their employees’ work, rather than how much time they spend on particular apps, programs, or websites.

A survey led by Baylor University researchers found that technology-based job monitoring reduces satisfaction and commitment, which can result in higher turnover. These monitoring products seem to actually be counterproductive because they can result in added distractions, lower employee morale, and increased turnover.

Similarly, a 2019 survey conducted by the University of Jyväskylä in Finland found that monitoring software could slightly help motivate employees, but that is due to rewards and fears of being punished. More importantly, they found that employees were less intrinsically motivated, which leads to less creativity. They also found that when employees knew their activity was being monitored, they were less willing to go above and beyond for the organization.

Moreover, employees report feeling a great deal of anxiety about their employer's use of monitoring software.

In short, while monitoring software may make management feel better about their remote workers, it creates dissatisfaction and resentment. A better way of managing remote workers is clearly needed.

Focus On The Output

Unfortunately, for many managers, it’s their default to micromanage. This is why many feel it’s important to monitor their employees’ input, the things they are doing on their computers. But Hansson feels like this is a backward and counterproductive approach. As he eloquently puts it, “A manager that’s only able to monitor inputs is a shitty manager. Good managers measure outputs, whether that happens from the office or home.”

In the modern workplace, more time spent at the computer and more hours worked doesn’t equate to more productivity and engagement. A customer doesn’t care how they received a product, they just care that they got it. Shouldn’t the result of an employee’s work be evaluated the same? This is why companies need to value outcome and impact over presence and hours.

Data-Driven Performance Management

Successful companies that employ remote workforces benefit from having the right tools to keep workers engaged and productive. MetaSpark is different from remote monitoring software because it simply focuses on analyzing the output of their work. Our input is the metadata—or the data within the data. By doing this, rather than monitoring every keystroke or app opened or website visited, you can give employees their privacy back.

Plus, it enables data-driven performance management by evaluating employees based on the quality and timeliness of their actual contributions, whereas most performance management methods typically rely on screenshots and specific keywords to catch employees doing something they shouldn’t be doing. Data-based performance management helps employees feel like their work matters, and so they will be more engaged in their work at home.

For HR professionals, data-driven performance management removes all the biased opinions from an employee’s manager, colleagues, or direct reports. It only looks at an employee’s strengths and weaknesses through an objective lens. Then their performance can be managed based on certain aspects of their job without any judgment. This helps managers with remote workers because they can give them the freedom to perform their tasks. This doesn’t mean tasks shouldn’t have due dates, but rather that managers don’t need to micromanage anymore.

“The whole premise of employment is to produce or service something, it’s not to sit around and look busy,” says Hansson. Give your workers the freedom to do their jobs, focus on their data-driven output, and watch their engagement fly through the roof.

Are you looking for an AI-Driven Workforce Productivity Hub that offers accurate, data-driven insights into productivity across individuals, departments, and the entire organization? Set up a 30-minute demo of our platform today and see how we can revolutionize your company’s productivity and engagement.

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