How to make a hybrid workforce more visible

Top tips on tracking productivity levels and ensuring staff wellbeing as many employees continue to operate remotely
Keeping track of employee activity during the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy, as whole workforces were instructed to stay at home. With many organisations adopting a hybrid model going forward, managers are seeking greater transparency around absenteeism, presenteeism, engagement and productivity to understand exactly what is happening within their teams.
Since lockdown, more employers than ever are using software to temperature-check what’s going on in their workforce. A YouGov survey of 2,000 employers, commissioned by Skillcast, found that 12 per cent of firms are already monitoring their staff remotely, 8 per cent have plans to implement monitoring, and another 6 per cent are considering whether to implement monitoring in the future. 
 
Knowing the possibilities and risks of staff monitoring is crucial to navigating what is right for your organisation. For example, tracking working hours and absences is likely to be seen as acceptable, while practices like asking employees to keep their microphones or cameras on all day are highly questionable.
 
While some aspects of employee monitoring are frowned upon, there is a huge opportunity to use it as a force for good. The home-working revolution has shone a light on how little managers really know about their colleagues’ personal situations, finances, mental health and general wellbeing. 
 
“Staff tracking allows managers to pick up on when and where a problem occurs. For example, data collection relating to time and attendance can help prevent the always-on culture of working longer hours, which has pervaded since people started working from home,” says Mairead Walsh, chief communications officer at software provider, Softworks.
 
Flexible working shouldn’t mean that people are on call 24/7. In fact, presenteeism – being present at your place of work for more hours than is required (often motivated by job insecurity) – is detrimental to employees’ physical and mental health and has a negative effect on productivity. Identifying when people are overworked also protects organisations, which have a legal obligation to ensure staff are working within their agreed limits.
 
How tracking software can both help employers and employees
 
The shift towards all-things digital during the pandemic means it’s easier than ever to make your workforce more visible and identify who is performing at their best – especially when they are not in the office every day. Here’s some of the main benefits of introducing software to track staff time and attendance, productivity and wellbeing. 
 
Time and attendance tracking can automatically build in rules to ensure employee working hours won’t inadvertently breach working time legislation, which is especially important in the hybrid-working environment.
 
Tracking can put health and wellbeing front and centre of your business – for example, to act on presenteeism as soon as it is identified or to pick up on when staff are not engaged.
 
Productivity can be monitored to ensure some staff don’t have too much work, while others do not have enough. Rewards can then be given where good work is being done or measurable targets are being met.
 
Giving staff access to a self-service app, which shows annual leave or flexi-balances, can give staff more autonomy and improve engagement.
 
Employers can attract more staff in a highly competitive labour market by making flexible working easy for them (by allowing them to track their hours online).
 
For some industries, such as healthcare, retail and hospitality, automating rostering can relieve the huge admin burden on managers and prevent under- or overstaffing.
 
Switching to a paperless, digital system for admin tasks is better for the environment and can free up managers’ time to focus on more strategic tasks.
 
 
Build a culture of mutual trust
 
Don’t just monitor staff activity using data collection – consult, temperature-check and talk to your employees. Organising regular chats with line managers or conducting a staff survey are both good ways to find out how staff are coping with the new hybrid-working model and what they might need to do their jobs better. 
 
“While monitoring can provide an essential overview of what’s going on within your organisation, it’s equally important to focus on what individuals or teams have achieved or produced, and reward that hard work,” says Walsh.
 
“Organisations that want to get closer to their employees – without alienating them, breaking data protection laws or infringing on their privacy rights – must be transparent about what activities are being monitored and why this is being implemented. The chances are that you will be monitoring their activity in fewer ways than they might have expected.”
 
It’s important to explain the benefits of monitoring to staff, and make it clear that they will be judged by their overall contribution. Alongside checking performance via your software, setting clear goals for employees will help to ensure targets are being met while maintaining engagement. Building mutual trust and maintaining the morale of home-workers is of critical importance to ensure they remain loyal and happy.
 
This article contributed by Softworks was first published in People Management on 6 October 2021. For over 30 years, Softworks Workforce Management Software has been helping organisations to manage the working day in a way that makes them more productive and profitable by adding value to their operations. Softworks assists organisations to manage employee time and attendance, scheduling, flexible & remote working, HR, absence management and project tracking allowing organisations to drive efficiencies, better ensure compliance, reduce errors and improve reporting – all while promoting a safe and positive working environment for all employees. For more visit softworks.com
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