Working from home is no longer a luxury available in only a few jobs within a select few sectors. British workers now even have the right to request that some of their time on shift is worked remotely. Modern technology keeps businesses connected regardless of where members of staff are in the world, and we all know that the majority of corporate communication is now done electronically.
Virgin Media Business have predicted 60% of all office-based employees will regularly work from home by 2022, and the movement of staff away from their desks at the office looks set to continue thereafter.
So how do we effectively keep track of increasingly mobile employees so that businesses can continue running efficiently, at the same time as keeping staff motivated while away from the office?
Collect more than just performance data
Collecting performance data is nothing new to Human Resources teams, but the type of data to be collected about remote workers often goes beyond what is normally collected for a static office team.
First and foremost, if members of staff are homeworking, the right balance has to be struck. Employees do not want to feel like their every move is being watched, but comprehensive data about the type of work that is done at home can be of great use to employers and employees alike, with good data analysis able to pinpoint good and bad working habits.
Regular written or verbal feedback is a conventional but nonetheless valuable option for HR departments. Team leaders should report on their group’s work activities, and efficiency can be measured qualitatively as well as quantitatively. This is all the more important for groups that regularly work remotely, as casual catch-ups between desks are far less likely to occur in teams scattered geographically.
However, this method may be too lacking in accuracy for real progress to be made. It has its place, and sometimes nothing is more useful than a simple, genuine opinion. But making sure the feedback fits into the HR department’s framework for continuous improvement is crucial to make sure that a team’s feedback isn’t merely an informal chat.
Make data collection work for your staff
Software that collates staff activity levels and time spent on different tasks could hold the answer for companies wishing to keep further track of remote workers. This software often works by taking screenshots from the device that a member of staff primarily uses.
Data as simple as the frequency of mouse clicks and keyboard use is often a good indicator of how active a member of staff is. Software that measures activity levels in this way is usually unobtrusive and makes for a standardised means of assessing employee performance. This saves employees from having to keep track of their own activity.
Of course, however, it only takes one or two clicks to, for example, read a long-form article that might be relevant to a member of staff’s work stream. For this, more advanced analytics would be needed to encapsulate the breadth of work done. Hubstaff is a good example of software that keeps track of all sorts of data without being too intrusive for the user.
With this type of activity tracking software, screenshots and other data are stored and can themselves be analysed whenever necessary. When productivity appears to be waning – a member of staff may not be making the same amount of sales as they usually do – the data captured by such software can be discussed at performance reviews and meetings.
Not only this, but good practice can be linked to certain behaviours and activities, and as such best working practices can be discovered in the data collected. This type of data is not usually used by standard office-based teams, and so there is scope for a company that embraces remote working to be one step ahead of their competitors.
Hidden information in files can sometimes prove to be the key to understanding how a team works best. Trends can be found in the metadata – elements of files such as when it was last opened, edited, and who did what to the file – and this could contribute to working out the most effective ways of working.
Often complex-sounding analytics can prove to be the most simple to use in practice. With more data analysis technology available than ever before, HR departments are moving away from traditional methods of keeping track of their employees’ development.
The tools exist, but the teams that use them to their fullest potential will set the agenda for future best working practices. It can pay to further analyse the data available to a company, and that data is often far more comprehensive in a team that often works remotely whilst running tracking software.
Staff surveys are more important in remote teams
Of course, staff surveys are as important as ever. HR departments are diversifying their methods of measuring employee satisfaction using different and more advanced analytics. This is for good reason: companies with a happier workforce are better off, as this has been shown time and again to increase productivity and, ultimately, profits.
These methods, not only of analysis but also of delivery, are all the more important when considering teams that connect remotely. Staff surveys should not be treated as a formality, and the data accrued from these should not be left alone.
This is where the employee should be in mind most. Moves should be made toward more regular surveys, and data should be managed and analysed so that the talent at your disposal is used effectively.
Think outside the box
Having a team that works remotely already saves on costs, but there are many more reasons to move towards remote working than cost cutting. Once you find yourself with a mobile team, any patterns that can be found in data collection tools used to facilitate effective remote working should also be used where possible to discover which practices work best.
Using a blend of traditional methods of reviewing performance and new approaches to data analysis, a remote team can work far more efficiently than an office-based team, with the employees enjoying the freedom and flexibility that remote working brings.