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Employer Advice and Tips on Monitoring Remote Workers


The transition to remote work in the past year has also led to employer concerns about data security and work-from-home productivity of remote staff.

This has led to an increase in the sales and use of monitoring software and tracking tools.

But before you decide to invest in surveillance of your remote employees, there are some things you should consider.

Be clear on your reasons for monitoring

Ask yourself why you feel the need for remote monitoring? Is it to protect sensitive information, such as your client lists and data? Do you want to safeguard your IT systems from viruses and malware? Or would you like to keep records to check cyberbullying or harassment in the workplace?

Your concerns could also be related to employee productivity when working from home. Are your workers doing the right thing or are they indulging in time theft by doing personal errands on company time?

Knowing the reasons why you want to surveil remote workers will help you draft an effective policy accordingly. In some cases, your industry may also determine the need for such a policy. For instance, you may need to monitor workers for reasons of compliance if you are in the finance or healthcare sector.

There is no law against remote monitoring and data collection related to legitimate business needs, such as to make sure workers are not involved in fraud or insider trading, provided you have employee consent. But it is important to not cross the line. For instance, your staff should be able to expect privacy if they log into their personal email from a work computer.

Draft a remote work policy

If your employment contracts do not already mention a surveillance policy, it may be a good time to get one. Develop a remote work policy that covers what company-related communication will be monitored over company property and personal devices used for work, how it would be stored and used, who would have access to it, and how the employee’s right to privacy will be respected.

Make sure to include this policy in your job contracts and employee handbook.

Obtain employee consent in writing

Before you implement remote surveillance, talk to your employees. Make sure they understand what you’d be doing and get their consent in writing. Clarify what will be monitored, what data will be collected, how and why it will be stored and who will have access to it.

Accept the practical realities of a work-from-home set up

Your employees are not machines who’d be working every single minute of the day. There are unavoidable distractions at home. They may take breaks to take care of non-work-related chores. Using remote monitoring to spy on your staff would be counter-productive and morale-crushing. It would also create needless stress for you.

Remember how you measured efficiency in the pre-pandemic physical office? Well, you can use the same parameters in the remote workplace as well. Set clear expectations regarding goals and deadlines. Hand your staff ownership of their tasks and hold them accountable to it. Your role as the employer is also to enable your staff to work efficiently and safely from home.

When you update your employee handbook with your remote work policy, make sure to share it with your remote staff through your company intraweb or a cloud-based HR management software like BrightHR.

Use cloud-based HR software for remote staff management

You could use a cloud-based HR management software, such as BrightHR, to keep attendance, monitor staff hours, location and breaks taken. This will create accountability and discipline in your virtual workplace. BrightHR’s free mobile app — Blip — allows you to create multiple locations and easily track where your staff has worked during the day.

Do you need more information on creating a remote work policy?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR and health and safety advice you need. See how we’ve helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.