8th June 2018
You pay your staff a salary in compensation for their time spent on your business, so it goes without saying that you would expect them to not only show up on time but to work hard and put in a full eight hours of graft.
It’s a simple principle in theory. “I pay you for your time and you do what I ask”; but any employer can and will attest to the fact that things aren’t always as plain sailing as that theory would suggest.
Knowing what your Staff are doing at Work
Regardless of your management style, working patterns, policies or even the reward package you offer to your staff, there will always be elements that creep in and start to cause issues where productivity is concerned.
To give you an idea, these could include:
- Employees who struggle with punctuality.
- People engaging in lengthy non-work-related conversations, disruption other staff and taking focus away from their own work.
- Staff running over their lunch periods.
Obviously, these aren’t ideal behaviours and, as an employer, you should definitely expect more from your employees. It’s well within your rights to monitor employees to ensure that they are earning the money that you pay them, although, if you feel this is necessary, there are some things you should keep in mind before putting measures in place to address them.
Focus on results – Consider their work output. If this is good, perhaps there are other options available to you other than jumping straight to a warning or other disciplinary action.
Do it legally – While you are entitled to monitor your employees’ time (within reason!), you need to be aware of privacy laws.
Use tracking wisely – Time tracking apps are readily available and these should be applied in areas where it will optimise your internal processes but must be sold to employees in a way that doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable.
Understanding that the Time Spent Away from Work is Equally as Important
Monitoring the way employees use their time at work may be important, but are you aware of the way in which your staff are spending their time away from work? What about the quality of that time?
In the UK, we have some of Europe’s longest working hours, but we’re falling way behind countries such as France and Germany when it comes to productivity levels. The problem seems to come from the fact that many of us are too intent on the “wrong” sort of productivity and the need to cram as much as possible into each day can manifest itself through meetings, phone calls and never-ending emails – however, the result of this attitude can actually be counterproductive. Who’d have thought it?
Smartphones – and even social media – play a relatively large roll in this newer working ethic as work emails and other systems or documents are all too easily accessible to employees wherever they are, be it work, home or even on a deck chair in the Bahamas. Employees are finding it increasingly more difficult to switch off when they aren’t at work which can also have a knock-on effect on their creativity. Tired brains are less likely to think innovatively and people are more prone to switching off and doing the bare minimum to get through the working week.
How to Monitor the Time Staff Spend Outside of Work
It stands to reason, therefore, that an HR department would want to boost creative thinking and productivity through limiting employees’ use of technology and social media during their downtime – after all studies have shown that putting the phone down and spending some quality time with friends or family, or taking some exercise – even if it’s just going for a walk – is a way to increase energy and creative thinking.
But how do you know what your employees are doing in their free time?
Wearable technology – Some professionals have suggested that employers could, with the employee’s permission that is, monitor the quality of staff downtime through wearable technology and apps. Traditionally the working day is measured by the clock – but this focuses on quantity, not quality. Apps, on the other hand, can collect data about how much we’re moving and measure the quality of our sleep.
Tracking activity – If there are projects your team are working on that are accessible from home and you have the means to do so, monitor the amount of time they are spending outside of their working hours on these activities. You might feel that the odd hour here or there isn’t an issue, but if you begin to notice a pattern between staff spending excessive amounts of time working from home and appearing fatigued or stressed at work, this will be a good indicator as to what needs addressing.
The trouble is, while there are rapid advances in apps and wearable technology that offer unprecedented insights into how we move, who we spend our time with, the quality of our sleep and how we feel, employers can’t just give people the technology and ask them to get on with it.
Detractors could argue that not only is it invasive but it could also increase stress levels as you’re giving people even more technology to deal with – and not to mention ‘watching’ them. Surely, it’s counterintuitive to tell someone to go out and take a walk while monitoring them to see how relaxed they are?
An alternative could be to instead see what employees are spending their time on in the workplace – for example, if you have certain teams or managers who love holding meetings, ask them if there is a better way to communicate needs so that the focus is on productivity and not on procrastination. What do you think? Would you propose monitoring your colleagues’ free time if it meant booting company output?
Clarisse works as the Lead of our Customer Support Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.