With more business owners allowing employees to work from home or satellite offices, the need to make sure those workers stay on task and productive is growing. From the employee's perspective everything seems rosy. According to a recent Harris Poll, 64 percent of telecommuters say working from home increases productivity and output.
But for employers, allowing workers to telecommute can be akin to working in the dark. If you can't see Harry, how do you know he's actually working?
If you're suffering from remote worker separation anxiety, these three tools can help you monitor actual time on task. Remember, these tools only provide you with raw data. You need to interpret the results on a case-by-case basis. Also, it's wise to let employees know they are being tracked and how.
If you're juggling multiple remote workers on multiple projects, Hivedesk has a simple solution for keeping everyone on task. Workers check in by choosing their project from the central hub. Then Hivedesk tracks their time and adds each day's information to the weekly time sheet.
During the work session, Hivedesk snaps random screenshots so you know your developer is on task and not, say, on Facebook. The system also sends a graphical productivity gauge for each worker so you can see at a glance who is performing and who isn't.
Pricing starts at $14.99 a month for up to two workers and goes up to $100 a month for 20. It requires a desktop download and is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux.
If you need more detail, there's Worksnaps. This tool takes screenshots every 10 minutes and logs keyboard strokes and mouse movement. In addition, it catalogs the applications that were used so you can tell if an employee spent 10 minutes reading a Word document or plugging numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.
The User Management panel gives project managers access to reports on their team members, creating multiple levels of accountability.
What's more, Worksnaps has an optional webcam feature that allows you to see not just what's on a worker's screen but the worker as well. This can be a useful feature if your employees need to spend a lot of time on their phones, tablets or handling non-computer based desk work.
Plans start at $14 a month for up to four users and go to $60 a month for up to 30 users. Worksnaps requires a desktop download and is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux. Worksnaps also integrates with project management software Basecamp, invoicing software Freshbooks and time tracker Harvest.
For business owners who prefer a less heavy-handed approach, there's MySammy. This application is all about balance. As long as an employee's bar graph is mostly green (active) you can forgive the 10 percent that's red (non-productive.)
In order to categorize activity, the manager must mark every desktop application and website in the system as either productive or not. Excel gets a thumbs up, Facebook gets a thumbs down. The system also allows for overrides so your social media manager isn't penalized for time spent on Twitter.
MySammy's reporting system allows you to filter the data in a variety of ways so it's easy to see who is getting the job done and who needs some motivation.
The starter plan is free for up to four employees but has limits on long-term data storage. A small-business account is $7 per person per month for up to 50 users. For larger companies, the price is $17 per person per month and it includes five years of data storage.
The MySammy client must be installed on all work computers. It's compatible with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 2003 and above. It is not compatible with Mac OS.