How to Know If Remote Employees Are Working: Tracking Techniques

By Jenny Barnes on Dec 06, 2023
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Not since 1926 when Henry Ford announced the 40-hour, five-day workweek has the way we work changed so radically. The pandemic normalized work-from-home arrangements, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that remote work has ranged from 17.9% to 20% between October 2022 and August 2023. 

Even though the percentage has slightly decreased post-pandemic, many continue to split their workweek between the office and remote locations. This shift to remote and hybrid work models has ushered in new challenges for business owners and people leaders.

Understanding how to know if remote employees are working has become a pivotal aspect of managing a distributed workforce.

In the new normal, key questions for employers are: 

  • How do you manage remote employee attendance? 

  • How to know if remote employees are working the hours they're supposed to?

  • Without physical oversight at the workplace, how to know if remote employees are working diligently or if they're spending work hours on long breaks, personal errands or non-work-related activities?

remote work burnout

The Benefits of Remote Work 

It’s true that monitoring staff attendance is very different in fully remote and hybrid work environments. But the concern that there will be significant negative impacts on the company if employees misuse those work options may not be as realistic as employers imagine. In fact, the benefits to productivity and job satisfaction may outweigh the challenges of managing remote attendance. 

When people can work from home even a portion of their week: 

  • Overall wellbeing increases

    A 2022 study by Cisco reported those who work from home have better relationships with friends and family, improved mental health and decreased stress levels. 

    RELATED: Remote Work Best Practices for Improved Productivity & Mental Health >>
  • Productivity goes up

    With less time spent getting ready for work and commuting to work, many remote workers use the extra time to get work done. Forbes reported in early 2023 that remote worker productivity, compared to those working at a physical site, is increasing over time, from 5% greater productivity in 2020 up to 9% in 2022. 
  • Work-life balance improves

    Many remote workers enjoy the flexibility of working when they are at their best. For some, that’s early in the morning before a day of meetings starts. Others are more productive in the evenings after the traditional workday wraps. 

RELATED: 3 Ways to Keep Remote Workers Accountable >>

How to Know If Remote Employees Are Working

Even leaders who are supportive of fully remote or hybrid work environments can be challenged with how to know if remote employees are working. And, while a survey in early 2023 reported that 96% of remote-work companies use employee monitoring software, watching work-from-home employees throughout the day does not need to be the first line of defense in managing remote attendance.  

Here are five ways to be confident about remote employee attendance without using monitoring software: 

  • Schedule daily stand-up meetings

    A quick check-in with teams at the beginning of the day can be an effective way to keep everyone on track. In a meeting lasting 20 minutes or less, every member of the team can share what they’re working on for the day and leaders can discuss top priorities. A daily stand-up meeting can be a quick and efficient way to provide people leaders with transparency about their remote workers’ projects. 
  • Set deadlines and check in regularly

By establishing project deadlines, managers can be confident the work is getting done, regardless of when an employee chooses to do it. Any problems managing remote attendance are quickly identified when deadlines start to slip. Missed deadlines or project updates can easily be addressed in weekly one-on-one status meetings between the manager and employee. 

  • Use virtual tools to have dialogue throughout the day

There are several instant messaging and other tools that allow managers to virtually ‘stop by an employee’s desk.’ By asking a quick question on platforms like Teams or Slack, managers will be able to gauge how responsive employees are. This is a practical approach to managing remote attendance and an indirect way to learn how to know if remote employees are working by noting their responsiveness.

  • Use a shared calendar

    Nearly every team that works remotely or in a hybrid environment is familiar with cloud-based files for real-time sharing and updating. Keeping shared calendars of project deadlines, meetings, and team members’ time off is not just about organization; it’s a strategic method to ensure transparency and accountability in remote employee attendance. It also indirectly addresses the concern of how to know if remote employees are working by tracking their involvement in scheduled activities.
  • Set clear attendance policies

    As a small business owner, are you comfortable with asynchronous work, when employees work on their own time without the expectation to immediately respond? Do you prefer core hours when all team members are online and available? 

    Setting clear policies and guidelines can help manage remote attendance. These include an attendance policy defining hours when all remote workers must be available and responsive, or communication guidelines such as how quickly team members are expected to respond to instant messages and emails. 

A new world of remote workers – which by almost all accounts is here to stay – doesn’t mean small business owners and people leaders need to be in the dark about their remote employee attendance. With a few simple steps, remote employees can enjoy the health and other advantages of working from home and employers can be confident about staff attendance while also benefitting from increased worker productivity and satisfaction. 

how to recruit an increasingly remote workforce

Optimize Your Remote Workforce: Axcet HR Solutions

Managing a remote team effectively requires the right strategies and tools. If you're navigating the challenges of remote work, Axcet HR Solutions is here to help. As a trusted Kansas City PEO since 1988, we specialize in providing tailored HR solutions that empower your business to thrive in a remote work environment.

From developing clear remote attendance policies to implementing efficient communication systems, our expertise can guide you in ensuring your remote employees are working effectively and productively. Connect with us today and take the first step towards optimizing your remote workforce management. Let Axcet HR Solutions be your partner in navigating the evolving world of work.

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Written by Jenny Barnes

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