How to Tell if Your Employees Are Actually Working


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

It's important to trust your employees with a level of autonomy, but what do you do if you suspect they're slacking off?

Article 4 Minutes

Every manager wants to feel as though their employees can be trusted, but what do you do if you need to check they're not slacking off? Autonomy can be an important part of a professional's personal development, but this shouldn't come at the expense of productivity or the company's bottom line.

So how do you tell if your employees are actually working?

1. Encourage mobile managers

Managers should be able to move from desk to desk in their team without making anyone feel nervous. If people are hurrying to look busy or hide what they're doing on their computer, it's a good sign that they're not working to their full potential.

Of course, you don't want your managers to have to be breathing down the necks of everyone on their team, but it can pay to have them take a little wander around every once in a while.

2. Communicate with homeworkers

The rise of remote working presents a considerable problem for companies; how do you know what people are doing each day? If you're worried about the hours they're putting in, try using communication tools like Slack to reach out to them. If they take a long time to reply, it suggests that they aren't paying as much attention as they should be.

Tools like Basecamp can also be used to keep everyone up to date on what is happening and how projects are progressing wherever they are working from. This is a great way of keeping homeworkers in the loop and helping to make them feel part of the team.

3. Use technology

There's a variety of software that can be used to track computer activity. This can give you real-time information about what your employees are seeing and listening to at any time. Although this may be one of the most effective ways of tracking behavior, it could lead to some negative feelings if not handled properly. No one likes to feel as though they're not trusted, even the dedicated employees, and introducing something without their knowledge is unlikely to be welcome.

The legal constraints of what employers are able to spot and track can also differ depending on which country or state your company is based in, so make sure you know all the facts before you start monitoring employees.

4. Time management

Time management software can be another productive way of seeing what your employees are accomplishing during their day. This can be in the form of specialist software like Liquid Planner or something more low-key like a spreadsheet to track hours/revenue completed each day.

Because this focuses on employees self-reporting, it should make them more conscious of what they are doing each day and also allow them to compare themselves to their peers, who will also be tracking their work.

5. Look at performance

Tracking performance can be a much more ethical way of seeing which employees are working hard and identify those who are being left behind. Of course, this may not be an accurate indication of who is slacking off and who isn't, but it can help you focus your efforts for offering support.

Most companies aren't actually that bothered about what their employees do during working hours, as long as they hit their targets and bring in the revenue. Adopting this attitude can lead to a better working relationship between staff and employers and could even lead to higher retention levels.

6. Allow anonymous tip-offs

Making it possible for employees to anonymously report colleagues who aren't pulling their weight or who are falling short of the company standard can be an effective way of ensuring people work to their full potential. Even just having something like this in place can discourage professionals from slacking off during office hours. However, you'll need to be careful that people aren't being reported because of personal feelings or personality conflicts, so it's a good idea to have someone to vet tip-offs.

If you want a less-intense alternative, consider having an appraisal scheme that asks other employees what they think of X's performance, attitude and work ethic. This can be a good way of understanding what each professional is contributing to the team, without any of the secrecy of an anonymous tip-off system.

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