How to Monitor Your Employees While Protecting Their Privacy

How to Monitor Your Employees While Protecting Their Privacy

January 31, 2022

Monitoring employees in the workplace is not a new concept. For a long time now, companies have been using video surveillance to view what goes on at the workplace. Amazon even built its own tracking technology to observe trucker safety and possible violations.

In this article, we tell you how to strike the right balance between workplace monitoring and employee privacy. We also explore the laws and ethics regarding employee privacy rights.

How Common Is Employee Monitoring in the Workplace?

According to recent data by ExpressVPN, nearly 80 percent of major companies use a form of surveillance to keep a digital eye on their employees.

This practice of user behavior monitoring seems to be more widespread than imagined. A 2018 survey by Crowd Research Partners found that 94 percent of organizations deployed some method of employee monitoring. This marked a sharp increase in worker surveillance, up from 42 percent the previous year.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a massive increase (54 percent) in the demand for employee monitoring software.

Of course, there are good reasons to monitor employees in the workplace. It can help prevent inappropriate behavior, boost productivity, prevent data loss and guard against IT threats. However, employee monitoring has its dark sides too. The same ExpressVPN study found that 59 percent of employees report feeling stress and anxiety about being surveilled.

The real risk to companies that implement monitoring, however, is that it threatens to violate employee privacy rights. Given the sensitivity and complexity of this matter, employers, therefore, must implement the best practices of worker monitoring in the workplace. Otherwise, they may face serious consequences like low morale, productivity loss, and legal issues.

Types of Employee Monitoring

Thanks to ever-advancing technology, organizations are now enacting various surveillance measures that seem to be from outer space. A good example is Three Square Market, a Wisconsin-based vending machine manufacturer. It made the news for implanting microchips in almost 80 percent of its workforce.

The microchips allowed workers to log on to computers and open secure doors simply by waving their hands. Even so, the microchips were voluntary and didn’t track employees’ movements.

For some Chinese workers, the case was quite different. The Times reported that a section of Chinese companies installed sensors on workers’ helmets and hats to scan their brainwaves to detect fatigue and stress. One company supposedly used these readings to detect when a worker needed a break. Who knows what the other companies do with the data.

Organizations now seem to be devising bizarre (and sometimes obtrusive) methods to monitor their workforce. For most companies, however, employee surveillance isn’t that extreme.

According to a 2019 American Management Association report, these are the most common forms of workplace monitoring:

  • Internet usage. Employers are concerned about what employees are doing online, with 66 percent monitoring internet activity. Employee monitoring software can track web and app activity and show you the time spent on the various websites and applications. This can help recognize malicious data and suspicious network activities. It also ensures the proper use of company resources.
  • Email monitoring. For most businesses, communication takes place via email. That’s why emails are monitored to minimize security risks, breach of confidentiality, excessive personal use, and policy violations.
  • Video surveillance. Video surveillance is used mostly for security purposes rather than actual employee monitoring. However, some companies use video surveillance to keep track of a worker’s location, real-time activities, and customer misconduct.
  • Phone calls and voicemail. Usually, employers monitor calls for quality control purposes. Some do so to deter misuse of the company’s phone system for personal gains.
  • GPS tracking. GPS (location) tracking is becoming an increasingly popular way of monitoring employees’ whereabouts. It’s also used to verify if they punched the clock from where they should.
  • Keylogging. Keyloggers record every keystroke an employee makes on the computer and are intended to keep them focused. However, some workers are worried that this might also reveal their passwords.
  • Screen capture and video. Most employers simply want to track work progress and ensure that a worker is focusing on the right priorities. Some apps take random screenshots every 10 minutes that show what a person is working on. A reliable employee monitoring software respects the workers’ privacy and intentionally blurs the screenshots to make any sensitive details ineligible.

A study by StandOut CV provides further insight into what’s being monitored. The survey shows that 94 percent of monitoring tools track the time employees spend on tasks. Another 75 percent can take screenshots of employees’ desktops, and 59 percent report on keyboard and mouse movements.

Employee Monitoring and Workplace Privacy Law

Certainly, employee monitoring and tracking software can be used to boost workplace productivity. However, before you implement it, you must understand the federal and state laws surrounding the use of monitoring tools.

Generally, the law permits employers to use discretion in how they want to employ monitoring programs. The privacy regulations vary greatly in different regions globally. In the US, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 is the primary federal law that governs employees’ privacy rights under workplace monitoring.

For example, it allows employers to track verbal and written communication legally. Even so, the company must provide a legitimate business reason to do so and the employee must give consent.

On top of the federal laws, several states have their own regulations that employers must follow. Take Connecticut, for instance. It has laws that require employers to let employees know, in writing, the details of monitoring methods used.

Other states like Florida, California, Louisiana, and South Carolina explicitly state that residents have a right to privacy. In other words, employers in these states need to tread carefully when installing employee monitoring solutions.

How to Balance Workplace Monitoring and Employee Privacy

Business owners and managers nowadays use various remote working tools to help streamline workflows and track workers’ performance. Time tracking apps, for example, may be used to ensure proper time management, and some are integrated with employee monitoring features.

As an employer, you are obligated to protect all the information you collect. So, how can you implement employee monitoring strategies that don’t compromise the privacy of your workers?

1. Be Transparent

A Dtex Systems survey found that 77 percent of Americans would be comfortable being monitored if employers are transparent about it. So, you must be forthcoming about what you are doing, so employees don’t fear that workplace monitoring software will be used to micromanage them. Otherwise, it can create negative bias, and they may not accept to be monitored.

To be fully transparent, an organization must inform its employees what is being monitored, why it’s being monitored, and how it’s being monitored. Doing so enables your staff to make an informed decision on computer usage.

2. Get Buy-In

As a boss, you may think you don’t need your team’s permission to install a new system. While it’s true, getting team buy-in will make the process of adopting the system way easier. Plus, it has the advantage of not hurting your employees’ trust.

3. Outline the Benefits of Monitoring Employee Activities

Explain to your teams how monitoring can benefit them, which may include:

  • Precise time tracking, which translates to accurate payments
  • Autonomy for employees, which means managers won’t need to frequently check in
  • Recognition for performing employees

4. Know When It’s Too Much

Limit the invasiveness of monitoring technology. Only monitor what’s necessary and use data for its stated purpose. When employees detect a lack of predictability, they may perceive your monitoring techniques as invasive. This will reduce their trust, which can affect morale.

Likewise, avoid monitoring non-work devices even if they use them for work-related purposes.

5. Use Collected Data Fairly

One role of employee monitoring systems is to track user activity. However, just because an employee is inactive, it isn’t a sure sign of disengagement. Things like creative thinking, planning, and work-related phone calls aren’t reflected in user activity data.

Also, avoid using computer activity data to single out employees or as the sole indicator of performance. Such data doesn’t provide the full context of a worker’s productivity. As such, you shouldn’t make significant decisions like promotions or firing someone solely based on employee monitoring data.

6. Create an Employee Monitoring Policy

A clearly written privacy policy will help employees understand why they are being monitored and when, as well as the monitoring methods used. Let them know that their data will only be used only for productivity and workplace purposes.

Include this written policy in your employee handbook and make sure they understand the importance of employee monitoring during onboarding. Most importantly, maintain transparency by giving people access to their data.

This way, they can see what’s being gathered, and they should have the freedom to delete data that they don’t want to be seen. What’s more, a written employee monitoring policy can prove helpful when tackling legal issues associated with workplace privacy.

Monitor Your Employees the Ethical Way

The line is blurry when it comes to monitoring employees and protecting their privacy. When implementing productivity strategies in the workplace, it’s essential to ensure that the entire process is done ethically and lawfully.

On the one hand, employee monitoring can provide valuable insight into your workforce and boost efficiency. On the other, it might invade privacy rights. So, before you start using an employee monitoring system, know this. Workplace privacy and workforce surveillance laws are constantly evolving. That’s why it’s critical to consult legal counsel to ensure you comply with all relevant legislation and union agreements.

 

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6 Tips on Measuring Employee Performance

6 Tips on Measuring Employee Performance

January 31, 2022

Every company’s success reflects its staff’s productivity. That’s why performance management is one of the most critical aspects of human resources.

According to a Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies research, employee efficiency and productivity directly affect an organization’s growth. It also reported that staff performance could affect customer trust and loyalty.

Understanding your workforce’s strong suites and identifying where they need improvement will set you on the right course. You’ll also bolster employee retention and job satisfaction.

However, what is the right way to measure performance? How do you capture critical metrics and gauge them? This article covers tips on getting the performance appraisal process right and the different measurement methods you can apply.

Tips on Measuring Employee Performance

Numbers don’t lie, they say. However, in this case, you’ll be working with other insights. From feedback to behavioral analysis, there are all sorts of metrics to put into consideration. However, before you start using any method or metric, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Employ a Simple Strategy

An employee performance appraisal process can quickly turn into a complex affair. The more you analyze productivity and efficiency, the more you’ll look for means to get accurate measurements. That said, you have to remain grounded by the original goal and keep things simple. Start by identifying and defining the kinds of metrics you want to gauge. Then, focus on making each process simple and determine how frequently you want to run them.

Use Clear Measurements

The yardstick you use to measure your employee’s performance is as important as the entire process. First, you have to consider each worker’s role when gauging their successes and challenges. Then, improve those metrics to develop the perfect scoreboard.

Also, you must use clear and straight-to-the-point statements and questions when collecting surveys and feedback.

Don’t Rely on a Single Performance Measurement Method

There are different methods used to appraise employee performance. Relying on one defeats the purpose of collecting comprehensive data adequate to evaluate quantitative and qualitative performance. So, while deciding which performance appraisal style to use, make sure you’re covering all your bases. Still, don’t go with too many to avoid overwhelming your employees.

Gather Qualitative and Quantitative Data

Gathering numerical performance metrics isn’t enough because you’re dealing with humans. You have to combine those numbers with qualitative performance data. Use different methods to gather feedback from peers, subordinates, and managers. The feedback data should cover answers regarding behavioral qualities and competencies.

Set Defined Goals and Measure them

Setting measurable objectives and milestones is a great way to develop a sound performance tracking system. Employees score points for reaching each milestone and executing objectives. There should also be bonus points for timing.

According to a Dominican University study, writing out your goals improves your success chances by 20%. So, you’re not just building a performance rating system but also encouraging your staff to meet their goals.

Get Feedback from Employees about the Appraisal System

Don’t just develop a measurement plan and implement it immediately. Consult with your employees to know how they feel about the process. Since the method also includes plans to evaluate managers and those in leadership positions, you’d want the respondents to be comfortable with it.

Different Methods to Measure Employee Performance

Below, you’ll find different ways to measure and evaluate your staff’s performance.

Calculating Employee Efficiency

While productivity focuses on output in relation to time, efficiency grades the value and quality of work produced in a specific timeframe.

Employees are efficient when they can expertly execute jobs without making costly mistakes. As a result, deadlines will be met without compromising expense and quality of work.

Employee efficiency is typically calculated using key metrics such as the time spent on a job, output, and work quality. However, you can also calculate an employee’s overall efficiency by looking at the total amount of time spent at the office over a period against the quality of their output.

Calculating time spent on a specific task and whole workdays can be easy if you use a work time tracker. While these solutions are best suited to remote workers, they can be deployed in traditional offices.

You can also evaluate team efficiency to determine which employees work best together and the types of projects they’re well-suited to.

Generally, calculating efficiency can help you identify critical areas of improvement that will help move your team forward.

360-Degree Feedback

Most performance measurement methods only rely on data generated by the employee and gathered by the manager.

With the 360-degree method, anonymous feedback is collected from various people who have worked alongside an employee. These could include the employee’s supervisor, team members, subordinates, and even clients. Also called a “multi-rater feedback” or “group review,” this method provides employers with a comprehensive view of the employee.

The appraisal system is typically used for development purposes. It provides insights into a worker’s relationships at work, behaviors, and work competencies. Leaders and managers mainly use 360-degree feedback to understand their weaknesses and strengths and develop better managerial policies.

The ideal process involves sending out anonymous online feedback forms that will be filled out by people associated with the employee. Respondents can be grouped by their relationship with the worker. For example, there could be a “Peers” or “Clients” group. Questions should be restricted to the employee’s behavioral qualities rather than their technical competencies.

Graphic Rating Scales

Graphic rating scales allow you to score an employee’s performance in different roles using sequential numbers. These markers are generally used to rate behavioral traits such as punctuality, job knowledge, accountability, teamwork, and responsibility, among others. However, they could also gauge work quality and even output.

The scale works by listing numbers to determine how best to describe an employee’s performance on a particular subject. For example, using a scale of 1 to 10, 10 signifies high performance while 1 indicates the employee lacks the listed behavior.

There are two main types of scale used to measure individual employee behavior. They include continuous and discrete scales.

Discrete Scale

The discrete scale uses specific statements and responses. Each ranking describes a result, and they’re typically ranked 1 to 3 or 1 to 5. Here’s a discrete scale performance measurement example:

Statement: This employee executes tasks with minimal supervision

Answer: Choose the fitting remark from below:

  1. Highly improbable (Does not work well without supervision, makes regular mistakes, managers must double-check for errors)
  2. Quite improbable (Doesn’t feel comfortable working without a more experienced colleague)
  3. Maybe (Hasn’t particularly worked well enough without supervision)
  4. Quite possible (Always welcomes the challenge of working independently)
  5. Highly possible (Proven efficient on numerous occasions and solved high-level problems with close to no supervision)

Continuous Scale

With this method, two extreme statements or behaviors are listed on each end of the scale with numbers running through them. The manager or supervisor will then choose a number on the scale that best describes the employee.

Example:

Statement: Rate the employee’s job knowledge using a scale of 1 to 10.

Answer:

1 – The employee knows nothing about the job

10 – The employee is highly knowledgeable about the tasks.

SWOT Analysis

Short for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats analysis, this method helps identify areas where an employee can improve on and where their specialty lies.

Strengths represent positive attributes and competencies under the worker’s control. The employee can use these traits to advance their career.

Weaknesses showcase behavioral and technical qualities which the subject can control. They’re identified as areas of improvement.

Opportunities represent positive external situations that are out of the employee’s control. They can use opportunities to their advantage to affect growth.

On the other hand, threats are external situations the individual can’t control. If not managed properly, they can cause a drop in performance.

Conclusion

Don’t forget to create an improvement plan after collecting the work performance data. Knowing your workers’ strengths and weaknesses means you can now reposition them in their right departments and address specific issues.

 

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Accounting firms analysis

Accounting firms analysis

January 26, 2022

Through this study, we want to showcase the way accounting firms work. We have analyzed their incomes, expenses, operating margins, and hourly rates first and foremost.

Based on this analysis you will be able to do a benchmark analysis for your accounting firm, and see how you stand compared to the average fluctuations.

The analysis covers the representative sample of 1433 accounting firms from Europe. The sample has been generated from the Tomson Reuters base.

The last financial reports are from 2020.

The sample doesn’t contain micro-companies

We analyzed firms that perform the following activities:

  • Accounting
  • Audit
  • Tax and financial advisory

The average number of employees per company within our sample is 35.

Income analysis in the accountancy business

Based on the 1433 accounting firm sample, the conclusion is that a large number of firms generate annual income between EUR 300.000 and 900.000.

213 accounting companies from the sample, that is, 15% generate an annual income higher than EUR 3.000.000

The analyzed accounting companies make an average of EUR 3.9. mil total.

Median revenue amounts to EUR 957.000

Income analysis in the accountancy business

Expense analysis in the accountancy business

54% of the analyzed companies realize expenses up to 900.000 EUR.

199 accounting companies from the sample, or 14% generated annual operating expenses higher than EUR 3 mil.

The analyzed accounting companies realize an average of EUR 3.5 mil of total expenses.

Median operating expenses amount to EUR 813.000.

Expense analysis in the accountancy business

Profit analysis in the accountancy business

4% of the analyzed firms generate losses, while 96% generate gains.

38% of accounting companies make a profit between Eur 40.000 to 160.000

The analyzed firms make an average of EUR 371.000 in operating profit.

Median operating amounts to EUR 143.000.

Only 5% of accounting companies make a profit higher than EUR 1 mil.

Profit analysis in the accountancy business

Operating margins analysis in the accountancy business

Most accounting companies (42% of them) realize an operating margin of 3% to 15%.

30% of accounting firms realize the operating margin higher than 20%, while 15% of the companies realize a margin over 30%

23% of the companies have a margin lower than 6%

The analyzed accounting companies realize an average operating margin of 16%

Median operating margins amounts to  13%.

Operating margins analysis in the accountancy business

Additionally, we have analyzed the way the size of the company affects the realized margin.

The conclusion is that smaller companies realize a higher margin. The cause is the fact that larger companies need to invest in business infrastructure and non-profit centers – for example, HR, IT, and similar.

If we observe the companies that have less than EUR 1 mil of total income, their average margin is 19%. on the other hand, accounting companies with over EUR 3 mil of total annual income realize an average operating margin of 10%.

Operating margins analysis in the accountancy business

Revenues per employee in the accountancy business

A half of accounting firms realize an income of over EUR 100.000 per employee.

If we look at the extremes, 4% of the firms make less than EUR 50.000 per employee, while only 8% make more than EUR 250.000 per employee.

On average, accounting firms make an income of EUR 186.000 per employee, while the median is EUR 100.000.

Revenues per employee in the accountancy business

We have also analyzed the ways the size of the company impacts income per employee. The conclusion is that larger companies make more money per employee. We remind you, these companies also have a lower margin.

Revenues per employee in the accountancy business 1

Cost per employee in the accountancy business

Almost 50% of the companies have annual expenses from EUR 50.000 to 100.000 per employee, including all operating costs added to salary costs.

If we look at the extremes, 17% of the analyzed firms have costs lower than EUR 50.000 per employee, while only 8% have costs over EUR 200.000 per employee.

On average, accounting firms have EUR 161.000 of expenses per employee, while the median is EUR 84.000

Cost per employee in the accountancy business

Additionally, we have analyzed the way a company’s size impacts the cost per employee. The conclusion is that larger companies have larger expenses per employee. This analysis doesn’t account for salaries. That is, operating expenses include all overhead expenses except for salaries. Still, we assume that, on average, larger companies have higher employee salaries.

Hence, as the business increases, the absolute profit rises, incomes and expenses per employee grow, but profitability decreases.

Cost per employee in the accountancy business 1

Hourly rates in the accounting business

This analysis considers gross hourly rates. In other words, how much profit is billed per hour considering the employees’ total working hours. So, we have not analyzed the net billing rate here.

Our initial assumption is that all full-time employees work for 1936 hours per year effectively.

Almost 85% of the companies from our sample (1200 of them) realize an hourly rate lower than 90 EUR/h, while the other 15% make over 90 EUR/h.

Only 9% of the firms have an actual gross hourly rate higher than 120 EUR/h.

The average hourly rate in the accountancy business, based on our sample, is 96 EUR/h.

The median hourly rate is 52 EUR/h.

Hourly rates in the accounting business

We have additionally analyzed the way the size of the company affects the realized hourly rate. We have concluded that larger companies have higher hourly rates.

Additional analysis showed that accounting business has half the hourly rate compared to tax and financial advisory businesses.

Hourly rates in the accounting business 1

Conclusion

As a business grows, the number of clients and income rise slower than the profit does. In other words, the net margin decreases due to necessary investments into the infrastructure and non-profit centers.

Only 5% of accounting firms make a profit higher than EUR 1 mil.

The net operating margin in the accounting business is 13% (median).

Larger businesses, on the other hand, charge a higher hourly rate than smaller firms on average, but their salary expenses also increase.

Comparing a different service line we concluded that highest margin is achieved in tax and finance advisory and lowest margin is achieved in bookkeeping.

 

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How To Train Your Employees To Increase Productivity

How To Train Your Employees To Increase Productivity

January 18, 2022

How To Train Your Employees To Increase Productivity

Increasing your employee’s productivity benefits your business in myriad ways. One of the most obvious benefits is increased profitability. There are many ways that you can train and cultivate productivity in your staff, from training seminars to a positive work environment.

If you notice that any of your staff are not responding well to training and aren’t improving after being told, then it’s imperative that you fire them. Unproductive staff who are unwilling to learn and improve are a liability. Don’t waste your time with them.

This article will explain how to train your employees and increase their productivity:

Automate Sales

If you have a team full of unproductive sales staff, then you could consider introducing software that automates and facilitates sales. This software will allow you to terminate unreliable staff, without suffering a lack in business or function. Out of all of the sales funnel platforms, ClickFunnels is the most popular, and over at supplygem.com/clickfunnels-60-day-trial/, you can get a free trial. You can use this trial to familiarise yourself with the platform and decide whether or not to implement it in your business. If you do, then you can get rid of staff who aren’t fully productive and efficient.

Training Seminars

If you are concerned with your staff productivity, then experts advise hosting some kind of training seminar. The seminar that you hold depends entirely upon your industry, and your staff’s duties. Marketing seminars for example typically involve guest speakers, who are well established in the marketing community. Don’t be reluctant to spend a little money on guest speakers for your seminar, because they can be very motivational and effective. Industry leaders can help to motivate your staff to do better and can encourage them to be much more productive.

Interactive Exercises

In addition to training seminars, you should have your staff practise their daily duties online, using interactive training software. This can help them to hone their skills and become better at what they do. You should be able to have your staff practise online in their spare time without paying them, as part of their routine staff training. With that said, you should incentivize interacting with this software by offering rewards, prizes, and certificates of completion. You may also want to consider having your staff complete courses that award them with accreditations relevant to your industry.

Routine Testing

If your business works in a very complex industry such as engineering for example, then there’s a lot of benefit to holding routine testing. You should warn your staff in advance to give them time to revise. Routine testing will keep your staff alert and productive. This testing will also give you the opportunity to assess the extent of their abilities and identify staff members who aren’t working as diligently as they should. You should conduct routine testing at least twice a year. You should give your staff at least two weeks’ notice before holding one of these sessions.

Delegating Responsibility

If you are able to identify key staff members who work harder than everybody else, don’t be afraid to delegate more responsibility to them. Productive members of staff typically relish the fact that they are being recognized and given extra responsibility. This should improve their productivity massively because now they know that they are ascending the proverbial ladder. It should also motivate other staff, who will see that it is possible to achieve a promotion in your business and will work toward that themselves. With all of that said, make sure that you do not show favoritism when you are giving promotions and delegating responsibility because this can breed contempt among staff.

Positive Environment

Cultivating a positive working environment is a great way to improve productivity. When your staff are happy working amongst each other, they are far more likely to communicate and to be productive. Conversely, if your staff struggle to communicate with one another and there is in-fighting taking place, they will be less productive, and more reluctant to work harmoniously. You can cultivate a positive environment by being friendly with your staff, not exhibiting favoritism, and by holding regular events for your staff to attend outside of work, such as barbecues and nights out.

Increase Employees Productivity

Rewarding Staff

In addition to cultivating a positive environment, you should give commendation when commendation is due. If you notice that specific employees are working hard, there’s no harm in calling them into your office and expressing how happy you are with them. This motivates members of staff to work harder because they will want to impress you, and ultimately, achieve a promotion. You could also reward staff by offering time off for hard work and giving bonuses in the run-up to Christmas. Bonuses are a very effective way of increasing productivity.

Honesty and Openness

Make sure that you are honest and open with your employees. Transparency will improve their overall productivity because they will feel less like staff and more like partners. If you keep secrets from them and don’t update them on what’s going on with the company, they won’t feel connected to it, and so, will be less productive. By bringing them in and treating them like they actually have a stake in your business, you will motivate them and encourage them to do better. With that said, keep your relationship with your staff professional.

Communication

In addition to honesty and openness, you need to communicate with your staff. This means that if you need something done, then explain it properly. A big problem for many businesses is that managers and senior employees do not explain things properly to people further down the ladder. Ultimately, this leads to staff making mistakes and being reprimanded. When staff is reprimanded because of somebody else’s mistake, they will feel undervalued and their productivity will decrease. For this reason, be clear and concise with your staff, and ensure they know exactly what they are supposed to be doing. When they have an end point in sight, it will be easier for them to be more productive.

Unnecessary Tasks

If you want your staff to be more productive, then give them fewer unnecessary tasks to do. If you have staff who are working on an important project, avoid side-tracking them with something that somebody else could do. Ensure that your staff are working on the most important things and doing their jobs. In addition, avoid delegating tasks to members of staff who aren’t qualified or trained for them. This can cause them to make mistakes, which could make them less productive in the long run.

Home Working

Since the pandemic struck, lots of businesses have had to instruct their employees to work from home. While the pandemic’s mostly over and effective vaccine programmes have been rolled out, your staff can still work from home. Working from home has been shown to dramatically improve employee productivity. One of the main reasons for this is because they do not have to commute, and so, can wake up later, eat healthier, and spend more time with their family. This gives employees a greater sense of satisfaction, and thus improves their productivity and commitment to your company.

Social Distancing

It’s also very important to introduce social distancing in your workplace. This is because many people are still very concerned with the spread of COVID-19, despite vaccine rollouts. Staff who are concerned about becoming sick will be less productive. In addition, staff who actually become sick will have to take time off of work which can decrease overall productivity tremendously. Be sure to introduce mandatory mask-wearing, as well as social distancing. You could also introduce protective screens, which will stop your staff from passing viruses among each other through coughing, sneezing, and talking. Make sure to also give each member of staff their own antibacterial hand gel, which they should use before opening and closing doors.

Technology

Giving your staff the latest and most efficient technology is another guaranteed way to improve their productivity. If your staff are using antiquated software and technology, then they will not be able to complete tasks as effectively as they would if they had the latest tech. You can get discounts on new technology by buying it in bulk. At the very least, you should give the most important members of staff in your business the newest and most up to date technology in order to improve their performance and streamline difficult tasks.

Identify and Set Goals

If your staff doesn’t have any goals, then they won’t be able to improve their productivity. Make sure you regularly set goals for them to meet. This could be a specific number of sales made or a number of phone calls made. By giving them tasks to work toward, your staff can improve their productivity and will work hard to meet deadlines. As long as you follow all of this article’s other suggestions, then setting your staff goals shouldn’t be an issue at all.

If you want to improve your staff’s productivity, then you should start with implementing the suggestions that we have made in this article. Most importantly, be open and communicate with your staff. If they feel like they have a relationship with you, they will work harder just to please you.

 

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16 most effective tools for easy remote work in 2022

16 most effective tools for easy remote work in 2022

January 14, 2022

The last two years have brought big changes into our lives. This includes business as well. Companies that offered the ability to work from home used to be rare. Also, most employees used to work remotely only for a few days of the week.

However, the pandemic has made many businesses that haven’t even considered allowing their staff to work from home do just that. Some thrived in this new environment, while others struggled. However, every company faced the necessity to implement new software tools to help their teams coordinate. Here are the best work from home tools that will help your employees remain on top of things.

1. Time Analytics

If you haven’t considered getting a timesheet software solution before, having a remote team has surely made you understand the importance of such platforms. It is crucial for all employees to track their time and tasks so you can allocate the expenses and billable rates to appropriate clients.

Paper timesheets are an extremely unpractical solution for a remote team. On the other hand, if you’ve tried using Excel templates, you know you have to manually allocate hours and coordinate the documents.

This is where Time Analytics comes in. The platform is very simple to use and won’t be a problem even for the less computer-savvy employees. What is even better is that it does all the allocating for you, but also turns your employees’ data into comprehensive reports you can use to make informed business decisions. Time utilization, overtime calculation, and many other important KPIs will be at your fingertips with this simple and intuitive tool.

Time Analytics also shows profit margins. This will enable you to identify your most valuable clients and those who cost you more money than you make from them. In other words, you will be able to optimize profitability with ease, as the platform will do all necessary calculations.

2. Slack

Worried about communication among your team members? Slack is here to make your problems go away. Slack is a team communication tool that enables teams to collaborate and fix issues instantaneously. The platform features individual and group chat functions, as well as audio and video call tools.

You can use Slack beside other tools as well, as it features numerous integrations. This program allows teams to synchronize in mere moments no matter where the employees are. It also offers a mobile and a web app, so your team will be able to be updated on projects and changes on the go.

3. Trello

This simple project management tool is a lifesaver for many managers. It functions based on different boards and cards that signify tasks. These cards can be located in different columns to indicate whether a task or a project is finished or a work in progress.

Simply put, Trello allows managers to see the progress of all projects at a single glance and understand whether they are short-staffed or need to find a solution for a particularly stubborn problem. Controlling the cards is easy, as employees only need to drag and drop them to signify that they have started or finished a task.

4. Instagantt

If you prefer using Gantt charts, Instagannt is a great option for you. Again, this project management tool helps you visualize the progress of different tasks and projects. This platform prides itself on its attractive design and is easy to use.

If your company works on a multitude of similar projects you can create and save templates for later use and make project management that much simpler.

Instagantt will notify you about nearing deadlines and offer information about priorities and risks. It also sends notifications to signify different milestones. Using this system allows you to streamline an entire project.

5. EmailAnalytics

It is well known that getting lost in a lengthy email exchange and waiting for a reply are some of the most common time-wasting activities in business. Hence, many employers are looking for a way to prevent these exchanges. If you want to learn who is communicating well and in a timely way, EmailAnalytics is the tool for you.

As you know, communication drives business. However, it is difficult to keep the same level of communication when your colleagues are all working from home. That is why it’s crucial to keep email exchange efficient. This tool allows just that, as it analyzes both the frequency and response time of your team.

6. Zoom

Zoom has become one of the staples of the last two years. Even if you’ve never used it, you must have heard of it. And for a good reason. Namely, Zoom offers high-quality video calls, which makes it integral to any conference call.

However, a simple call isn’t Zoom’s biggest advantage. The video recording feature allows users to create troubleshooting or educational videos for the entire company. This is a great addition to your arsenal of work from home tools, as many employees aren’t very good with computers, but can watch a video and repeat the steps they see in it.

7. Milanote

Employers in the creative and design field know that traditional ways to manage projects can be insufficient for their workers. Milanote makes creating projects a fun and aesthetically pleasing experience for the artists in us.

Even though there are many liberties your team can take with this platform, it also offers hundreds of templates to help them figure out their preferred way of work. They can add notes and to-do lists too, to make sure they don’t forget a key component or a minor detail.

Privacy is Milanote’s great advantage, as employees can brainstorm in their private spaces. Then, once they are satisfied with the results or get stuck, they can share their space with coworkers. This level of customizability between private and public could be exactly what starts driving your team forward.

8. Google Workspace

We could never talk about the best software for working remotely without mentioning Google Workspace. Google has given its users an opportunity to create a virtual office, a knowledge base, and a collaboration space all in one.

The toolkit offers many features and is updated for all team members simultaneously. It combines the possibilities Google Drive, Google Docs and other tools offer, and is one of the most versatile tools on our list.

9. Krisp

As video calls became an integral part of doing business, we have learned not everyone has space appropriate for a home office. While people make do with what they have, Krisp came up with a way to make conference calls more accessible.

Krisp is a communication app for remote work, and its primary function is to cancel background noise during calls. This way the entire team won’t have to be distracted by pets, children, traffic, and other noisemakers.

Even though the line between personal and professional life has been very blurred for a while now, your team will be grateful for being able to conduct calls with no interruptions.

10. Timezone.io

This tool is extremely useful to companies that have a remote workforce scattered all over the world. Being in a different time zone than your manager is never a great situation. Especially so if you have an urgent issue. Hence, you may want to give your employee a call and try to troubleshoot the problem.

However, the employee will not be thrilled about being woken up in the middle of the night or called back to work after clocking out. That is why Timezone.io offers an easy way to check whether you can call specific team members.

This work from home software shows an overview of different time zones and helps managers know whether an employee is available or not. Additionally, it is a great way to schedule a meeting without finding anyone in their pajamas.

11. Chimp or Champ

Not being able to see your coworkers doesn’t mean you should stop caring about the team’s wellbeing. Chimp or Champ is an app for remote work that allows all employees to express how work is affecting them.

Feedback is crucial for maintaining and leading a happy and productive team. The app will let all employees express their feelings through a happiness meter you use once a week. When you get the results, you will understand whether you can keep up the tempo or need to check in with your employees.

If the level of happiness is low, you will need to intervene, as a burnt-out team is the last thing you want. Usually redistributing some of the workloads can help, but there may be other problems, personal and business alike, you will have to work around.

12. LiveAgent

Handling customer support without a dedicated team is a challenge in and of itself. However, doing so while your team is scattered around can turn into a real nightmare. That is why many companies need helpdesk work from home tools. LiveAgent is our choice in this case.

The platform offers a ticketing system, a live-chat feature, a call center, etc. That is why it is considered one of the most professional customer support solutions out there. All you need to do is set up your preferences, and it will automatically distribute tickets to the departments that need to fix the issue.

13. WooBoard

Connecting to your team and cheering them on is as important as ever. With each employee working from home and not being able to see their manager daily, it is easy to forget to express praise. Simply put, you will want to congratulate an employee for doing an outstanding job to motivate them further. However, having your own obligations, and not being able to simply go to their office will probably make you forget this.

WooBoard is a work from home app created to give credit where it’s due. Never miss an opportunity to let your team know you appreciate them with a reward or public praise. As the app works similarly to a social media platform, all coworkers will be able to congratulate the top performers and become more united.

14. 10to8

Keeping things organized is difficult enough in an office. However, trying to schedule a group call while not knowing everyone’s schedules can turn into a nightmare. 10to8 can help you avoid time clashes and get everyone on the same page.

This work from home app enables users to synchronize their obligations and arrange meetings with ease. However, internal communication is just one of the features this platform offers. Possibly, more importantly, you will be able to schedule meetings with your clients.

Additionally, 10to8 integrates with Zoom seamlessly, so you’ll never be late or look unprofessional.

15. Miro

Another collaboration work from home tool, Miro helps teams stay in the loop when it comes to projects. It allows its users to streamline all tasks necessary to complete a project. Then you can delegate those tasks and get an insight into the progress of each step.

You can use the program to brainstorm, keep all ideas in one place and communicate about the project as it goes on. This is important to teams that do numerous revisions and tests before finishing a project. It also benefits managers and QA testers, as they can access every part of the project at all times to revise them.

16. Zapier

You may be thinking we are offering too many different solutions. Especially so if you are already using some software solutions to make work from home easier. And we hear and understand you. That is why we have chosen Zapier as the last entry to this list.

Zapier is a work from home software solution that focuses on task automation and app synchronization. It is a very handy tool, as it allows your staff to use connect multiple tools and use them simultaneously. If you want the benefits of different apps with the simplicity of using a single platform with all necessary information – Zapier is the solution for you.

Final Words

Making sure each of your employees has a home office with all the equipment and tools they need is a big feat. There are many moving parts, especially in larger organizations. So, you will need to inc=vest some time and a  lot of care to make sure everything is functioning well.

We have offered you a wide variety of different tools. This means you most probably won’t need each entry on this list. Think about the demands of your industry and the way your employees work while in-office. Then see which tools are the most fitting for your work style and company culture.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on different work from home tools, but you need to find the best ones for you. As there are many new applications on the market we wanted to allow you to see emerging high-quality platforms and old favorites that have been tested again and again.

We hope this article has given you a few new ideas on how to improve your workflow and interpersonal relationships in your team.

 

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15 Tips for Work from Home with Kids

15 Tips for Work from Home with Kids

January 12, 2022

Whether you’ve only started working from home or have been doing so for a while, some adjustments are necessary. This is especially true for parents who need to balance work and taking care of their children.

Many people have faced the problem of working from home while unable to take their children to daycare. Others, on the other hand, had to adjust to online classes. Whichever may be the case, balancing a career, daily stress, and being a good parent isn’t an easy feat. That is why we have compiled a list of 15 tips on working remotely with kids.

1. Be Aware You’re Not Alone

Many parents are facing the challenge of making work from home work for everybody. There are probably some in your own team.

Even if this isn’t the case, and you’re the only one facing these issues, don’t think your team members and managers won’t understand what you’re going through. The pandemic has brought a great level of stress to most people’s daily lives. Having the additional stress of caring for a child isn’t a small burden.

That is why you will have to communicate with your coworkers and superiors openly. Tell them about your situation to let them understand your situation better.

2. Be Specific

Different children have different needs. That is why you will have to let your manager and team members more about your child’s schedule. That can mean starting your work a bit later in the day. Or, on the other hand, having to take multiple breaks and being unavailable to your coworkers.

Working from home with kids will demand some level of flexibility. However, having a general idea of how most of your days will go is a good starting point. Your coworkers will know you won’t be able to answer them at certain times.

Additionally, children’s needs change with time, so you will probably have to make some changes in your work life as well. Make sure to communicate them as they happen, or even a bit earlier when possible.

3. Prioritize!

Let’s be honest – this is a hectic time in all our lives. Keeping a semblance of balance has never been more important.

Many articles have covered the topic of ‘’the new normal’’ and suggest a variety of productivity tips. However, everyone is different and has to make changes that will fit them and not this New Normal. That is why it is important to understand your own situation first and foremost.

Even if your best and most productive moments happen at unconventional times, be sure to make the most of them.

Unfortunately, burnout has become one of the biggest problems in current offices, whether traditional or home. We get so stressed out and forget that our little ones are also seeing us go through a lot, which, in turn, stresses them out. Try to find ways to reduce fatigue the best way you can, so you have the energy to spend some stress-free time with your children after work.

4. Make a Schedule for Yourself

Even though most of us have been in an unexpected situation for quite some time, the world is still spinning. Your obligations are still the same, or even more burdensome than before. That’s why there’s no time like now to create a schedule.

Forget the conventional ways of doing things. If you prefer to get up earlier or stay up later to be able to balance all your obligations, go ahead. The most important thing is that it works for you, your company, and your children.

Some conventional techniques, like time blocking, have proven to be very successful in these situations. However, if you need additional help, like productivity apps or changing things around, don’t be afraid to do so.

The most important thing about your schedule is that it works for you. That means different things to different people. You can conduct a time audit during one week to see how to manage your time most efficiently.

5. Create a Schedule for Your Little Ones

This tip has more to do with your home life than work. Spending a lot of time with your children isn’t always a walk in the park. It makes working remotely with kids that much more difficult. Especially so if they don’t understand that even though you’re at home all day – you still need to work.

Creating a schedule of when you can spend time together. Your lunch breaks can be a great time to bond and talk. You will also need to help your child structure their day so no schoolwork goes past them.

You need to remember that the life of your child has changed immensely as well, and they too need some structure they’d usually get from attending daycare, school, etc.

6. Adjust Your Space

Space is a huge element of working from home with kids. The age of your child is the deciding factor with this tip. Parents of toddlers need to keep an eye on their child more than a parent of an elementary school-aged child. In other words, they will have to set up their space a different way.

Parents who are learning how to work from home with a baby will need to keep anything they may need close by. You will need to accommodate your child’s needs quickly, so it makes sense to adjust your home office so you can react to them as soon as possible.

On the other hand, parents of older children may need to be away from them to be able to focus. That is why they need to keep their children occupied with different activities, like crafts and playing with toys. In this case, it would be best to separate the play area from your office.

7. Be Conscious of what You Need to Do

Many business owners believed that working from home would decrease productivity. Yet, the opposite happened, as it is more difficult to stop working on just one more (or three) tasks, and there is no commute.

While business owners may be happy about this turn of events, parents of young children shouldn’t be. It is easy to get caught up with work and forget about work-life balance, including spending time with their children.

You will have to adjust and learn how to work when you have kids. This means consciously choosing to dedicate some time to parenting. Spending more time around your children but not being there for them can be detrimental to your future relationship.

Use the time with your child for fun activities and bonding, so you can de-stress from work and focus on something more wholesome.

8. Team up

Two-parent households have a big advantage in this situation. Especially so if you are both working from home. In this case, you will be able to give more attention to your child, as you will have more hands on deck.

Again, work-life balance is key in this case, and you will be able to achieve it by splitting duties. This will also help you avoid burnout. Having someone you can rely on when you are nearing a deadline can be a life-saver.

Of course, things aren’t always going to go smoothly, as everyone in your household is in a new situation and needs to adjust. That is why you also need to be patient and forgiving. This doesn’t apply only to your children and partner, but to yourself too.

9. Use your Child’s Schedule to Your Favor

This tip is beneficial for parents of children who aren’t at baby or toddler age. Simply put – your child’s circadian rhythm should allow you some time for uninterrupted work. Use nap times to do some deep work and focus without interruptions.

Play and TV time are also good opportunities to focus on work. Hence, you should dedicate these periods to the most demanding tasks and deep work.

10. Give You Both some Time Apart

Even though your child is probably very happy to be able to spend some time with you, they aren’t used to being around you all the time. This often means they will get overwhelmed at some point, and want some alone time.

Depending on your situation, you can organize an online play date or scavenger hunt for your young ones. If you don’t have the energy, playing a movie will also suffice. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it and allow for too much TV time in that case. That is why these activities should be reserved as rewards.

However, if you have a child who is starting to take care of themselves, you can use their favorite movie or show as an incentive to help you with chores, such as cleaning up the play area or putting some toys away. This way you will get even more time to focus on your work, and you can both appreciate the time you spend together more.

11. Working from Home with Kids and Remaining a Team Player

Being dedicated to your family and your work isn’t easy even in normal circumstances. Now, it became even harder for people who have never worked from home. Remote work requires much more effort when it comes to communication, and the process of getting things approved can be challenging.

That is why teams need to stay on the same page. If you hold a higher position in your team, it will be even more difficult, as you hold more responsibility. Some of your team members are going through exactly the same struggles as you are.

This is why communication isn’t only important at the beginning of your remote work journey. You will have to keep it at a high level at all times to make work easier both for yourself and your colleagues. Only this way is working from home with kids sustainable at all.

So, allow that time off or flexibility in shifts. You shouldn’t meddle in your coworkers’ organization as long as the work gets done.

12. Track Time

As we have already mentioned, remote work can make you lose track of time. Especially so if you are also parenting full-time. That is why it is a great idea to use a time tracking app for remote work. You will then be able to see the structure of your days and make small but deliberate changes.

There are a lot of moving parts in working from home with kids or a baby. A reliable time tracking system is a necessity if you don’t want any of your hard work to go to waste. It will also help your managers understand you are doing your best in a very difficult situation.

This tip is especially important if your company tracks billable and non-billable hours. The clients will still look for an explanation when it comes to fees, and keeping an accurate record will save you a lot of trouble if anyone brings your work up.

13. Keep Your Space Professional

Some employers are willing to be lenient to some extent. Others, on the other hand, expect you to remain professional and keep your private life away from work.

Even if your employer is ready to accommodate your needs, you will definitely score some points if you keep up appearances. This is especially true for teams that have regular conference calls.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to single parents with babies or children who need special care. However, if you are able, you should keep your space (at least the part of it that shows up in your frame) and your appearances as professional as you can.

It is best to test your camera before a conference call to make sure no Legos are in your frame. Also, keeping up appearances can help you turn from Home to Office mode easier as a small ritual instead of commuting.

14. Take Care of Yourself too

No matter how hard you try, there may come a time when you feel so fed up with having two jobs at the same time. And parenting is a job and a very important one at that. Hence, you will need a break here and there.

After you’re done and finally can log off, try to stay away from your office space. Put your child to bed or play them a movie while you take the time to relax. Meditate, take a bath or practice some other form of self-care or a hobby you’ve neglected.

Many parents feel guilty for having these small indulgences when they could be spending that time with their children. Yet, having some time for yourself helps you recharge your batteries and be ready to take on another day without burnout.

15. Be Firm and Just When It Comes to Boundaries

We have stated multiple times that you are in a very stressful situation. Turning to simple solutions in these times is the easiest way. Yet, if you want to improve the quality of your home life and not be stressed at all times, compromise can be a better option.

Make sure your children understand when they can and cannot interfere with your work. working from home with children gets much easier once you set up a few ground rules. For example – if you have your headset on or are talking to a colleague, your child is allowed to interrupt you only in case of an emergency.

Of course, that means you will also need to be available to them for small tasks they cannot do on their own, like reaching a snack or helping them with a math problem. To put it simply, you have to be ready to jump in, and your children need to understand at least some boundaries.

Conclusion

Learning how to work from home when you have kids is a process. It isn’t easy and can be stressful. However, it can also be rewarding, as you will be there for big milestones in their lives – when their first tooth falls out or they get their first A in school. Sharing this joy can create unforgettable moments for both of you.

You need to remember neither of you is a robot that works perfectly. Yet, as a parent, you must be understanding and kind even when mistakes happen. Try to keep that in mind and do your best. Even if you aren’t perfect (note – no one is), your effort will be appreciated.

 

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