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Should you track employee workload in the digital workplace?

28 November 2022
  

Digital working is great for several reasons, most notably that employees enjoy greater flexibility over their working hours, while employers aren’t obliged to provide constant oversight during office time. One downside of digital working though, is that it can be difficult to track employee workload and productivity without an office presence.

When remote and digital working became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and management teams were forced to contend with distance-based tracking and monitoring. In this article, we’re going to go over some of the best ways you can track employee workload in the digital workplace and, importantly, how these tools can foster trust and employee productivity.

What is a digital workplace?

In one sense, digital workplace refers to a workplace without fixed office premises; employees carry out their work remotely, either at home or in a public place of their choosing. Digital workplaces can refer to fully remote workplaces and hybrid workplaces. Hybrid workplaces will still require some office time, while fully remote workplaces are 100% digital, with zero office time required from employees.

Another meaning for a digital workplace is the actual technology that allows people to work remotely or from anywhere by connecting them to the company’s systems, digital tools and people. In this sense, the Digital Workplace Group says a digital workplace is “the collection of all the digital tools provided by an organisation to allow its employees to do their jobs.”

Tracking emails

Tracking emails is one way to monitor day-to-day activities for your employees in a remote, digital workplace. Tracking emails allows you to monitor communications within your organisation, as well as how many emails are being sent and replied to. With studies suggesting that employees can spend up to 15 hours per week sending and checking emails, a lack of email activity could imply a general lack of productivity.

On the other hand, tracking emails isn’t going to be the most effective option if email-sending isn’t a key duty for most or even some of your employees. With many companies now using virtual assistants and outsourcing administration duties, an email tracker isn’t going to give you a comprehensive picture of an employee’s workload or task completion.

Time-tracking software

Many digital workplaces use time-tracking software to monitor employee workload and productivity during office working hours. There are many advantages to using a time tracker; management is assured that remote employees are using their working hours for tasks or to contribute productively to company duties.

There’s also no ambiguity about the workload carried out: when a time-tracker is active, it will track and record everything on the screen, providing veritable proof of completed tasks and duties. Having proof of work carried out can be beneficial not just for the employer but also for the employee.

On the other hand, many employees dislike feeling they’re being monitored. Many time-tracking apps include sensor motions that track clicks, mouse activity and browser activity, which can feel both like an invasion of privacy and the mark of an untrusting employer for staff. While time-tracking apps can be useful, they’re not a popular option.

Digital task managing apps

As remote working has became the norm, many new digital task managing apps have made their way into the workplace. Of all the monitoring and tracking solutions to choose from, a task managing app is probably the most comprehensive and simple to use.

Not only will most digital workplace solutions include supplementary features such as communication channels, knowledge bases, and time-tracking apps, they’re also more beneficial for your employees than a simple time or email tracker.

Rather than being monitored and observed, employees are able to engage with the task management app themselves, tracking their duties and providing real-time updates on their progression. In short, employees will be able to organise their tasks in a more streamlined way while still allowing management to track duties and analyse employee performance.

Self-reporting

Another way you can monitor workload in the digital workplace is by requiring your employees to self-report on their tasks and duties. This means sending a list of completed duties to a manager, or an email at the end of the working day summarising work done.

This can be beneficial; it encourages productivity, fosters good communication and helps identify blockers and barriers. It also fosters trust between employers and staff. But there are downsides. It can be easy for people to lie about their workload when there are no digital tools in place to track or monitor their progress. Having a digital tool to fall back on might be a good idea if you have a larger business.

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ClearPeople

ClearPeople