Less than half a decade ago, working from home was considered unusual. It was a choice for the lucky few, and there was a certain stigma attached to it because of that. Now, since the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, flexible arrangements and the ability to work from home are commonplace and very often expected by employees. But what problems does this pose to you, the employer? Finding a way to track your staff’s progress and attention to the job, and being able to prove any misconduct is often hard enough, let alone when it’s in the privacy of their own home.
I firmly believe the best way to motivate your team, regardless of their location, is through positive reinforcement and clear guidelines. As we are all still navigating this new working world, it can be hard for employees to know the expectations of them. If their email pings at 8pm, do you expect a reply? If they have kids at home, are you happy for them to break up their day with playtime? Can they leave the house for lunch and, if so, do they need to let you know when they are gone?
These kind of questions can be a big source of anxiety for those who want to do a good job. As with all things, however, you will get people who take advantage of unclear boundaries and the lack of supervision. So, when it gets to that point, you need proper recourse, and you need to get evidence.
A PI can follow a target to determine where they are and, most of the time, what they are doing. While we can observe them in their home, we cannot enter a private property without permission. So, if your employee is sunbathing in the garden or having a luxurious bath, we have to use different tactics to fox them out (ringing the doorbell is a good one!) But if they leave the property to spend the day at the golf club or spa, for example, we can certainly supply evidence of their misconduct, including photos!
Fake Customer Calls (AKA The Mystery Shopper)
If your employee’s workday involves answering phone calls, then a PI can pose as a prospective client to get you some answers! If staff take a long time to answer, or seem distracted during the conversation, this suggests something else is going on when they should be focussed on work. Background noise can also be a dead giveaway; whether it’s voices from the TV, or chatter on the high street, we can listen in and let you know if customer service is up to scratch.
Monitoring Software – A WARNING
There is software out there that allows you to monitor computer activity remotely, across your entire team. This can be in the form of tracking keystrokes, using cookies to see what websites they visit during work hours, and even taking screenshots of an employee’s screen at random intervals. But be warned! While effective, many consider this kind of monitoring to be invasive and can do more harm than good. Zoom actually deactivated its attention tracking feature after privacy complaints, which shows how seriously big companies are taking this issue https://blog.zoom.us/a-message-to-our-users/
I personally recommend that software like this only be considered as a last resort, when you have already established that there is a problem with staff absenteeism.
My best advice? By setting clear guidelines and expectations in the first place, and making sure staff meet these standards in the work they produce, you foster an environment of trust. But if you feel that trust is being abused, then I can help.