Time tracking of remote employees
When talking about working remotely, it is usually considered from the point of view of the worker. We will break this template and try to look at this phenomenon from the perspective of the employer in order to understand the mechanism and understand how to integrate the tracking of the working hours of remote employees into the overall monitoring system.
What is teleworking?
This question may seem rather stupid, or, in any case, rather naive - after all, it is quite obvious that remote work means a way of employment in which the employee does not have a job as such, but instead works from home. However, this is only the most general plan of the phenomenon that today is commonly called remote work. Indeed, there are many different types of remote work, each of which can be interesting in its own way to a competent leader.
The simplest and most common type is remote contract work (we will call it teleworking). In general, it differs from "normal" office work only in that the employee performs the duties assigned to him by the employment contract not at his workplace, but at home. Quite often there is a variant of "partially remote" work, when an employee appears in the office only when there is a real need for it.
Another work option is freelancing. This term today means a way of earning money, in which a specialist performs one-time or relatively rare orders from various customers, without signing contracts or agreements with them that imply long-term labor relations. People who work in this way are called freelancers. Freelancing is widespread in those areas where it is enough to simply divide a large project into several parts, and entrust a small part to a specialist who is absent from the organization due to the small staff of employees or the lack of the need to regularly solve such problems. Quite often, for example, freelancers are involved in various IT projects when specific problems arise with specific technologies, systems, etc.
Actually, most of the other options for remote work, upon closer examination, turn out to be one of the two discussed above. Despite the obvious differences between them, they have a lot in common from the point of view of the employer, and this is what we will talk about now.
Pros of remote work for an employer
Obviously, like any other phenomenon, remote work has both a number of advantages that contribute to its very existence in the labor market, and a number of disadvantages that limit the spread of this method of employment. We'll start with the more pleasant part for employers - the positives of telecommuting.
The most tangible of them is, of course, all-round savings on ensuring the work of your employee, starting with the equipment of the workplace and ending with payments for electricity, Internet access, renting a larger room, etc. In general, for a month the amount turns out to be quite impressive in order to seriously think about transferring all employees to a remote mode of work, whose presence in the office is not an urgent need. If we calculate the additional costs that are compensated for in many organizations (transport, mobile communications, etc.), as well as absolutely obligatory attributes of office life: tea, coffee, cookies, stationery, etc., - savings will turn out to be even more significant.
Another plus is the possibility of recruiting employees not from those who live in the city where the organization operates, but from a much wider geographic region - in fact, from all over the world, if you do not take into account the language barrier. This allows not only finding the most competent specialists, but also saving on their salaries, because, as you know, the salaries of representatives of the same profession with approximately the same experience can differ several times, depending on where they live. ... In many ways, this is the basis of the business of all companies operating in the offshore programming market - buying the work of programmers in those countries where it costs relatively little, they make projects for customers from those countries where the salaries of software developers are much higher. That is, again, thanks to remote work, the company gets the opportunity to save on hiring qualified specialists.
Another undoubted advantage of remote work from the point of view of the employer can be considered an increase in the productivity of the workers remaining in the office after the transfer of some employees to a remote mode. The mechanism is simple enough: fewer people make less noise, fewer “let's go smoke” distractions, and so on.
Thus, as you can see, remote work brings many advantages for the organization, the most significant of which is the optimization of the costs associated with the organization of the workplace and the payment of wages. However, there is a downside to the coin, which organizations will also have to face when using the labor of remote workers.
Cons of remote work
Perhaps the most delicate issue related to remote work was, is and will be the issue of monitoring the activities of employees. After all, you must admit, unlike an office where the employee is always in sight, and where the manager can literally look at his monitor, it is quite difficult to control what the employee is doing at home. Although there are (this will be discussed below) special solutions suitable for organizing this kind of control, their use is also far from always convenient, and indeed possible.
There is also another problem with the remuneration of a teleworker. Traditionally used in many commercial companies and government organizations, hourly wages are ineffective, since it encourages the employee to attribute to himself extra hours worked, and not to increase labor efficiency.
However, as a rule, these two problems are solved "with a bang" by themselves, due to the nature of the duties assigned to the remote employee. As a rule, he is entrusted with the execution of such tasks that are not too critical in terms of time, that is, a remote worker may well work at any time of the day or even night convenient for him. He also does not need excess management control when using a wage scheme other than the time-based one, since in this case he has an incentive to complete more tasks at the same time in order to earn more. True, it should be noted that the scheme with tasks is not always effective enough - it all depends on the nature of the employee's activity.
A really serious problem with the active use of remote work in an organization is communication between employees, as well as, if employees are really far from each other, the difference in time zones. Although the latter situation is more relevant for our eastern neighbors, where even employees of regional offices may experience problems in communication with the head office due to time delays. In the case of remote workers, the problem may arise even if they live in a time zone due to the individual characteristics of each of them. Many of them prefer to work outside of working hours, and many simply do not have the opportunity to work in the same mode as office workers, due to any family circumstances. Thus, the manager, having sent the task to the employee by e-mail, cannot be sure that he will read the letter received in a sufficiently short time, and will promptly complete the tasks assigned to him.
For the same reason, the speed of communication between a remote employee and his colleagues decreases, with whom he is forced to exchange information due to work necessity. Of course, modern means of communication, including instant messaging (ICQ, Mail.ru Agent, Skype), mobile phones, IP-telephony (Skype, Gizmo) allow you to quickly communicate with a remote employee when he is online. Many employers make it one of the conditions for remote workers to have a permanent online presence in one of these quick communication systems. However, it cannot be said that this was a really good idea, since, as mentioned above, not all employees manage to sit at the computer during the whole working day, and as a result, the employer either loses a valuable employee or does not receive the necessary communication efficiency from for the fact that the employee simply launches ICQ or Skype, he himself is not physically present at the computer and does not read the received messages.
Therefore, remote employees try to get a job that does not require a large amount of communication with other employees and allows them to build their own work schedule.
Remote work and information security
Separately, it is worth pointing out the existence of such a problem as ensuring the information security of an organization when using the labor of remote employees. The threat of information leaks through remote workers is quite high, since the specialists responsible for the information security of the organization do not have the opportunity to apply the entire arsenal of those technical means and policies that help ensure security at workstations in the office. Nevertheless, since security is a prerequisite for an organization's work, it is necessary to look for ways to solve the problem of information security when working remotely.
The very first and most important step in solving this problem is the careful selection of tasks delegated to a remote worker. Ideally, each of the assignments transferred to a remote worker should undergo an examination by the information security department or another department responsible for this direction in the organization. Of course, this is not always convenient, and therefore usually large organizations with a fairly large staff of remote workers are content with developing security policies in relation to the tasks transferred to such employees, which should be guided by line managers working with remote employees.
It is also necessary to instruct remote workers in the field of information security and the mandatory inclusion of a nondisclosure agreement for data received from the employer for all remote workers, both contractors and freelancers. Moreover, in the case of the latter, special attention should be paid to security issues, since, in fact, the freelancer is in no way interested in preserving the corporate secrets of the customer, since the profit from the sale of corporate information often exceeds the cost of the work ordered by the organization.
In some cases, when some of the responsible employees have to switch to partially remote work, it is necessary to use special technical solutions that will allow security specialists to control how an employee working from home handles corporate documents. Many modern data leakage protection systems support so-called endpoint solutions, which allow collecting information at workplaces and then transmitting it for analysis to corporate servers. Most of these solutions are focused on applications when an employee with his laptop, behind which he does most of the work, nevertheless periodically connects to the corporate network when he comes to meetings or resolves any work issues in the office. The only difficulty is the discreet implementation of the DLP component that collects information on the laptop of a remote employee.
If an employee works remotely all the time, and does not appear in the office so that the endpoint solution can "dump" the accumulated information on the corporate server, it is possible to use tools that allow remote transmission of information about the user's actions in real time. In this capacity, for example, remote administration systems can be used, which are much cheaper than solutions in the field of information security. However, it is worth noting that analyzing the actions of a user of a remote computer will take a lot of time from the information security department, so this kind of control over each of the remote workers can hardly be considered appropriate.
In general, in the general case, it is much more convenient just not to give someone who works remotely, valuable confidential documents, than to manually monitor what he does with them. And it is better to use endpoint solutions in cases when an employee with his laptop nevertheless periodically looks into the corporate office.
Task management solutions
When setting tasks for remote workers, it is advisable to use a task management system that is uniform throughout the organization, which will transparently track not only the "work fronts" assigned to this employee, but also the readiness of individual tasks. Such a system should be accessible via the web, as well as be able to have a simple and intuitive user interface so that neither remote employees nor their managers get confused in it.
There are a lot of similar systems on the market today. Some of them are available as SAAS solutions, some can be specially installed on a corporate web server. Each approach has its own pros and cons. So, for example, if a company has already formed a corporate portal for employees with various services, but the task management system is not in the list of these services, then it is wiser to use a completely third-party solution based on the SAAS model, which does not require integration with other services. If there is no portal as such, then it would be better to host the system on your own server to avoid all the problems associated with the use of SAAS solutions. You can, of course, develop such a system on your own, however, if there are no programmers on the staff of the organization, it will hardly be advisable to hire them just to develop this system.
The task management system can be effectively used by those employees who work in the office, since, in general, the principle of setting tasks and monitoring their implementation should be identical for both categories of employees.
There are not so many requirements for task management systems. In addition to the web interface and the transparency of the dialogue with the user, it is worth noting the necessary features: support for a calendar displaying tasks on it, the ability to automatically assign bonuses and penalties for accelerated or, on the contrary, slowed down execution of tasks, the ability to attach graphic files to tasks (for example, schemes explaining the essence of the work), sending notifications about the assigned task by e-mail, ICQ or via SMS.
Is it difficult to find remote workers?
As a rule, there are much more people willing to work remotely than the number of vacancies for this kind of employment offered by companies. Therefore, finding an employee to work remotely is usually much easier than finding someone who must work in the office. Another thing is that, as a rule, when publishing a vacancy with the possibility of remote work, the HR department risks being literally attacked by those who saw this ad. And even after the vacancy is closed, and ads from websites and newspapers are removed, the company will continue to receive calls from those wishing to find a job. Therefore, it is more expedient to search for candidates ourselves among the CV database, especially since there are usually a lot of such CVs.
As for freelancers, you can use special freelance exchanges to find them, where you can find workers of almost any specialty from different cities and even countries. In the Russian-speaking segment of the Internet, the most popular freelance exchanges are WebLancer, Free-Lance, Freelance.ru.
Freelance exchanges allow you to easily select the most qualified freelancers, both with the help of ratings compiled on the basis of assessments of the quality of work left by customers, and with the help of special examples of tasks already completed by freelancers. Of course, if the rating is based on a small number of tasks, then it is hardly worth giving it excessive importance, but if more than a dozen customers are convinced that this freelancer is a professional in his field, then this opinion can be trusted. The rating on the exchanges (at least on old and well-known ones, like those above) is quite well protected from cheating, but it is better to look through the gallery of works, which should confirm the high status of a freelancer.
When hiring freelancers, it is tempting to find someone who will take the cheapest price for the job. But at the same time, it should be understood that, as the proverb says, free cheese is only in a mousetrap. Therefore, students who do the proposed work at dumping prices are not able to offer the same level of performance as professionals who have been earning money through freelancing for more than one year. It should be remembered that you are already saving on hiring workers, turning to freelancers, and therefore the additional savings expressed in hiring those of them who offer not the best price-quality ratio, but simply the lowest price, becomes simply unreasonable.
Summing up everything that has been said above, we can say that remote work, which has become a part of our everyday reality, with a competent approach guarantees the employer only advantages, although, of course, such issues as ensuring information security must be thought out in advance in all details. to eliminate possible troubles from telecommuters or freelancers.