Workforce Optimization Tech Is Being Used for Remote Work

By Drew Robb May 4, 2021
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​Workforce management and optimization technology has been a staple of the help desk and call center field for some time. These tools help organizations with workforce scheduling, shift management, breaks, vacations and more.

With remote work becoming so prevalent, some employers are adapting the tech to the broader workforce and using it to create hybrid models that accommodate people working in the office, at home or switching between both. Below, find out how employers are dealing with thorny issues of policing work from home (WFH) by checking hours logged in and keystrokes. Where is the right balance between management responsibility and employee privacy?

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Remote Work

Cloud Transition

Most workforce management, monitoring and optimization vendors had already transitioned their software to the cloud or were in the process of doing so when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, making it simpler for employers to track when and how their employees were doing their work at home.

TimeClock Plus (TCP), for example, is a workforce management vendor that is well along in the move from on-premises to the cloud. Leslie Bodnar, chief marketing and product officer at TCP, said the company's latest version of software-as-a-service is now used by the bulk of its customers, who generally express a preference for the cloud.

To make WFH easier, TCP has added employee scheduling functionality following the acquisition of a company called Humanity. The company also has made its desktop and mobile clock software available to employees who work outside of the office. Employees and managers can perform functions like clock-in, clock-out, request time off and check schedules from their desktop or mobile device.

Similarly, the workforce productivity and analytics suite offered by employee monitoring and time tracking software Workpuls includes on-premises and cloud options. The software allows users to seamlessly move between personal and work devices.

Ryan Fyfe, CEO of Workpuls, said that when the pandemic drove a shift to WFH, his customers became less concerned about remote monitoring and more interested in baseline productivity and process improvements.

"Productivity insights can be segmented between home and the office to gain a deeper understanding of the best model for employees," he said.

New features in the pipeline will add more intelligence to reporting and timesheet automation, identifying whether individuals are at home or the office in order to enable tasks such as payroll calculations to factor in the nuances of the two environments, including such areas as flexible hours for working from home, different pay rates depending on where remote work is done and different taxes being applied depending on what state the work is done.

Workforce Tracking

Workpuls uses a number of signals to report on productivity and activity, and presents data insights on what employees are working on, how teams work, and time management. Instead of tracking metrics in isolation, the goal is to build a broader picture of individual and team performance and improve processes. For activity purposes, actions such as keystrokes, mouse clicks, and website and app usage are monitored.

Employers, in general, are keen on this technology, Fyfe said, as it provides them with more control over employee discipline. When one company implemented monitoring software, for example, HR discovered that dozens of staff had not even opened their laptops for an entire workday. Clearly, there is a place for monitoring to ensure people are working and being productive, Fyfe said.

Security is another reason why companies want to implement remote monitoring applications. A survey by network security firm NetMotion found that 64 percent of IT and security leaders are not satisfied with their visibility of remote workers.

Employee Concerns

Most laws largely favor the employer when it comes to the right of a business to monitor its staff. But according to Chris Hoofnagle, legislative counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., studies on workplace productivity show that employee morale suffers and employee stress rises when workers are being heavily monitored.

There are various ways to mitigate this. Fyfe said that his company provides best practices and communication support to customers to help them set up Workpuls in a way that respects employee privacy. "We recommend that our customers share data insights captured with employees for transparency," he said.

Brian Kropp, an analyst at IT consultancy Gartner, emphasized the need to communicate the results of monitoring in the workplace, how they impact decision making, and the benefits to employees. "When employees start to see that this data is being used to create a healthier and better employee experience, they will be more accepting of these approaches," Kropp said.

Whatever level of workforce monitoring is done, HR should be involved, along with top management and IT, to ensure that the needs of employers and employees are met and that legal and regulatory responsibilities are being followed.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer in Clearwater, Fla., specializing in IT and business.

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