Weigh the pros and cons of remote employee tracking and ROWE management

Remote Employee Tracking & Why ROWE Management Is a Better Choice for Employers

Does your employer trust you? Do you trust them? These questions lay waste to a world where, hypothetically at least, no one quite trusts each other — something that can be problematic for both employees and employers — at least in a digital world. For some remote employers, the idea of letting workers go at their own pace can feel daunting, yet the proof remains. According to a study from the University of Chicago, six out of ten employees report better productivity when working from home. Even based on this idea, remote employee tracking continues to remain a volatile issue and one that’s susceptible to criticism on either side.

If you’re a remote employer looking to maximize production, morale, culture, and trust, ROWE management is something you need to consider. Find out more about how ROWE management is a smart choice for employers and why its adoption is just what you need to bring productivity and discipline to your team.



What Is ROWE Management?

Contrary to time-based employment, ROWE management stands for results-oriented work environment. The idea behind this is somewhat self-explanatory. Rather than allotting a certain amount of paid time to a project, employers base compensation on end results. For example, you may have a team of five that works 40 hours a week to complete a project in a time-based management method. In ROWE management, you simply require the work to be done, regardless of whether it takes less than the 200 hours that a time-based approach would take.

The benefit is that you can effectively increase productivity and limit the chances of Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law is another management theory that simply states that a project will take the maximum time allotted, as workers have no incentive to work harder or faster. ROWE management overcomes this by rewarding hard work through equal compensation while also adding flexibility and additional time off if the project is completed ahead of time.

What Is Remote Employee Tracking?

Also referred to as employee monitoring, remote employee tracking is the process of supervising virtual employees through a variety of methods. While the idea may seem intrusive and centered around mistrust, the ethical use of employee tracking helps companies:

  • Track attendance
  • Measure overall productivity
  • Ensure security over networks and sensitive information
  • Assess the behavior of employees during a workday
  • Collect proof about the number of hours worked by each employee

From an employer’s perspective, these benefits may seem to outweigh any other solution to supervise remote workers. However, remote employee tracking isn’t always known to employees, which can usher in feelings of resentment, distrust, and other issues. Moreover, constant employee monitoring, whether in-person or remotely, can have far-reaching effects on employee morale.

Types of Remote Employee Tracking

While remote employee tracking software is the most common type of tracking system, employers also use other types of technology, including:

  • GPS tracking for remote employees that may also need to travel on occasion
  • Network monitoring
  • Employee email monitoring
  • Data loss prevention software, which is similar to tracking software, but only detects who accessed, deleted, or edited certain files
  • Phone tracking
  • Keycards for hybrid employees

The Problems With Remote Employee Tracking

Although many employers look upon remote employee tracking with positivity, the result is often the opposite. One such example deals with hybrid employees of both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. When these companies decided that 40% of employees could work hybrid schedules, they required hybrid employees to use keycards to enter the office.

This idea isn’t all that foreign; it’s quite common in corporations. However, both Fortune 500 banks failed to put forth concrete ideas of what hybrid meant. Instead, they used “general expectations” that hybrid employees needed to come into the office. Furthermore, both companies used this information to monitor all of their hybrid employees’ moves and activities. A significant backlash from employees ensued. They felt a significant lack of trust and the feeling of being treated like children.

This is just one example of many, but the problems with employee tracking revolve around a lack of trust. This lack of trust snowballs into other areas, which can lead to:

  • Higher employee turnover
  • Perception of poor company culture
  • Decreased productivity
  • Resentment
  • Lower morale
  • Increased chances of burnout

As a result, companies of all sizes may find that the general disapproval of employees is reason enough to consider nixing such monitoring.



The Employer Side of the Problem

Even if employees aren’t opposed to remote employee tracking, employers still face other issues they must consider. The ethics of remote employee tracking is one of the most obvious. What level of tracking is adequate without invading the privacy of workers? The answer to this isn’t always obvious, nor can everyone agree on it. Furthermore, the only ethical way to approach tracking is by having employees sign over consent — something that you won’t get from all employees.

Ethics aside, employers must also deal with the legal risks and implications of remote employee tracking. While tracking is legal under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, employers are responsible for protecting employee information. That means that all employees must secure any financial, personal, or medical information that results from employee tracking — something that can cost a bundle.

And speaking of costs, the money and resources needed to implement remote employee tracking aren’t exactly sidenotes. Creating tracking policies, finding the right tracking software, implementing the policies, and then monitoring the plan in its entirety can divert much-needed resources from elsewhere. Without a thorough analysis, the costs of remote employee tracking can severely outweigh the benefits.

The Benefits of ROWE Management Over Remote Employee Tracking

As mentioned above, ROWE management centers around the trust between employers and employees. That in itself is reason enough to implement it over remote employee tracking. However, the management philosophy also comes with some other benefits that could propel your company forward. Some of the benefits of ROWE over remote employee tracking include:

  • Retention of the most talented and irreplaceable employees
  • Engaged, happy, and more productive employees
  • The opportunity to assess the actual productivity of your team rather than basing it solely around an arbitrary number of hours
  • Ability to attract new employees looking for more flexibility and autonomy
  • Reduced costs due to decreased turnover and overhead, as well as increased productivity


Trust: The Integral Factor in Employee Morale, Culture, and Retention

ROWE management has obvious benefits over remote employee tracking. Nevertheless, employers must still come down to a final decision based on the most important facet: trust. Without trust, the management style is entirely irrelevant. Even a workplace with ROWE management can suffer due to mistrust of employees. So before you decide what remote work policies you want to use, focus on trust first. It’s the glue that keeps your company going. Don’t overlook it.


What is your take on remote employee tracking? What’s your experience with ROWE management? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!


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