As remote work has become the new reality for millions of people around the world, a growing number of companies are looking for ways to track employee efficiency.
Recent shelter-in-place orders have allowed workers in nearly every industry to do things at home they never thought possible, from live TV production to trading multi-asset class hedge fund portfolios.
With more of their staffers spending the day in their pajamas, employers have an increasingly difficult task when it comes to figuring how hard employees are working. It's even more complicated in the current pandemic, because childcare demands, sicknesses among family members and interruptions caused by pets differ greatly by the household.
Companies weren't expecting to be in this predicament, but now they have to accept it. According to a survey by staffing firm Robert Half, 60% of office professionals who transition to a remote setup say they have a better work-life balance without a commute. The survey found that 74% of respondents would like to telecommute more often once restrictions lift. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Nationwide are among companies allowing their employees to work from home for the foreseeable future.
Sam Naficy, CEO of Prodoscore, which monitors employee productivity, says the coronavirus has led to a spike in his company's growth, with interest from prospective customers climbing 600%. On Wednesday, the company said it closed its Series A funding round, which was led by Troy Carter, an early backer of Uber, Lyft and Dropbox.
"Prodoscore is all about helping companies maximize the profit potential of their teams, and it represents the right technology at the right time," Naficy said.
The software tracks worker activity and then provides managers with a score on a productivity scale. While employers aren't required to tell employees they're being tracked, Prodoscore recommends that they do.
Reggie Scales, senior vice president of Vonage, has been using Prodoscore for two years to track his sales team and give them better feedback. It's worked so well that he's considering permanent changes to the way his sales operation works, he said.
"I've been doing this for quite some time and have found subjective conversations about activity are often noisy conversations," Scales said, adding that Prodoscore allows him to push his sales people when needed.
Hubstaff, a provider of time tracking tools for remote workforces, said the number of companies trialing its technology has grown by two to three times since Covid-19 forced offices to empty out.
"We feel that the demand will slide a bit more as some companies go back to the office, but that it will remain much higher than" it was pre-coronavirus, said Dave Nevogt, co-founder of Hubstaff. "Remote work will become more mainstream and also some companies will decide that they can let their people work from home or remotely at least a few days a week."
According to Google Trends, people are spending a lot more lot time searching for "employee monitoring."
Workplace experts recommend full transparency when it comes to monitoring products, so employees don't feel as if their bosses are taking a heavy hand.
"Just hearing the word surveillance for some employees will be immediately intimidating, especially since it all probably feels very unfamiliar and can seem like an invasion of privacy," said Dawn Fay, senior district president for Robert Half in New York. "If employees feel their boss cannot trust they are working and being productive while remote, it could have a negative impact on company morale, which in turn could impact retention down the road."
Naficy says that while Prodoscore can see things like time spent on a call or use of a certain work program, it's not tracking web browsing, online shopping or whether you occasionally look at sports scores. Rather, it's looking at daily activity points across applications like mail, calendar, documents and calls.
"We're really far away from Big Brother," he said. He calls the technology "a productivity tool that engages employees and primarily sales forces and sales departments to provide a real time proprietary scoring system to their activity."