Benefits of Remote Employee Monitoring in Hybrid Work | Deloitte US has been saved
Authored by Joel Eisenreich, Carissa Kilgour, James Pickett, Wendy McElfresh, and Noel Ryan.
The way we work has been completely transformed over the past three years with hybrid and remote work strategies becoming the norm for most organizations. This new way of working has several benefits. It provides greater flexibility and inclusivity for employees who now have more control over when and where work gets done—while offering an opportunity for employers to rethink geographic footprint, reassess real estate needs, and cast the net wider in the search for talent.
To fully appreciate the benefits of a remote or hybrid work strategy and avoid potential compliance challenges, it is crucial that employers understand in real time where employees are working and create a process to share information with the appropriate stakeholders across the organization. We have previously discussed the importance of leveraging technology to address compliance concerns and risks. However, recent survey results indicate that many organizations are not using technology for this purpose, mainly because they have not figured out what they need to capture and know about their people. In this article, we will delve into what, why, and how organizations should be capturing information with technology in a hybrid work environment.
Geographic footprint and tax and regulatory compliance
A critical aspect that organizations need to understand is where workers are located when working. Workers often have the flexibility to work from anywhere, including locations outside the organization's historical jurisdiction. Such cross-border remote work can result in increased tax and regulatory risks for both workers and employers. For example, workers may have to pay taxes in different states or countries, and organizations may need to comply with different labor laws in each jurisdiction. By identifying work locations and feeding data in real time to the appropriate stakeholders, organizations can mitigate these risks and increase compliance.
There are several approaches that organizations can take to gather this data. While using GPS tracking or location data can accomplish the objective, it raises privacy concerns and may not be the most effective remote employee monitoring option to track workers’ whereabouts. Alternatively, organizations can consider leveraging both worker-provided and corporate data, such as virtual private network (VPN) logs and badge swipes, to track workers in a nonintrusive and efficient manner. This can help organizations understand where their workers are working from and what hours they are working. VPN logs can also help identify potential security risks, such as unauthorized access attempts, and provide insights into how workers are accessing company resources.
Organizations can also consider asking workers to self-report their whereabouts. This can be done through a simple online form or an application that allows workers to indicate when they start and finish work. By combining worker self-reported data with corporate data, organizations can gain a more comprehensive understanding of workers’ whereabouts.
It is important to note that while gathering data on workers’ whereabouts can help organizations ensure compliance and mitigate risks, it is essential to do so in a transparent and respectful manner. Organizations should communicate clearly with workers about the data they are collecting and how it will be used. They should also ensure that any data collected is kept secure and confidential.
Rightsizing real estate footprint
The adoption of hybrid work has resulted in underutilized office spaces. Organizations are acting to rightsize their existing real estate footprint to align to their hybrid working patterns with more reduction expected in the coming years as lease breaks fall due. Using smart building technologies such as badge entry/exit data, on-floor utilization heat maps, and insight from building and workplace management systems, organizations can reduce and repurpose their existing office space based on the needs of their workforce.
By analyzing patterns in worker presence and activity, companies can identify peak times for facility usage and adjust service offerings accordingly. Similarly, if badge swipe data reflects increased office traffic on specific days, companies can plan in-person team activities considering worker schedules, potentially increasing participation and attendance metrics.
There is also a benefit to understanding where workers are doing work when they are outside the office. Using technology to capture where work is taking place and comparing that to where their workforce lives can inform a strategy for a hub-and-spoke workplace model.
Productivity is a critical metric that organizations are interested in understanding and tracking, especially in a hybrid work environment. Workers pushing for continued or increased flexible working arrangements will often state that remote workers perceive they are more productive than in-office workers. However, the productivity levels of hybrid workers may vary depending on several factors, including the nature of their job, their working style, and the work environment.
With hybrid work, workers can work from anywhere, and this can lead to performance discrepancies between those who work from home and those who work in the office. For example, in-office workers may have more access to face-to-face interactions, which can enhance their creativity and problem-solving abilities, while remote workers may have fewer distractions and interruptions, which can lead to higher output levels. Both could equate to increased productivity.
By understanding workers’ whereabouts combined with performance analytics, organizations can identify employee productivity trends associated with different working locations, enabling them to define a hybrid strategy based on data and address any discrepancies promptly. For example, data on the time workers spend on specific tasks can help managers identify which workers may be struggling to manage their workload and provide targeted support.
With the growing focus on environmental sustainability, many companies have set goals to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainable practices. An effective way to achieve these goals is by reducing commuting and business travel, which are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Remote and hybrid work models provide an opportunity for companies to reduce the need for commuting, and thereby lower their environmental impact.
By mapping workers’ whereabouts and collecting data on their remote work patterns, organizations can measure the impact of their remote and hybrid work policies on sustainability. This data can be used to calculate the reduction in carbon emissions resulting from reduced commuting, and to identify areas where further improvements can be made. For example, organizations can track how the usage of virtual meeting tools and collaboration platforms enables them to reduce the need for travel and commuting.
Moreover, by measuring their impact on sustainability, companies can identify opportunities to further optimize their remote work policies and practices. For example, they may find that certain departments or teams are commuting more than others and may need additional support to assess their in-person needs. Alternatively, they may identify areas where they can reduce energy consumption by optimizing their remote work infrastructure.
Keys to success
Understanding workers’ whereabouts is increasingly important for organizations in a hybrid work environment. To achieve this and experience the benefits of employee tracking, companies need to follow a systematic approach that considers their specific data requirements and leverages the latest digital technologies and data sources: