As a business owner or an executive, what does your typical day look like? Contacting clients? Closing deals? Taking care of finances? Delegating work? Trying to figure out what projects are done and what’s next on the agenda? Internal company organization? A bunch of important business decisions? Making sure everything runs perfectly? All of the above?


As we can imagine, it’s not easy. You’re in charge of many people and you’re supposed to oversee a lot of projects. And maybe, sometimes, you wish you could be at a thousand places at once so that you can do everybody’s job without as many questions or as much procrastination and sloppiness.


But you can’t. So, you might have made a decision to implement monitoring software to oversee your employees’ activities more easily and accurately. Which was a very smart decision indeed.


However, if you don’t know how to use your monitoring software properly, you risk falling into the trap of micromanaging. And with all the regular tasks that you have, that’s the last thing you need.

Micromanagement is Bad for Productivity


You can imagine how directing every single move and focusing on every single aspect of every task of all your 1,284 employees can take up a lot of your time. Doing this for only five people directly under you is not much different. You’re basically doing six jobs. And paying five more people for it.


It’s understandable if you want everything done to perfection, but you’re not being your most productive self. Apart from it wasting a lot of time, micromanagement also affects productivity by enforcing multitasking.


But this style of leading a company is not only bad for your productivity, but it also negatively affects the working conditions of your employees. With somebody constantly over their shoulder, telling them when to do this and how to do that, it’s hard to stay focused and it gets really stressful really fast.


All in all, micromanagement and productivity don’t go well together. But you already knew this. What you might not have known is how monitoring computers in the workplace, if done wrong, can very slowly lead you closer to that cliff, and how, if done right, it can jerk you away from it and provide the basis for truly great management.

How to Use Monitoring Software the Wrong Way


Monitoring employees’ computers with Workpuls or other similar tools can give you a lot of data. Think apps used, websites visited, time spent on tasks, screenshots, productivity levels, inactive time, clock-ins, unproductive activities. This is just to name a few.


With all this monitoring software data, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Theoretically, you’re able to know what everyone is doing on their computers.


This can be enticing and it could lead you down the wrong path. If you know that employee X has been using (gasp!) Facebook for the past 3 minutes instead of doing something else, you might feel pressured to act on this information. While this would be acceptable if it were 30 instead of 3 minutes and the project they’re working on was super urgent, but doing this in all scenarios for everyone is, well, pretty much a definition of what micromanagement is.


So, how to resist the urge?

Monitoring Computers the Right Way


In order to avoid falling down the pit of micromanagement and destroying not only everyone’s productivity but also the office atmosphere and employees’ trust, there are five things you should pay special attention to when using monitoring software.

1. Track Progress


As we’ve said, monitoring work computers can give you a lot of data. But instead of focusing on every little task, your attention should be fixated on the overall progress.


Need to run a marketing campaign for that one client? Don’t try to oversee the writing of every ad, the design of every visual or every instance of outreach. Instead, aim to track whether all the milestones are reached, how much has been done and whether the deadline is going to be met. And act only if you see that the whole project is at risk.

2. Focus on Improvement and Accept Occasional Unproductivity


Short-sighted question in the form of ‘Why have you been browsing Reddit for the last 7.5 minutes?’ can be met with an answer such as ‘Um, but I’ve just finished sending 150 unique emails’. Who’s the bad guy here?


First of all, you need to come to terms with the fact that occasional breaks are natural and, if properly timed and managed, should even be encouraged. This includes the use of unproductive apps from time to time. As long as it’s not too much, of course.


Secondly, direct your efforts towards improvement of overall productivity, not eliminating every tiny distraction (which is impossible, by the way). As long as your employees are getting better and doing higher quality work, that’s all you should care about.

3. Set Expectations

Having some sort of ballpark for employees’ expected performance can prevent you from focusing on little details. If you know what your employees are capable of and what you can reasonably expect from them, you’ll be able to detect low performance and only react to that.


Monitoring software can help you both set those expectations based on employees’ past performance records and detect performance issues.

4. Aggregate Data


One of the best ways to avoid micromanaging is to look at collected data. Monitoring software lets you aggregate data on a team or even on a company level. This way, you can see that your financial team is falling behind with their workload, for example. This is a much more valuable piece of information than, say, John Doe creating an invoice for 12 minutes longer than usual.


Aggregating data like this will also help you with the final consideration:

5. Always Look at the Bigger Picture


If your teams are finishing projects on time and their work has a high level of quality, that’s all that matters. Forget about 9% of unproductive time, forget about leaving the office 10 minutes earlier that one time, forget about the small things that don’t affect the bigger picture in any meaningful way.


Why should you monitor program activity then anyway?


To track progress, to set reasonable expectations, to detect major performance problems, to get an idea of how your teams are organizing their time and allocate work accordingly. This is what good management is all about.

Conclusion


With the multitude of insights that monitoring software provides, it’s easy to want to focus on the details. But a micromanager leading a company doesn’t help anyone. Forget acting on every tiny ‘alarm’ and monitoring every activity closely. Instead, let PC usage tracking software show you the big picture and guide you on your way to becoming the best manager you can be.


Workpuls Teramind ActivTrak Hubstaff DeskTime Time Doctor RescueTime Kickidler Veriato Work Examiner
OVERVIEW
Price $6/user/month $6/user/month $7.20/user/month $7/user/month $7/user/month $9.99/user/month $6/user/month $9.99/user/month $150/licence/year $60/licence (lifetime)
Free trial 7 days 7 days No 14 days 14 days 14 days 30 days 7 days Yes 30 days
Ease of use Very easy Difficult Very easy Easy Easy Very easy Very easy Very easy Very difficult Easy
TRACKING METHODS
Unlimited (tracker working 24/7)
Fixed (defined working hours)
Automatic (when computer is connected to a specified network)
Manual (start/stop)
Project based (track time only on projects)
GENERAL MONITORING FEATURES
Stealth mode
App and website usage
Real-time monitoring
Offline time tracking
Attendance
Activity levels
Keylogger
Geolocation
Remote desktop control
Website/activity blocking
SCREENSHOTS AND RECORDING
Screenshots
Screenshots on demand
Screen recording
PRODUCTIVITY FEATURES
Productivity trends
Websites and apps labeling
Category labeling
Productivity alerts
ADVANCED SECURITY FEATURES
User behavior analytics
Data loss prevention
Advanced file and web monitoring
REPORTING
Productivity reports
Team reports
Timelines
Email reports
Access management
PLATFORMS
Web
Mac desktop app
Windows desktop app
Linux desktop app
Mobile app iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android Android
Browser extension Chrome Chrome Chrome
Other Citrix, VMware Chrome OS
OTHER
Support Phone, email, online Phone, email, online Phone, email, online Email, online Phone, email, online, in-person Online Phone, email, online Email, online, Viber, Whatsapp Phone, email, online, support ticket Phone, email, online
Knowledge base
Video tutorials
Integrations comming soon
API
Deployment cloud, on-premise cloud, on-premise, AWS, Azure cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud on-premise cloud, on-premise on-premise
Kronos Humanity Timeclockplus Tsheets Wheniwork Deputy Replicon Jibble EbilityTimeTracker OnTheClock
OVERVIEW
Price (per month)Available upon requestFrom $2 per userAvailable upon requestFrom $6.40 per user + $16Free for up to 75 usersFrom $2.50 per userBasic plan: $30 for 5 users + $5 per additional userFrom $1.50 per employeeFrom $4 per user + $8From $2.20 per user
Free trial30 days14 daysYes14 days14 days14 days30 days
Ease of useDifficultEasyDifficultVery easyEasyEasyDifficultVery easyEasyEasy
FEATURES
Timecard management
Scheduling
Shift Trading
Timesheets
Break time management
Real-time tracking
PTO Management
Payroll
Invoicing
Client billing
GPS tracking
Clock out reminders
Alerts
Manual time
PUNCH-IN METHODS
Web app
Mobile app
Time clock device
Time clock kiosk
Facial recognition
Fingerprint scanning
Geofencing
Group punch-in
REPORTING
Visual reports
Email reports
Time rounding
MANAGEMENT
Permissions
Manager approvals
Add time for others
Integrations
PLATFORMS
Web
Android app
iOS app
Mac desktop app
Windows desktop app
Linux desktop app
OTHER
SupportPhone and onlinePhone and onlinePhone, chat and onlinePhone and chatEmail and onlineChat and phonePhone, email, chat and onlinePhone and onlinePhone, email, chat and onlinePhone and online
Knowledge base
Video tutorials
Community forum
API
Workpuls Hubstaff Toggl TimeDoctor Harvest TimeCamp Timely Everhour Tick TMetric
OVERVIEW
Price (per month) $6 per user $5.83 per user $9 per user $9.99 per user $10.80 per user $5.25 per user $99 for 5 users $7 per user $19 for 10 projects $5 per user
Free trial 7 days 14 days 30 days 14 days 30 days Yes 14 days 14 days 30 days 30 days
Ease of use Very easy Difficult Difficult Very easy Easy Very easy Easy Difficult Very easy Difficult
TIME TRACKING METHODS
Manual
Start/stop buttons
Automatic time mapping
IN-DEPTH TASK AND PROJECT ANALYSIS
Screenshots
App and website usage
Activity levels coming soon
Real-time tracking
TASK AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Project adding
Project templates
Project status
Task assignment
Task priorities
Budgeting coming soon
Mark billable/non-billable hours
Payroll calculation
Invoicing
ALERTS
Idle time reminders
Deadline alerts coming soon
Budget alerts coming soon
REPORTING
Client login
Productivity analysis
Email reports coming soon
PLATFORMS
Web
Mac desktop app
Windows desktop app
Linux desktop app coming soon
iOS app Beta
Android app
Browser extension Chrome Chrome, Firefox Chrome Chrome Chrome, Firefox Chrome Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge
OTHER
Support Phone and online Email and online Email and online Online Online, email and phone Email, online and support ticket Email and chat Email and chat Email Chat
Knowledge base
Video tutorials
Integrations coming soon
API
On-premise hosting

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