IN THE EARLY DAYS of the coronavirus pandemic, employers impacted by mandated office closures discovered that remote work is more viable than previously suspected. More recently, however, some of those employers have asked their IT provider to help them implement employee monitoring systems to better gauge productivity and engagement with daily tasks. For channel pros, it’s an opportunity to provide another solution, but they need to tread carefully around privacy concerns along with security and connectivity issues.
Employee monitoring systems track activity ranging from computer on/off to keystrokes to active applications, and can include webcam snapshots proving employees are at their workstations and app usage reports to provide automatic time tracking for billing purposes. MSPs implementing such systems should be aware of individual state requirements around employee notification if such a tool is in use.
Scott Beck, CEO of BeckTek in Riverview, New Brunswick, recently implemented the ActivTrak user activity monitoring and workforce analytics solution for one of his clients. Beck says the employer’s intent was more to “extend the team culture” to the remote workforce than to “spy” on employees. Since BeckTek had already installed a secure VPN for the client, installation service costs were limited to a couple of hours per workstation for setup and configuration, which his team could do remotely.
But Beck warns that WFH and monitoring projects at most small companies will face budget issues and not have funds allocated. "Clients will have to find that money somewhere." In addition, he says, obstacles such as sold-out webcams or poor home networking can slow the rollout process.
Margins on ActivTrak licenses run about 20%, according to Beck. Add-on services for remote monitoring products typically include installation, configuration, training, and support. Advanced querying and analysis add-on modules are often available but optional.
There are alternatives to employee monitoring solutions that don’t raise the same privacy concerns or impose additional fees, according to Becky Linahon, marketing manager at TetraVX, a unified communications and collaboration company that also sells work-from-home tools from Microsoft and Cisco, among others. "We found using existing tools like Microsoft Teams told clients how many users were actively using Microsoft 365 and how many were returning or new users." Those details give much of the same information as monitoring systems, but don’t dive into individual keystroke tracking.
Monitoring software alone won't solve all WFH problems, adds Beck. "Remote workers will need to address security and connection issues, and education is often a part of that. We educate our customers and let them make their own decisions about the right mix of monitoring, security, and productivity tools based on their situation.”