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How to Track Remote Employee Productivity

There are plenty of team tracking software and productivity monitoring tools, but not all methods work for all teams. Read here for actionable tips to help you measure employee productivity and feel confident running a remote team.
So you’ve onboarded some incredible remote employees to the team – congratulations! Now comes the tricky part: monitoring their productivity.

While you’ve probably heard of all sorts of team tracking software and monitoring guidelines, not all methods work for all teams. Some may need a bit more hand-holding. Other teams can get by with a weekly huddle or two.

Wherever you are in your business journey, this article will give you actionable tips on productivity monitoring, so you can skyrocket results and feel confident running a remote team.

Things to consider when monitoring productivity in your remote team

Four team members are gathered together on a desk, smiling at each other. The desk is covered with their laptops and other office supplies.

Your team

Tracking productivity is easier when working with people you trust.

“The companies that thrived during the shutdowns are the ones that leaned into the trust that their company culture valued,” shares Henry Kurkowski, Forbes Councils Member.

“Monitoring came in the form of daily check-ins and higher levels of employee engagement. They gave their teams the flexibility to do their work during non-traditional office hours and gauged productivity by results.”

Great employees are the foundation of a great business. If your staff has always had a good record of hitting targets, then introducing relaxed monitoring methods may be ideal. Suddenly going for a more complex team tracking process in the name of productivity improvement may not be so well-received. It may even strain the trust you’ve already built.

On the other hand, introducing new employee productivity tools is always easier when you’re starting out.

Before you go and purchase that fancy software, ask yourself:
  • What kind of culture does your team have?
  • What’s your relationship like with them, and their relationship with their managers?
  • How do they currently keep themselves accountable?

Let your answers guide you through the next steps.

Of course, nothing beats having top-notch and trustworthy candidates to begin with. With the help of a headhunter agency like Somewhere, you can skip:

  • Slogging through hundreds of resumes
  • Reviewing social media profiles
  • Evaluating candidates
  • Posting on job boards

…and cut straight to building a solid team you can trust.

Your timezone

There’s a significant time difference between the Philippines and the US. If you’re not used to dealing with these time delays, it may feel challenging to keep up with a team that works while you sleep and sleeps while you work.

Before you decide on your employee monitoring strategy, make sure you’ve had a conversation with your staff about working synchronously or not.

Asynchronous teams, for instance, can get by with recorded Loom videos or Slack messages.

Synchronous teams might prefer weekly huddles to catch up.

Your work setup will inform the way you track and measure team productivity.

Your processes

Now, it’s time to think about what monitoring methods you and your team are comfortable with.

Some things you may want to consider:

  • Are you willing to invest in time-tracking software?
  • Can you accommodate training your managers to keep the team running?
  • How long are you willing to experiment with productivity tools? Or would rather settle for one until it sticks?

If you’re stumped on where to get started, here are a few essential tools businesses use to master remote work. Take a look and see what you’re ready to adopt for the team.


Whatever process you decide on, consider the time it takes to onboard your staff. There will be learning curves. But with patience – and the right delegation techniques – you’ll skip the headaches and cut straight to getting meaningful results.

How to track remote employee productivity

A man, offscreen, views his project timeline on his laptop.

Define what productivity means

Let’s face it — every business owner aspires to run a well-oiled, productive team. But what productivity looks like — or should look like — can be very different for every organization.

Rushing to measure every single minute your staff spends staring at a screen may not mean much when your sales aren’t meeting quotas. At the same time, measuring profit and profit alone can be equally harmful.

Before you start measuring, it’s a good idea to pin down what matters to your business's unique needs and not your competitors. What are your goals? What season is your business in currently? Are you planting seeds or ready to harvest?

For instance, if you’re a customer-facing business, a good success indicator could be the number of positive reviews.

If you’re selling educational experiences, maybe you should be looking at the number of new enrollments.

Take a moment to sit down and think about it. Try not to get caught up in what a productive company “should” look like. When you’ve established your own definition of productivity, we can move on and measure!

Set clear goals, expectations, and deadlines

Now that you’re clear with your success markers, you can start outlining your goals and expectations for each. Thinking in S.M.A.R.T. goals is a good way to start – making sure they’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Remember: goals are no good to anyone if they aren’t communicated properly.

You can communicate your goals effectively by:
  • Having a shared document or database where people can access their KPIs
  • Making sure managers have regular feedback points with your staff
  • Having 1-on-1 meetings with managers themselves to ensure they know what they’re accountable for as well
  • Including goals in your onboarding process, so new employees know what you’re all about.

Don't forget to make adjustments for staff working asynchronously, too. For example, how long a team member should take to respond to an email will differ between a US resident and a Philippine one.

Establish an effective feedback culture

 A female employee sits at her desk, attending a conference call with her team, her video camera on. She listens attentively while her manager talks.

Monitoring employee productivity is kind of useless without a strong feedback culture to back it up.

Think of feedback as the glue to make it all stick. Without it, any growth from your employees will be unsustainable. Whatever you measure and learn from team tracking tools must be able to loop back to your employees, so they’re always improving.

If you have something to say about an employee’s performance, you don’t have to wait for the annual performance review to say it. Having regular, casual, and open spaces where feedback is welcome will do the trick.

Some ways you can deliver feedback:
  • Send a discreet email
  • Ping them over Slack using the voice message function
  • Set a bi-weekly coffee chat (and stick to it!)
  • Gather select team members for a monthly roundtable

If you have a bigger organization, you can empower managers to effectively provide feedback on your behalf.

Know that teams with strong feedback cultures weren’t just born; they’re a result of intentional and consistent leaders.

Use time tracking apps and timesheets

For a more objective approach to employee monitoring, consider time-tracking apps.

These help you assess how much time your employees spend on particular tasks. They also give you a breakdown of where your staff spends most of their time. Managers can easily sort out where productivity dips and step in at the right time.

Some time-tracking apps are paid, so consider this an investment for your business’ productivity. Check out Harvest or Hubstaff to start, or something like Toggl Track if you’re looking for a free app.

Consider measuring the quality of work vs hours clocked in

Remember the good old days of punch cards and three-hour conference calls?

We don’t either. Remote work, though challenging, has helped us reimagine how we can do things better. Take the 40-hour work week, for instance.

While relevant then in the industrial era (which needed employees to provide a consistent stream of labor to keep factories running) the same principle may not be so applicable among today’s knowledge workers.

In an article entitled, “Why the 9-to-5 has lost its place in the workplace”, Helen Kupp asks:

“If the way we work is rooted in old norms, what’s stopping us from changing, and from doing things in a new and better way?"

It's the same with employee monitoring. Instead of measuring the hours clocked in, why don't you consider the goals you’ve set earlier and see how much closer you are as a result of your staff’s work?

Let’s say you’re building a thriving online community. Why not consider how many new conversations your brand page is starting versus how much time your community manager spends on each page?

If you’re selling a product, how about measuring how much profit you’re making as the ultimate marker of success?

Productive employees create productive businesses, and it’ll show.

Visualize progress through project management tools

Don’t burn too many calories trying to track productivity without a visual aid. Data doesn’t have to be boring! In fact, data should be engaging, compelling, and clear to kickstart the kind of changes that make our business better.

Consider using project management tools like Notion, Asana, or Trello, which lets you break down your project goals into smaller tasks. With a glance, you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come and what else needs to be done to hit your milestones.

Here are just some tools that you can consider using:
  • Gantt charts
  • Calendars
  • Project timelines
  • Scrum boards
  • Checklists
  • Kanban boards

Daily “what did you accomplish” prompts and regular check-ins

Productivity monitoring can be an empowering process for your employees too. If you don’t feel like going around prodding your staff, asking them, “what’s up?” every time, consider ways they can report their own progress to you.

Here are some practical ways your team can accomplish self-reporting:
  • Consider daily check-ins - Here, employees have to type a bullet point list of their priorities for the day. When they check out, they cross out which priorities were accomplished, what wasn’t, and what will be continued the next day
    To help build the habit, make sure to do this at least every day for a few weeks! Using apps like Basecamp and Slack, you can schedule automated prompts that ping your employees to report what they’ve accomplished in the day (which is particularly effective for asynchronous employees).
  • Humanize your check-ins - Pro-tip for the above: you can humanize these self-reports by prompting them to answer questions unrelated to work.

For example, something as simple as “How was your weekend?” or “What are you excited to do today?” can help make your team feel more connected.
If not questions, you can even ask them to perform small tasks like, “Take a screenshot of your work desk right now!” or “Please send your work playlist today!” if your team feels like the kind to enjoy socialization while they work.

Shouting your laundry list into the void can feel a little disheartening, so small additions like this can help make self-reporting fun and human.

  • Set aside time for virtual talks - While daily prompts are helpful for simple tasks, one-on-one check-ins are much more effective for complex projects, especially when they’re about matters more personal or emotional.

These meetings are spaces where employees can have a more nuanced chat with you about their progress. If they’re struggling with something, you’ll be able to catch it and step in before things escalate.

How often and how long these chats will be is up to you. Whether it’s a weekly 15-minute huddle with your taskforce, bi-weekly 1-on-1 coffee chat, or monthly 1-hour meeting with the whole team, consistency is key.

Have your employees record what happens in these calls, especially decision points, so you can come back to those notes in the next one.

In every self-report, make sure they’re answering these three things:
  1. What have you done since the last meeting to help the team meet its sprint goal?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What's currently hampering your progress?


While employee monitoring has plenty of benefits, it also pays to have empathy for the person on the other side of the screen.

A recent survey showed, for example, that remote workers felt increased anxiety and stress from being monitored by their bosses, affecting productivity. It’s a good thing to remember that how we do things can make more of a difference than why we do them.

Exercise openness, flexibility, and understanding can go a long way in making team tracking a pleasant and empowering experience for everyone.

FAQs about monitoring employee productivity

What are remote tracking tools I can use?

You can consider remote tracking tools like Hubstaff or Harvest. For a list of essential tools to help you master remote work, check here.

How do I track my employees' work?

There are several ways you can track and monitor productivity among your employees. Consider time tracking apps, daily prompts and check-ins, and even project management tools like Slack and Notion.

Why should I monitor my employees’ productivity?

Remote work has made it more challenging to “see” how our employees are doing. By monitoring their productivity, we can see where they allocate their time and be able to manage their workdays better, overall improving the business.

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