As many businesses have switched to remote working models, it has become clear over time that many of the “traditional” methods of measuring employee performance are no longer suitable.

For managers and supervisors, it’s no longer simply a case of looking over their team members’ shoulders to see what they’re doing. Instead, they’re having to identify new ways to measure performance and productivity. On top of this, there’s also the challenge of team members’ mental health and wellbeing in the new homeworking environment.

Safe to say then that the situation is quite challenging.

What Are Performance Metrics?

Every manager wants to know how their individual team members, and indeed their team on the whole, are doing at their jobs—performance metrics provide this insight.

In short, performance metrics track an employee’s contribution to an organization. Using measurable data points, they help to paint a clear picture of that employee’s performance and how they compare to other people within the organization. They’re much easier to track for job roles that require somewhat refined skills, for example, sales, than job roles requiring soft skills, such as good listening skills for a customer service representative.

Why Track Performance Metrics?

A company is only as strong as the talent behind it. By consistently and accurately measuring employee performance, you can identify individual strengths and successes that contribute to the overall strength of the organization. These strengths and successes can then be leveraged and built upon to extract more value while also positively recognizing the employee.

Conversely, performance metrics can also be used to highlight why a business is not meeting its goals or targets. They may provide business leaders with the information that they need to make strategic decisions that improve the situation.

Metrics for Measuring Remote Worker Productivity

Just as the ways that employees spend their workdays are changing, though, so too are the metrics that have long since been used to gauge performance and productivity. And this is something that has got managers, supervisors, and HR specialists all over the world tearing their hair out as they try and come up with new ways to evaluate performance.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, however. There are plenty of existing data points and metrics for performance analysis that wouldn’t necessarily have been used prior to everyone working from home.

Here are some examples of metrics that can be used for measuring remote worker performance:

1. Work Time & Overtime Hours

One key metric for keeping track of remote employees is work time. More specifically, the number of hours worked, when these hours were worked, and any overtime. These should be recorded and audited regularly by managers and human resources staff.

A good starting point is to keep track of how long employees are spending logged in to their work machines. There are also advanced applications with keystroke activity logging and screen capture functionalities that will show you what they were doing at random intervals (some think this is a little too “Big Brother”, though!)

When tracking work time, what’s important is ensuring that your employees’ hours are consistent and not too abnormal.

If, for example, you notice a sudden increase in hours worked, your employees might be suffering from home-based disruptions or other problems that are causing them to have to catch up on hours in what should be their free time. This can lead to burnout if it happens too often.

Overtime is an important one to watch, too. A sudden increase in overtime may indicate that an employee has too much work. It may also be symptomatic of an employee overextending themselves due to a lack of separation between work and life. On top of the obvious downside of increased costs, overtime can lead to low employee satisfaction and cause problems further down the line in the long run.

2. Customer Satisfaction

There’s no better indicator of success than customer satisfaction. Simply put, if you’ve got plenty of satisfied customers then your employees are clearly doing something right. But “customer satisfaction” is quite an abstract concept. How can this be used as a metric to measure employee performance?  

At American Express, for example, the primary measure of success among remote employees is how they deepen the relationships with customers. American Express uses “Recommend to a Friend”, the company’s own service-specific version of the Net Promoter Score, to recognize and reward virtual employees. This, the company says, helps turn customer care representatives into a “group of passionate advocates” who work to deepen relationships with Card Members and merchants.

3. Output and Results

Much like customer satisfaction, the output and results of your employees and team members can be used as an indicator of performance. If their output and results are ahead of their targets and exceed your expectations, then it’s safe to assume that they’re performing well.

A problem that many companies have when they go remote is a fanatical focus on tracking time down to the minute to gauge how long everyone is working. This is often done in a desperate bid to try and control employees when it’s no longer possible to peer over shoulders and see what they’re up to. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with tracking hours worked but it shouldn’t be your main focus as an employer or remote team leader. Obsessing over minutes and seconds worked is a recipe for frustration, both with managers and teams.

Instead, measure output: Work completed, sales made, support tickets answered, leads generated, code committed, and blog posts published.

Use the Right Tools

The right tools can make all the difference. While these aren’t necessarily helpful for monitoring employee performance, they help to set people up for success in a home-based working environment. Since it looks like many of us will be working from home for the foreseeable future, it’s well worth looking into tools like:

  • Hubstaff for easy time tracking and timesheets
  • Zoom for daily check-in meetings
  • Slack for more “casual” communications
  • Dropbox or Google Drive for file sharing
  • Google Docs and Google Sheets for collaborating
  • Organimi for onboarding new remote hires

These tools give your team members the freedom to work in a way that suits them, leading to higher productivity and general performance.