Apps track activity, not productivity

Janet Arrowood

Does monitoring employees —whether they work remotely or in the office — lead to increased productivity? Does it motivate, intimidate or infuriate your employees?

Many readily available applications — Slack, Zoom, Google Workspace and Microsoft tools — provide raw data on employee activities. But this data is just that. Raw. It doesn’t provide a true picture of productivity or performance, just activity in general. Nor does this data indicate employee engagement or satisfaction.

What can you do with some of these apps? You can see how many video meetings employees attended, how long the meetings lasted and how many people were at each meeting. But attendance isn’t the same as participating, contributing or even paying attention. You could assess how much material an employee saved to the cloud or hard drive, but not the value or even content of those documents. You could monitor the number and duration of chats between co-workers, but not the topics or usefulness of the chats.

In other words, these snapshots of an employee’s day might tell you what the employee did all day, but not the value of or participation in those activities. 

To truly assess performance, you need to look at productivity, not just activity. Using activity based analytics to gauge productivity doesn’t necessarily allow for results from telephonic or in-person communications.

How do some of these apps work? What sort of data can you collect and assess from some of these apps?

If you have a paid Slack account, you can look at such data as how many days in a given period a person has been active and how many messages they’ve sent in a selected time period.

Zoom enables your administrator to determine the number and duration of meetings employees have participated in, how long the meetings lasted and whether or not their cameras and microphones were enabled.

Microsoft 365 has a means for your administrator to view such data as the number of emails sent, how many files were saved on your company’s shared drive or the cloud and meetings the employees participated in using Microsoft Teams or the messaging feature. This data isn’t always easy to locate or collect, though.

Google Workspace offers data collection features similar to those of Microsoft 365.

Keep in mind such activities as mentoring, brainstorming, planning and other actions that occur without monitored computers don’t show up in the data collected by apps. Valuing quantity over quality might not yield the results you want and need. 

Relying on data from these apps to evaluate performance could prompt employees to plan activities to maximize their apparent level of activity rather than ensuring high-quality performance and results. 

You might discover monitoring leads to disgruntled employees — or worse.