Should I use software to monitor my employees’ productivity? | The QuoStar Q&A

Q & A Series - Should I monitor my employees' productivity


The Question

Our teams have been working from home since March and while overall it seems to be working well, I think some employees aren’t really working as they should be. Should I be using monitoring software to track their productivity?

The QuoStar Answer

Well, this is a relatively common question and one I’m sure many managers have contemplated in the previous six monthsSince lockdown, demand for monitoring software has soared. Searches for ‘employee surveillance software’ are up more than 80% and some providers have seen a threefold increase in demand for their tech 

However, employee monitoring is nothing new. In 2019, over 50% of large organisations were already using ‘non-traditional methods’ to monitor their employees, such as analysing email text, logging computer usage or tracking employee movementsEven employees themselves are beginning to expect a certain level of monitoring and believe it will increase in the future.

Advantages and disadvantages of employee monitoring

The benefits of employee monitoring are probably widely known. Many studies have shown that when people know they are being monitored, they behave in the way they think is expectedIn other words, they become more productive.  

The realtime data collected by tools can, if utilised correctly, help uncover problems and identify bottlenecks. You can allocate resources more effectively and rework processes to prevent employees from having to spend more time than necessary on certain tasks. It will also allow you to identify employee strengths and weakness, giving opportunity for both praise and further training 

A welcome side effect, particularly in the current climate, is enhanced data security As an examplesome tools can alert you to suspicious activity or block certain actions from happening altogether, such as the opening of certain applications. 

However, all these potential benefits can be instantly wiped out by a poorly handled rollout. Attempts to be covert or any dishonesty about the true purpose of monitoring will likely be viewed extremely negatively. Your employees may feel that their privacy has been devalued or violated, and like the company no longer trusts them. It may result in diminished morale and elevated stress, harming your ability to retain staff in the long run.   

Legal implications of monitoring employees at work

While employers are well within their rights to monitor activity on ‘business-owned’ devices, it’s a fine line to treadYou need to find a balance between employees legitimate expectation to privacy and the company’s interests, and there must also be a legitimate purpose for the monitoring.  

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) states that employees should be made aware before monitoring begins, told the reasons for its use and how the information collected will be used. Government guidance also states that employers must clearly explain the amount of monitoring in the staff handbook or contract. This includes telling workers if they’re being monitoring, what counts as a reasonable amount of personal emails and phone calls, and if personal emails and calls are not allowed.  

You will need to carry out a formal ‘impact assessment’ to justify the use of monitoring tools before any go live. This identifies the purpose of the monitoring and the likely benefits and adverse impact. As part of the assessment, youll need to look at alternative ways the purpose might be achieved; look at the obligations that will arise from monitoring; and whether the decision is justifiable (compared to the effects the employee might experience).  

If you’re planning to use the information collected as the basis of disciplinary procedures (e.g. an employee being consistently unproductive) then I would also advise seeking legal advice to determine whether you need to amend your employment contracts to reflect this 

Monitoring software raises the age-old issue of data security and privacy as wellThe more that is recorded, the more data there is to secure and protect. Just last month, H&M was fined for collecting extensive details about their employees’ privatliveswhich was accessible to 50 other managers. So, it’s crucial that you understand exactly how your monitoring tool will collect and store information, particularly if this happening on a third-party system. If the data is stored in a different country to where you’re located, you may need to comply with additional regulations.    

What technology is available to monitor employees?

If you feel employee monitoring is both necessary and justifiable, then the good news is there are plenty of tools available. I won’t list specific products or providers, but some features you might look out for include:  

  • Screen Monitoring – Captures real-time screenshots of a computer’s desktop or active window at set intervals, allowing you to see work in progress at any given point  
  • User Activity Tracking – Tracks and collects real-time user actions and behaviour data on company networks and connected and monitored devices. Also known as User Behaviour Analytics (UBA), not only can these tools track productivity, they’re important for security as wellThis proactive form of monitoring can help you spot suspicious activity and prevent access privileges from being abused. Some tools will also alert when actions you have marked as ‘suspicious’ happens. For example, if an employee tries to download unauthorised software to a work device, the administrator will be notified immediately     
  • Internet Monitoring – Automatically monitors employees’ application and web usage during working hours. Reports break down what was accessed and for how long, allowing you to spot if someone’s spending too much time on certain sites. Most tools can also block, deter or limit employees from accessing unproductive sites during working hours. Usually, companies use these tools to block social media, online gaming portals, and entertainment or streaming sites.  
  • Time Tracking – Records time spent on projects or tasks. These apps are ideal for companies who bill by the hour, allowing for more accurate invoices, but it can also help with resource allocation. Records can help you identify bottlenecks and investigate whether you should amend processes or provide greater support for employees.    
  • Keylogging – Keyloggers run in the background to track, capture and record all keyboard activity and mouse clicks. They can track activity across a variety of platforms, including email, instant messengers, web browsers and apps. The data collected can provide insight into daily activity, attitude, professionalism and productivity.    
  • Call Recording – For industries, like recruitment, where communication is necessary for successful outcomes, your telephony system should be able to give you the insights here. Some hosted telephony and VoIP tools offer in-depth metrics including time on the phone, time to answer, who answered which call, and calls made/received/missed.  
  • Constant Presence Tools – Utilise the webcam to take photos of employees at regular intervals, to check they’re at their desk. With some products, you can see photos all on one screen and click on them to start instant video chat.  
  • GPS  This may an option if you have employees working at multiple locations or at client sites, as they can allow you to record individual’s hours and locations in one place.  

Most software products will offer multiple productivity tracking features, so you don’t necessarily need a purchase a separate product for each one.   

Final Considerations

Employee monitoring is a very difficult line to tread. It can never be a simple, blanket yes or no. Every business will need to evaluate the pros and cons in line with their specific processes, operations and culture.  

Bear in mind, the current situation is an extreme one. It may be overly simplistic to solely blame ‘remote working’ for impacts on productivity. Employees may have legitimate worries or problems in their personal lives as a result of the pandemic. They might be trying to balance childcare with work, caring for sheltering or vulnerable relatives or their mental health might be suffering. You will need to mindful of the wider circumstances when discussing productivity with individuals, as some may need greater support to achieve their usual ‘office-based’ output. 

If this is the first-time employees have ever worked remotely, this is not necessarily an accurate representation of how they would perform in ‘usual’ times. Yes, remote working is not for everyone. Some people much prefer to be in the office, surrounded by their colleagues. Some will always see it as an opportunity to shirk their duties, as there’s no one around to check-in. But I wouldn’t necessarily rush to write off remote working as a complete no-go for your entire business. 

If you do decide to go the software route, then ensure you’re transparent about it and be aware of how it might affect your company culture, as well as the legal obligations you’ll need to fulfil. 

Just remember that X hours in front of the screen does not equal X hours of productive work. Yes, these shiny new tools that take photos of employees at their laptop and track their GPS location, are great but they alone cannot paint a true picture. Arguably, working hours aren’t the most important thing, it’s the output of those hours. You need to identify meaningful KPIs and regularly track these to really assess an employee’s contribution to the business. A slightly extended lunch or an extra short coffee break in the afternoon might not be the end of the world if the work is still being done.  

It’s all about balance at the end of the day.  

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4 technical considerations when upgrading to a VoIP phone system

Technical considerations when upgrading to a VoIP phone system

Plus, with IDSN-based telephony now a legacy product and due to be taken out of service in 2025, it makes sense to invest now and future-proof your business. 

However, as with the roll-out of any new system, there are technical considerations to bear in mind to ensure the transition to a VoIP phone system is as smooth as possible with minimal disruption and risk to the business.  

Preparing to upgrade to a VoIP phone system

1. Is your connectivity suitable to run voice? 

To ensure business-grade call quality, your internet circuit needs to have a guaranteed level of performance. Normal DSL broadband circuits will not be suitable for voice as there’s no guarantee of quality. If there’s a surge in network traffic, voice packets can drop or arrive all at once, making it difficult to understand the call and providing a poor experience for both parties on the line.  

One alternative is a DSL circuit with performance SLAs designed specifically for voice. However, these cannot be used to also carry normal data traffic – for that you need a separate data internet circuit. Instead, a better option would be an ethernet circuit which can provide suitable performance SLAs. If configured correctly for quality of service, an ethernet circuit can also prioritise voice traffic over normal data, making it suitable for simultaneous use.  

2. How long will it take to install your new phone system? 

Installing a new phone system can take longer than anticipatedFrom preparing the hardware and configuring the phone system, through to integrating with the LAN network and porting the number, there are many different elements to consider. Determine how long it will take to install and when you want the new system in by so you can create a comprehensive project plan.  

If you’re installing a new phone system as the result of an office move, you should start planning as soon as you have your move date. It’s vital that you leave adequate time for installing and testing the new system, particularly if your business relies on the ability to make calls in order to operate.  

3. How will you communicate the change to employees? 

Installing new hardware and changing handsets can not only disrupt operations, but it may also affect company culture. Employees may need to adjust to new handsets and feature, or even new ways of working if you’re moving away from physical desk phones to softphone applications instead.  

With any new system roll-out, it’s important to engage employees from the start. When staff feel informed it typically makes the process much smoother and increases adoption rate. With phone systems being such a vital line of communication, you should have a suitable training plan in place. If employees are confident using the features, they’ll embrace the technology fully, ensuring a professional image of the business is presented and providing a better experience for anyone who calls in.    

4. Does your disaster recovery plan include telephony? 

It’s important not to forget about your disaster recovery plan when moving to a new phone system. While the available features and functionality of cloud-based phone systems can increase availability, you still need to be prepared and able to react to worst-case scenarios. Ensure you’re able to answer questions like: 

  • What happens if the phone lines go down or there’s a power cut? 
  • What happens if the system goes down? 
  • Where will calls be routing 
  • What impact will downtime have on the business? What are acceptable levels? 

Support for phone system upgrades 

Choosing and deploying a new phone system is a significant undertakingbut the wrong decision can put your business at risk.  

If you want to ensure you’re making the right investment and your phone system will meet your business requirements, then a managed telephony service is a good option.  

At QuoStar, we can work with mid-market businesses to determine their requirements in order the select the most suitable platform. We can also manage the installation or upgrade of your phone system and provide ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure it continues to deliver for your business. 

Find the right telephony solution with a free assessment and quote. Click here to register for a free telephony assessment.

Do I need to change my business phone system?

7 signs it's time to change your business phone system

While issues may start as minor irritations, over time, they can have a significant effect on your business operations, and this can end up reflected in your bottom line.

An efficient, effective phone system is a necessity for any mid-market business, and one that can’t keep up will place a stranglehold on growth. If you’re experiencing some frustration and wondering if it’s time to upgrade, then here are seven critical signs that your current phone system is harming your business.

Seven signs it’s time to change your business phone system

1. Your telephony costs are skyrocketing

A phone system may be a necessity, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay through the nose for it. Businesses often accept their bill, regardless of how much it costs or if it keeps creeping up, when it’s actually possible to reduce this spend drastically, by merely embracing newer technology. Switching from a traditional on-premise PBX to a cloud-based or hosted one using VoIP can save you as much as 80% on your phone bill.

Free Download: Moving to a new business phone system – Your guide for success

2. Your telephone systems provide a poor client experience

While your phone system should offer a good user experience for your employees, you shouldn’t neglect your clients either. If clients find it difficult, time-consuming or confusing to try and reach the company via phone, then it reflects poorly on the business.

Consider what experience you would like your customer to have when they contact your business and compare this to what happens. Do you need an individual to monitor and manually transfer all incoming calls, and what happens if they’re busy with something else? Is it easy to transfer calls between staff or are they frequently dropped, requiring the client to call again? If you use call routing, does the call end up going to the right department or person?

Again, individually these might be minor frustrations, but if they happen every time a client tries to call it’s going to harm the business relationship in the long run.

3. You have issues with routing calls

A phone system with limited call routing and be difficult and time-consuming for clients to navigate. If a client has an urgent matter and wants to speak to their Account Manager, the last thing they need is to have to trawl through an endless maze of menus, entering long strings of digits and waiting on hold for extended periods.

If your current phone system doesn’t allow you to customise the call routing features, then it may be time to consider one that does. Even something as simple as being able to route calls based on the business’s operating hours, so out of hours callers have the option to leave a voicemail, can significantly enhance the calling experience for clients and prospects.

4. Your phone systems offer no geographical flexibility

The number of people working remotely may have exploded as the result of the pandemic, but it’s expected that this trend is here to stay for the long run. If your phone system ties you to a single geographic location, then you’re creating a scenario where employees can’t work effectively from home or on the road, or where they need to use a business or personal mobile to keep up with calls.

5. It’s challenging to add new users to your phone system

A mid-market, growth business can quickly outgrow its telephone infrastructure, leaving it struggling to cope with call volume and extra extensions. Traditional phone systems rely on SIP trunks and ISDN lines, and it can be difficult – not to mention expensive – to add new lines to cope with additional capacity. If you add a new office location, then you also need to buy new equipment and add that to the hardware refresh cycle.

6. Your phone system has limited call functionality

Call functionality is valuable for both your clients and your employees. For an optimal client experience, you need to be able to offer more than just the basic functions like mute and hold. If you’re using an auto-attendant program to route calls, do clients have the functionality to rehear the options? Can they easily return to a prior menu if they make a mistake, or do they have to hang up and start again?

Consider, also, the experience for the client once they’re on a call. Do you leave clients waiting in silence while on hold, or are they met with hold music? Do you automatically update them on their queue position and estimate wait time? Little touches like these can notably improve the call experience for the client by setting expectations from the start.

For employees, limited call functionality can seriously hamper their productivity. Limited numbers for conference calls, a lack of voicemail and landline limitations are just some of the things which can make it difficult for teams to work effectively together.

7. You don’t get any data and insights

Data and information are an asset within a business. If you can’t analyse your call statistics quickly and easily you are probably missing out on key data and information that can improve your business operations, sales and customer service.

Do you know key pieces of information, such as how many calls come into the business and each department? How many calls go unanswered? Who never answers the phone and who could be more productive if they weren’t fielding so many calls? Simple metrics like these can give you real insight and vision into your operations and many phone systems don’t have the capability to provide the data or it’s very costly.

What are my options for a new phone system?

If you can relate to one, or more, of these issues, then it’s a key indicator that it’s time to change your business phone system. It could be standing in the way of your business delivering an excellent experience for clients and even hampering your ability to win new business.

One popular solution is to consider switching to a VoIP telephone system, which leverages your existing internet connection, allowing you to make calls over the internet. It’s not only typically more cost-effective, but also offers greater flexibility, scalability and functionality when compared to a traditional on-premise telephone system.

If you want to find out more about VoIP and what’s involved in migrating your business to a new telephone system, then download our free guide for a comprehensive overview.

Free Download: Moving to a new business phone system. Download this guide to find out how to select the best phone system for your business requirements. Click here to access.

6 common problems with phone systems for mid-market businesses

Common problems with phone systems for mid-sized businesses

What are the most common problems with phone systems?

The specific problems with phone systems can vary, but they all impact the efficiency of operations and, ultimately, the bottom line. From overspending on hardware and system usage, through to providing a poor call experience to employees and clients alike, here are six of the most common problems mid-market businesses experience with their phone systems. 

1. Outdated hardware

Unfortunately, this will happen at some point. No piece of hardware is for ‘life’ and will require an upgrade. The average lifespan of a business phone system is around 6-8 years, at which point the system is either out of maintenance or is lagging in functionality.  

Ideally, you should aim to stay ahead of the curve and update your phone systems when you can, rather than pushing them to the absolute brink. While running your hardware for as long as possible may seem like a good idea, so you get the most value from your spend, this doesn’t result in the greatest return. As hardware ages, performance often suffers, and it can be more expensive to repair and update  

Alternatively, with software-based and hosted communication solutions you don’t need to have dedicated hardware in the server room because everything can run in the cloud. Even desk phones are not essential with cloud telephony systems, instead, an application (also known as a softphone or client) can allow end-users to transform their laptop, mobile or other smart devices into a business phone which they can take with them anywhere.  


2. Limited features

Modern phone solutions no longer offer just ‘voice’. They’ve transformed into full unified communication (UC) solutions, which offer a whole raft of productivity-enhancing features. Mobile apps, multi-site integrations, auto-attendants, call recording, click-to-dial, wallboards and call management are just some of the features which might improve your employees day-to-day activity – but they might not be available with your current phone system.  It’s typically these additional features that provide data for KPIs, which give businesses real insight into their operations, thus helping to drive transformation.  

3. Maxed out phone lines

Business is going great and you’ve decided to employ another sales executive to keep up with demand. But there’s a problem, you’ve maxed out the number of phone lines your system can take in.  

As businesses change and undertake digital transformation, it makes sense to invest in a phone system which can give you value right away but can easily scale with you too without an expensive upgrade pathVoIP can resolve these issues with its built-in flexibility and scalability, plus you’re not limited by physical location or installations.  

4. Expensive

Mid-market businesses understand the necessity of a phone system and as a result, often don’t question the cost – even where it’s eye-wateringly expensive. Some might not even be aware of what their phone system truly costs, especially when you start to incorporate some of the soft costs. 

If your business needs to forward international calls or transfer calls to mobiles, then monthly costs can soon rack up.  

5. Downtime takes you out completely

There’s no 100%, guaranteed protection against all downtime, but your business should prepare so you can still operate when it happens. If an outage occurs which takes down your phone system and you have no way to route those calls, then this not only impacts your clients but also means you could miss out on potential new business.  

6. It’s overly complex

A phone system is essential for day-to-day activity, so you don’t want a set-up which is so complex that employees can’t use it without consulting a manual. For a system which is used day-in, day-out by essentially every person in the business, you want something which is intuitive and easy to use. While you may need to provide some initial training on a new system, you should feel confident that afterwards employees will be able to use it effectively.  

What is the outcome for businesses? 

Even just experiencing one of two of these issues with your phone can have a significant impact on operations. Missed or dropped calls, poor client experience and limited functionality are all reflected in the bottom line, so it makes sense to invest in a phone system which can keep up with your business.  

VoIP is often a good alternative for mid-market firmsIt offers the built-in flexibility and scalability which will address many of the issues which occur with traditional on-premise telephony. Any initial financial outlay will likely be recouped quickly by removing the soft costs poor experience incurs, plus your ongoing costs are likely to be significantly lower. 

Free Download: Moving to a new business phone system. Download this guide to find out how to select the best phone system for your business requirements. Click here to access.