Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Remotely Interested in Supervision

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Remotely Interested in Supervision

Article excerpt

Q What technologies should we use to help monitor our "work-from-home" employees to make sure they are working productively and doing their jobs properly?

A According to the Telework Research Network, 30 million Americans (20% of the workforce) work from home at least part time, and Telework projects that number to rise to 48.9 million within the next five years. While some employees can be trusted to remain fully productive in the absence of direct supervision, studies suggest significant productivity declines for most unsupervised employees. (This problem isn't just related to "work-from-home" employees. By one unscientific estimate the average "commute-to-work" employee is left unsupervised approximately 70% of the work day, making this group of employees vulnerable to productivity declines as well.) Granted, each employee and employment situation is different; but using your best judgment, perhaps you should consider implementing some of the following measures to foster greater productivity from your work-from-home employees.

1. Time tracking. The public accounting industry's long-standing time-tracking and reporting solutions do a good job measuring an employee's work-related activities. 1 remember that my first public accounting job out of college required me to track my time in six-minute increments, and these data were thoroughly reviewed and compared to expectations. Whether I was seated directly under the boss's nose or halfway around the world, there was no room for fudging the results, and any productivity lapses were easily exposed. Today, this type of time-tracking requirement is still an excellent tool for incentivizing employees to keep their noses to the grindstone. Today's cloud-based time-tracking solutions are even better suited for tracking remote employees because reviewers often have 24/7 access to the employee's timesheet data. A few examples of newer cloud-based time-tracking solutions include DeskTime ($9 per month per employee,, Yaware ($8 per month per employee,, and Replicon ($22 per month per employee,

2. Project management. Project managers know that a key to supervising and tracking employee performance is to break down any complex project into smaller tasks and then assign employees and deadlines to each task. Though you may view the concept of detailed project management as a tool used primarily for construction projects, any job (such as an audit) can usually be broken down into smaller tasks, and doing so helps create measurable events that allow both the employee and reviewer to gauge whether employer expectations are being met. This "small task" approach ties in nicely with the time-tracking solutions suggested above.

3. More frequent reviews. To help keep remote employees on their toes, supervisors should review the employee's work and timesheets more frequently (either multiple times throughout the day or perhaps a few times each week) and hold employees accountable for subpar performance. Supervisors should maintain written logs of deadlines made and missed, as well as notes about quality and performance to aid in the periodic employee-evaluation process.

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