As virtual teams and remote workers become more common, employers increasingly feeling the need to employ remote monitoring and management tools. The latest of these is Peerdrum, a web app that enables managers to track and direct remote workers, and for workers to articulate progress and feedback. This is achieved by taking a snapshot of the user’s screen every few minutes and relaying it to a manager’s dashboard.
Here’s a short video overview of the service in action:
Managers can setup teams, invite members and assign privileges to allow team members to view each others’ screens. Users can then “clock-in” to activate the monitoring and screen capture service, and “clock-out” at any time to pause it.
Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the premise of Peerdrum; the need to resort to this type of tool strikes me as illustrating a failure of management and a breakdown of the trust between employers and workers. Peerdrum appears to be based on a corrective philosophy; it assumes that workers left to their own devices will drift from their objectives.
Most information workers multitask and flit from project to project, and creative disciplines often require a level of play and exploration that is not well represented by a series of screenshots — if anything it could distort and damage perceptions.
Fundamentally, if the output of a worker is sound, is this type of tracking really necessary? Rather than a slideshow of screenshots, I think perhaps an open multi-person video channel could help to keep a team pulling together much more comfortably. Experiencing a coworker’s body language, demeanor and conversation will reveal much more than the visible content of their desktop.
Last year, we published a guest post covering some best practices for remote monitoring of workers by the CEO of RescueTime, which emphasized using monitoring tools to enhance productivity, rather than for employee surveillance; Peerdrum appears to be primarily a surveillance tool.
If you’re interested in the topic of how to manage remote workers effectively, it’s something we’ll be exploring in depth at our Net:Work conference, coming to San Francisco in December.
Do you think surveillance tools like Peerdrum are necessary in modern workplaces?