Peerdrum: Peering Over the Shoulder of Remote Coworkers

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:

[vimeo 13633985]

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?

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