I hired hourly employees, they work remotely and choose when to work by themselves.

The work includes working on a computer + making phone calls.

How do I check the actual number of hours they spent?

  • 2
    Why do you need it anyway? Sep 1 '16 at 7:50
  • @AlexanderAverchenko I'm assuming because they're paid by the hour.
    – RubberDuck
    Sep 1 '16 at 9:23
  • I'm not sure this is a project management question. Would this be a better fit on Workplace.SE?
    – MCW
    Sep 1 '16 at 11:45

Don't Solve the Wrong Problem

This is always an X/Y problem. It is almost always an attempt to address systemic organizational failures by "holding employees accountable." Any process or technical control you can apply to tracking employees, rather than tracking productivity directly, is (at best) a proxy for failing to address the underlying issue: you are tracking a proxy metric for productivity, rather than tracking results directly.

Devise Results-Based Metrics

Building process controls and tracking metrics around results can be hard. However, all jobs should have a value proposition that can be tracked in a quantitative way.

For example, your remote employees make phone calls. You don't say what the calls are for, so we'll assume some basic things:

  1. The calls don't directly make money (e.g. they aren't sales calls).
  2. The calls serve an organizational purpose. The purpose doesn't really matter, other than that the business is better off than it would be if no one made the calls or answered the phones.
  3. You have the correct processes in place to track the organizational benefit.

A good results-based metric wouldn't look at call volume or call length, as they are (usually) proxy metrics for productivity anyway. Instead, you should establish a baseline, and then track the organizational benefit that good call-handling is supposes to produce.

For example, let's imagine that the calls are technical support calls. These calls don't actually generate revenue. Heck, the entire technical support department might be considered a cost center! However, good technical support prevents product returns or lost customers, so there is a clear organizational benefit to the activity.

Given the above, if customer retention or product returns remain the same or better, then your team is doing the job the organization needs them to do. If you lose customers due to poor technical support, or you have a spike in product returns that could have been resolved through technical support, then the team is not doing their jobs.

If you can't identify the organizational benefit, or are unable to track the benefit, then fix that instead. Tracking the wrong metric or incentivizing the wrong behavior is often worse than not tracking productivity at all. Instead, you will be training your team to look busy, or game the system, without any meaningful benefit to the organization.

You don't want to be the person who creates a culture of busywork and unproductive behavior at your company. That's the fastest track to the unemployment line that I know of, and treating your employees as presumptively lazy or incompetent is just greasing the skids. Don't be that person!


There is only one answer to this question, and I am sure you know it, you have to ask your employees to record the time they are spending and then monitor your records. There is no stealthy magic process that will inform you of what they are really doing.

These kinds of questions are usually asked because the employer believes the employees may be slacking and billing for time they did not spend. First consider if there is any real evidence of this or whether you are just being paranoid. If the work is getting done in roughly expected timescales then be happy and don't try to micro-manage every employee's working hour- it is a counter-productive exercise, you will not win.

If there is evidence that you are being ripped off then you are in a difficult position. Unless you deploy some computer-based controls for remote workers you have to just trust what they are saying, there is no other way to know. If you cannot do that, then you will need to bring the employees into a controlled environment- i.e. cease allowing remote working and force everyone into the office where slacking is easier to detect and deal with.

  • 1
    There are technical controls that address the OP's concerns, but I think they solve the wrong problem and ultimately don't work. I don't think it's correct to say that there are no processes for it, that there are no potential controls, or that an office represents a "controlled environment" rather than (again) solving the wrong problem. I get where you're coming from, so I didn't downvote, but I couldn't really upvote it either. :/
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Sep 2 '16 at 18:43
  • I think you have misinterpreted what I wrote viz "Unless you deploy some computer based controls... there is no other way to know"...
    – Marv Mills
    Sep 3 '16 at 9:55

It's possible to setup a system such that your devs need to work on a server you own, and that logs their activity... but that's probably more trouble than it's worth, and it would likely hinder productivity more than help. Beyond that, it would probably take a lot of your time to take whatever data you've gathered and tie it back to what they said they were doing at any given time, double-checking their hours.

Ultimately though, if you're not going to track all of their activity, you'll need to take them at their word. I've had remote developers take advantage of the situation, and it sucks.

However, if that's the case, eventually one of two things will happen:

  1. They won't get the work done on time because they'll push and see what they can get away with.
  2. The amount of work that actually gets done won't justify what they're billing.

Generally, when I'm managing remote developers, if they get their stuff done on time and they stay on budget -- I actually don't care a whole lot if I know exactly how much time they're spending. What matters are results.

Good luck.


You can define tasks and estimate for each one.

Then employees logs their work hour on each task.

And based on the task (difficulty, blockers, ...) you need to compromise on logged times and estimated

  • 1
    What do we know about humans and time estimation? Especially when it is cognitive work? We aren't very good at it. This also assumes the estimator has an ability to accurately determine such a value for each, individual person. Sep 11 '16 at 20:07
  • @AlanLarimerPSM It's just about getting idea about how estimate. And word "estimate" has indeterminate nature Sep 17 '16 at 22:38

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