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Updated Apr 05, 2024

What Type of Employee Monitoring System Do You Need?

Find out about the different types of employee monitoring tools you can use to keep your employees stay on task.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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An employee monitoring system uses surveillance tools to track worker activity and promote productivity. There are several different methods employers can use to check on their staff. With these tools, employers can observe the amount of time employees spend using different applications, see which websites were visited during work hours, and identify issues in workflow. 

What are the different ways companies monitor their employees?

Before deciding what type of employee monitoring solution you need, it is important to understand the different monitoring options available. Narrowing down the specific features and tools that your business requires will help determine what monitoring system suits you best. Here’s an overview of the different types of workplace monitoring tools you can use to keep tabs on your team. 

Editor’s note: Need employee monitoring software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

Time tracking

Automated time and attendance systems accurately record the number of hours employees work. This helps prevent employee time theft, which has been reported to be four hours a week or more. Paper time sheets leave room for dishonesty and error, because people can write down times they didn’t work. More sophisticated biometric time-punching solutions protect your business against buddy punching, which is when an employee clocks in for another employee who isn’t at work.

Keystroke logging

Keystroke logging, also called keylogging, records the keystrokes your employees type on company devices and electronic communications. Essentially, you can track what your staff types and set alerts for certain language or phrases you’d like to be aware of. While keystroke logging can benefit some companies, others view it as an invasion of employee privacy. Consider this feature very carefully before implementing it.

GPS tracking

If your business is in the delivery industry or provides company cars to workers, GPS tracking is ideal for checking the location of your drivers. It’s also a time-saver — instead of calling or texting your employees about their whereabouts, you can check their status through the tracking program. [Looking to track your fleet location? Read our related article on the best GPS fleet management services.]

Video surveillance

This tool observes employees to ensure they’re working productively. Video surveillance can also protect your business against theft and vandalism, especially during nonbusiness hours.

Website browsing trackers

With website tracking tools, you can see employees’ browser histories, including the sites employees visit and how long they spend on each site.  

Application monitoring

You can track everything your employees do on downloaded applications and software programmed into company devices, as well as access saved documents and data within those programs.

Email tracking

Email tracking lets you see the messages your employees receive and send. Investing in software that creates daily backups also gives you access to every employee’s deleted or archived messages.

Social media tracking

This monitoring tool allows you to view information shared on social media accounts. You can also see what instant messages are being sent back and forth on these channels. Some employee monitoring software translates this data into graphs or other visuals so you know how much time employees spend on social media sites.

Key cards

Key cards make it easy to see when employees enter the building or various locations within the workplace. If key cards are used to access locations and devices, it becomes easy to see where employees are going and get an idea of what they are doing throughout the day.

With radio-frequency identification (RFID), key cards can do significantly more. The RFID technology allows the key cards to interact with monitoring equipment in several ways. It becomes possible to see where employees are at all times during the workday, thus allowing you to keep up with attendance and workflow. You can also use key cards to access computer terminals or other essential equipment to see what tools your employees are using. 

Network monitoring

As the name indicates, network monitoring keeps track of traffic through your company’s computer networks. This allows you to monitor basic metrics with ease. Each employee has to use a specific login ID with any device on the network, so you can see when and where they are connected.

Beyond the basics, network monitoring allows you to track employee behavior in unique and important ways. Digital security relies more on employee behavior than any of your advanced security systems. Your network monitoring system allows you to identify and flag risky behavior as soon as it emerges. In this way, your employee monitoring system spots behavior that puts the whole company at risk.

You can also use network monitoring to get a feel for productivity. Not all improper network behavior is risky. By keeping tabs on the network, you can see how often employees use their computers for tasks that are unrelated to work. Network monitoring rolls attendance, behavior monitoring, cybersecurity and productivity tracking into one monitoring system.

Project management apps

A unique way to track employee activity on individual assignments or tasks is via project management software. Although project management apps aren’t considered employee monitoring solutions per se, they can help you achieve the same goal.

You can break down tasks for each team member and follow their workflow without requesting updates. Summaries of employees’ progress are provided, helping you manage your team without pouring hours into reminder emails or briefings.

Project management software’s scheduling and task management features let employees know your expectations. It’s a great hands-off approach that allows you to examine your team members’ work ethic and activity without having to communicate with them directly.

TipBottom line
If you're looking for a useful solution to track employee projects, check out our review of monday.com. The HR solution has several useful features for keeping workers on task.

Why do businesses monitor their employees? 

Although you shouldn’t use employee monitoring software to spy on your workers, employee monitoring can be a helpful tool for keeping track of employees’ activity, maintaining company security and identifying any weak points for improvement.

Your business and its future viability rely on the quality of the work your employees produce. As a business owner, you are responsible for ensuring that operations run smoothly so you can deliver quality goods and services to your customers on time.

Implementing a workplace monitoring system is not only about catching wayward employees; it ensures that your staff is aware of your expectations and that you’re paying attention to the activity within your company.

What are the benefits of monitoring workers? 

Monitoring employees can have several advantages, as long as you do it strategically and with specific goals in mind. Here are some common monitoring benefits for business owners.

Improving employee productivity

For starters, employees work more efficiently when they know they are being monitored, which, in turn, increases company profits. When employees are aware that their activity is being watched by their employer, they are more mindful of their behavior and the work they produce. This is why simply implementing monitoring software and discussing it with your employees can enhance productivity.

Additionally, employee monitoring software can provide you with a wealth of information about how employees use company devices and what they do throughout the workday. This data can help identify who is doing well and who might be falling behind. When armed with data about an underperformer, you can quickly address the situation or create a performance improvement plan to help them get back on track.

Similarly, workforce metrics can help identify who might be working too much. Employee burnout is a huge productivity killer, so you want to address employees who are overworked as well. Encouraging employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance can improve productivity.

TipBottom line
If employee burnout affects your business, check out these 10 ways to avoid burnout in the workplace.

Maintaining data security

One of the main reasons employers choose to implement employee monitoring software is its sheer power in providing data security. Protecting sensitive data is critical. For example, company data — such as private business files, account login details and customer records — is sensitive information that you can’t afford to lose in the hands of the wrong people. Employee monitoring tools help you review employee interactions with this data so you can ensure it is not being misused.

In addition to tracking what information employees are accessing and sharing, monitoring software can help secure your business through features such as content filtering and blocking, which allow you to control what employees can access in the first place.  

Supporting legal protection

Although this is a benefit you will probably hope to never need, monitoring software can serve as legal protection for your business. For example, let’s say you were forced to terminate an employee after discovering they were performing malicious activity on a company device. As a result, they became disgruntled and sought litigation against you, claiming discrimination. Having employee monitoring data to support your claims could protect your business.

Optimizing workflows

You can use the insights you gain from workplace surveillance to make better decisions for your company and identify errors or changes you need to make.

For example, you may learn that certain assignments do better with fewer employees or that some team members are more useful on some projects than others. You may also find out which employees are unmotivated.

You can leverage this information to not only check whether employees are working but also further assess their overall performance. Evaluating this type of data helps you spot errors or issues before they become harmful to your business, thus allowing you to make good choices for your company.

The best employee monitoring software

Now you know the types of features different monitoring software can offer and the potential benefits of implementing it. If you’ve gotten this far and decided it’s the right solution for your business, here are a few top-rated employee monitoring solutions to consider:

  • Teramind: If company security is your main concern, check out our review of Teramind. This employee monitoring software excels in security threat detection. It has traditional monitoring features, like web and application tracking, file transfer and print monitoring, and keystroke logging. However, Teramind also offers advanced security options, like remote control access, rules and permission configurations, audit and forensic tools, and unusual-activity detection.
  • ActivTrak: If employee productivity is your primary reason for implementing monitoring software, read our ActivTrak review. This software provides a wealth of informative and user-friendly employee analytics and insights. With the amount of data ActivTrak provides, you can quickly learn who your best performers are and who might need assistance.
  • Veriato: If you want to monitor a larger organization, read our Veriato review. This employee monitoring software is available on-premises or in the cloud. Most popular monitoring software is cloud-based, but on-premises solutions give larger organizations more control over their company data. This is an excellent solution if you’re looking for productivity monitoring, behavior analytics and proactive insider risk management.

Simone Johnson contributed to this article. 

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Skye Schooley is a dedicated business professional who is especially passionate about human resources and digital marketing. For more than a decade, she has helped clients navigate the employee recruitment and customer acquisition processes, ensuring small business owners have the knowledge they need to succeed and grow their companies. In recent years, Schooley has enjoyed evaluating and comparing HR software and other human resources solutions to help businesses find the tools and services that best suit their needs. With a degree in business communications, she excels at simplifying complicated subjects and interviewing business vendors and entrepreneurs to gain new insights. Her guidance spans various formats, including newsletters, long-form videos and YouTube Shorts, reflecting her commitment to providing valuable expertise in accessible ways.
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