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The Best Employee Monitoring Software of 2022

By
Skye Schooley
,
business.com Staff
| Updated
Jun 22, 2022

We've narrowed down the best employee monitoring software for businesses. Check out our best picks and reviews.
Best for Security Threat Detection
Customizable content filtering
Video and audio monitoring
Insider threat detection
Best for Workforce Analytics
Free and paid plans
Transparent activity tracking
Intuitive workforce insights
Best for Remote Workforces
Six-view dashboard
Configurable recording settings
Employee productivity tracking
Best for Larger Organizations
Veriato
On-premises and cloud hosting
Insider threat detection
Keylogging and screen recording
Best for Affordability
SentryPC
Six licensing plans
Real-time monitoring
Keystroke tracking
We've narrowed down the best employee monitoring software for businesses. Check out our best picks and reviews.

Employee monitoring software is an essential tool for business owners who want to verify that employees are using their time at work to accomplish the responsibilities and tasks assigned to them, not spending hours watching cat videos and trolling social media or, worse, engaging in reckless or malicious behavior that jeopardizes the company. User activity monitoring can give you insight into how your employees spend their time each day, uncovering opportunities to improve productivity and cybersecurity. To find this year's best employee monitoring solutions, we looked for affordable, easy-to-use software with comprehensive features for tracking employee productivity, such as app and website tracking, content filters, and screen capture.

The Best Employee Monitoring Software

Employee monitoring software is an important tool for business owners who want to verify that employees are using their time at work to accomplish the responsibilities and tasks assigned to them, not spending hours watching cat videos and trolling social media, or, worse, engaging in reckless or malicious behavior that jeopardizes the company. The best employee monitoring software gives you insight into how employees are spending their time each day, and it uncovers ways to improve employee productivity. To find this year's best employee monitoring solutions, we looked for software that was affordable, easy to use and that had comprehensive features for tracking employee productivity, such as app and website tracking, content filtering, and screen captures.

 
 

Find the Right Employee Monitoring Service for Your Business

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How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
29
Considered
14
Researched
9
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

Employee monitoring software Overall score Best for Free plan Free trial User minimum Pricing Software plans Contract length Hosting options Compatible operating systems Keystroke logging Silent or visible Customer support
Teramind 9.3/10 Security threat protection No 7-14 days 5 (users or endpoints) $10-$25 per user/endpoint per month 6 Monthly and annual Cloud and on-premises Windows, Windows Server, Mac, Citrix, VDI, VMware Horizon, terminal servers Yes Both Phone, email, webchat
InterGuard 9.2/10 Remote workforces No 7 days 2 for annual plans; 5 for monthly plans $25 per user per month, or $60-$156 per user per year 2 Monthly and annual Cloud and on-premises Windows, Mac, Windows VDI and terminal servers, Chrome, iOS, Android Yes Both Phone, webchat
ActivTrak 9.2/10 Workforce analytics Yes 14 days 5 $0-$15 per user per month; custom rates for Enterprise users 4 Annual Cloud and on-premises Windows, Mac, Chrome No Both Phone, email, webchat
Veriato 9.16/10 Larger organizations No 7 days None Starting at $120 per user per year (volume discounts available) 3 Annual Cloud and on-premises Windows, Mac, Android, Chrome Yes Both Online ticket, phone
SentryPC 8.5/10 Affordability No Demo only None Starting at $59.95 per license per year 6 Annual Cloud Windows, Mac Yes Silent Online ticket
BambooHR 7.9/10 Performance management No 7 days None $4.95-$8.25 per employee per month (custom rates available) 2 (add-ons available) Monthly Cloud Windows, Mac, Android, iOS No None Phone, email, webchat
Controlio 7.9/10 Video monitoring No 14 days None for cloud; 10 for on-premises data storage $7.99 per user per month, or $79.90 per user per year; custom rates for On-Premises and Private Cloud users 3 Monthly and annual Cloud and on-premises Windows, Mac Yes Both Phone, email, webchat
Hubstaff 7.88/10 Time tracking Yes 14 days 2 for paid plans $0-$20 per user per month; custom rates for Enterprise users 4 Monthly and annual Global Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome, Android, iOS No Visible Online ticket, webchat
Insightful 7.68/10 Employee privacy No 14 days None for cloud; 100 for on-premises data storage $6.40-$15 per user per month; custom rates for Enterprise users 4 Monthly and annual Cloud and on-premises Windows, Mac No Both Phone, webchat

Our Reviews

Teramind: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Security Threat Detection

Teramind's advanced plans help you comply with regulations involving PII, PHI/HIPAA, and GDPR.
It offers security features like data loss prevention, audits and forensics, and user behavior analytics.
Teramind requires at least five users or endpoints.

Teramind is not only the best employee monitoring software for security threat protection, but also one of the most comprehensive monitoring systems we reviewed. In addition to your employees' behavior on webpages, apps, and social media, you can monitor their emails, online meetings, file transfers, chats, clipboards, searches, and printing activity. You can also remotely control devices if necessary, and you have access to audio and video recordings of all users' activity. We also like how you can set rules to prevent external drive usage and detect unusual or unauthorized network logins. In fact, Teramind can log all keyboard activity.

Editor's score: 9.3/10

We like the configurable audit and forensics tools that Teramind offers to help you investigate any incidents. To secure your organization further, you can implement dynamic risk scoring as well as detection of insider threats, malicious or abusive behavior, and anomalies. The DLP plan includes additional data loss prevention features like data fingerprinting, clipboard detection, and content-based and file-operation rules. We find it useful that employers get access to real-time alerts and notifications, policy-managing functions, a visual rule editor, and out-of-the-box rule templates. These settings and features focus on preventing insider threats and monitoring productivity, all while maintaining employee privacy. [Learn more about insider attacks and how to prevent them.]

Read Teramind Review

ActivTrak: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Workforce Analytics

ActivTrak's dashboard is comprehensive and easy to use.
The advanced workforce analytics and productivity insights are informative and user-friendly.
The software can't log employees' keystrokes.

ActivTrak is cloud-based employee monitoring software that has everything you need to track your employees' behavior, productivity, efficiency, workload balance and goals. Its comprehensive analytics and reporting tools are why we recommend it as the best employee monitoring software for workforce analytics. Instead of acting as stealth spyware, ActivTrak focuses on improving employee productivity and efficiency in a healthy and transparent way. We like how it tracks employees' hours, productive vs. unproductive behavior, passive vs. active behavior, mouse movements and keyboard activity (except for keystrokes), and website and app usage.

Editor's score: 9.2/10

ActivTrak has security features like audit trails, USB device activity tracking, and risk scores – scores that help you identify which employees are most likely to cause a data breach (intentionally or not). You can block employees' access to specific websites and apps on a computer, user or group basis. [Learn more ways to protect your business from a data breach.]

Notifications and real-time reports keep you informed on employee behavior, based on the parameters you set. If you're concerned about what you see, you can take advantage of a virtual productivity coaching program, ActivTrak Coach, for team members who need extra help with time management.

Read ActivTrak Review

InterGuard: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Remote Workforces

InterGuard's six-view dashboard makes it quick and easy to find the employee metrics you want to track.
The software can take three types of screenshots.
InterGuard doesn't record audio.

InterGuard is comprehensive employee monitoring software that can be a cloud-based or on-premises solution. It's especially useful for tracking your remote staff's productivity. For companies that need to monitor employees from afar, InterGuard's software tracks start and stop times, lunch breaks, geolocations, and idle vs. active time. We like the software's six-view dashboard that features a chart view for executives, a user view for managers and HR staff, an alert log view for security tech, a data view, a reports and notification view, and a search view for when you're conducting an investigation. The user view is the most popular for remote teams, as it shows you active, neutral, and idle times.

Editor's score: 9.2/10

InterGuard monitors your workforce's apps, emails, website history and searches, social media, files, chats, print jobs, and keystrokes. An especially useful feature for companies with remote workers is the data loss prevention software. This blocks and reports unauthorized email or USB usage, and it scans data in motion and at rest to detect and block DLP policy violations. The endpoint lockdown and data retrieval functions are valuable when a remote employee leaves your company, as you can immediately secure your company information on their work device before the former employee (or anyone in their household) has a chance to steal it. [Related article: Why Small Businesses Need Data Loss Prevention]

Read InterGuard Review

Veriato: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Larger Organizations

Veriato offers both cloud and on-premises solutions, giving large companies the option of tighter control over their data.
Large enterprises can use the software for both employee monitoring and insider threat detection.
The software can be complex to learn.

Veriato is a robust employee monitoring and insider threat detection solution suited for businesses in the finance, healthcare, technology, government, and manufacturing sectors. The scope of Veriato's monitoring capabilities is why we selected it as the best employee monitoring solution for larger organizations. Large businesses can use Veriato to monitor remote employees, measure workplace productivity, detect insider threats, prevent data loss, and conduct investigations on employees, including forensic investigations. We recommend the Cerebral plan for enterprises that want both employee monitoring and insider threat detection, as it offers the most features and flexibility in hosting.

Editor's score: 9.16/10

With the employee monitoring tools, you can track apps, emails, websites, documents, user status, file transfers, chats, and keystrokes. Veriato also offers tools for insider threat detection, which is critical for large companies that need to safeguard sensitive information. Veriato's security features include user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA), risk scoring, psycholinguistic analysis, screenshots, and printing and USB device usage detection. It can also send you alerts of certain events, anomalies, policy or compliance violations, and usage of keywords you set.

Read Veriato Review

SentryPC: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Affordability

PC plans start at $59.95 per PC per year, plus $19.95 for each additional license.
You can add on screenshot storage in increments of 500 for a one-time fee.
Customer support isn't available by phone or live chat.

SentryPC is the best employee monitoring software for businesses on a budget. It is a cloud-hosted solution with more service plans than many of the employee monitoring software companies we reviewed, making it an excellent fit for businesses of any size. The annual price starts at $59.95 for monitoring on one PC and storage of up to 500 screenshots, going up to $4,995 for 1,000 PCs and 2,000 screenshots. Additional licenses range from $4.99 to $19.90 each, and additional screenshots only cost a one-time fee of $19.95 for every 500. Although SentryPC doesn't offer a free trial, you can try out a risk-free demo account.

Editor's score: 8.5/10

Affordable as it is, SentryPC still has all the core monitoring features we looked for. We found the user interface to be quite intuitive when we tested the software. You can select an employee's work hours to monitor their activity and set usage limits for each day or week. SentryPC even offers geofencing capabilities, allowing you to create a virtual fence around certain locations to track where your employees are working. Although this is a somewhat advanced monitoring feature, it's included in SentryPC plans. We like how you can also view, filter and block employee activities. When one of your employees accesses a website, SentryPC records their IP address, the website details, and a timestamp of when they visited the page. All activity logs stored in your cloud account can be downloaded for your offline use.

Read SentryPC Review

BambooHR Employee Monitoring Software: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Performance Management

BambooHR is user-friendly HR software with features that help you manage your employees' performance.
You can run custom reports to see areas where you could help your employees improve.
It doesn't monitor apps, log keystrokes or block certain types of content.

BambooHR is not a standard employee monitoring program. It's actually cloud-based HR software, but it has plenty of tools to help you manage your employees, from the day you recruit them to their last day with your company. It includes essential HR management features like employee record organization, employee benefits tracking, document storage, applicant tracking, onboarding and offboarding tools, workflows and approvals, reports, and email alerts. You can add on services like performance management, payroll processing and time tracking as well.

Editor's score: 7.9/10

With the performance management module, you create and monitor employee goals, gather peer feedback on team members, access employees' self- and manager assessments, and run reports on employee and company performance. Several other tools also facilitate better performance management. You can hold impromptu employee assessments to take the pulse of your staff's performance, for example, or create surveys on employee sentiment and satisfaction to identify your organization's top likes and dislikes. Because BambooHR bundles several features into one software platform, it's ideal for busy business owners who want a streamlined way to manage employee performance as well as other HR functions.

Read BambooHR Employee Monitoring Software Review

Controlio: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Video Monitoring

Controlio lets you watch live video of employees' screen activities or record them for later viewing.
You can choose between cloud and on-premises storage for your recorded data.
Controlio does not monitor employees' mobile devices.

Controlio by EfficientLab is our choice as the best employee monitoring software for video monitoring, as it tracks employees' behavior with snapshots and live video recordings of their screens. You can view your employees' screens in real time, or watch the video recordings to see current or past activities. This real-time session information is important for companies that need to maintain high security over their employees. 

Editor's score: 7.9/10

Once you create an account, you download and install the software on the devices you want to monitor. You can then log in to the web-based dashboard and view the devices' activity from wherever you are. To organize your user activity logs, you can create monitoring profiles for individual employees. Controlio is a secure platform with two-factor authentication, and you can use it in stealth or tray icon mode.

Controlio can track your employees' file usage and filter website access by content. If you set behavior rules and alerts, the software will instantly notify you of unacceptable or malicious activity. This level of security management helps you address insider threats or similarly serious issues as soon as they occur. With the screen recordings, you also have proof to support you in an investigation, should it escalate to that level.

More

Hubstaff: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Managing Productivity

You can review and approve your employees' balances and requests for paid time off (PTO) through Hubstaff.
The software lets you download or send invoices directly based on tracked time.
It doesn't filter content, track files and print jobs, or log keystrokes.

Hubstaff is the best employee monitoring software for accurately tracking your staff's hours. Its unique combination of features, which include activity monitoring and time tracking, focuses on ensuring your employees are doing their work and being paid accurately for it. Businesses that can benefit from Hubstaff include those in the cleaning, landscaping, consulting, manufacturing, accounting, real estate, software, design, healthcare, engineering, legal, nonprofit, e-commerce and construction industries. 

Editor's score: 7.88/10

We like how the software can monitor employees inside or outside of the office, including freelancers, field service workers, and remote staff – which is especially valuable in the current workplace climate. Just as helpful is Hubstaff's compatibility with virtually every operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome, iOS and Android). 

The specific features you can access depend on which service tier you choose. The free plan tracks employees' time and activity levels, takes random screenshots, and enables automatic payments. As you scale up into paid plans, you gain access to more time-centric features like employee scheduling and attendance tracking, PTO management, idle-time monitoring, invoicing, client and project budgeting, payroll integration, timesheet approvals, and expense tracking.

More

Insightful Employee Monitoring: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Employee Privacy

Insightful has both stealth and visible modes on company devices, while requiring visibility on employees' own devices to protect their privacy.
The time-tracking module lets employees manually adjust their time entries for accuracy.
Only enterprise accounts have role-based access and audit logs.

Insightful, formerly Workpuls, is a great solution for companies that want to monitor employee activity while letting their staff maintain some privacy. On company-owned computers, you can run the software visibly – in which case employees are aware their activities are being monitored – or in stealth mode, meaning that employees aren't aware they're being watched. On employee-owned devices, you can only run the software in visible mode, and only when the employee is clocked in. The visible mode allows employees more control over what is monitored, and the setting for employee-owned devices ensures they can only be tracked on company time.

Editor's score: 7.68/10

Insightful has all the standard features you need to successfully monitor employees on Mac and Windows devices. It also tracks employees' attendance but allows manual time entries, so your employees can adjust their work hours to accurately reflect the time they worked.

The software monitors activities in real time, giving you an up-to-date view of your staff's behavior. You can track your employees' productivity, website and app usage, and time spent on each project or task. To respect your staff's privacy and data security, you can disable activity tracking and screenshots for specific apps and websites, such as online banking. Insightful encrypts all data with AES-256, secures client data through HTTPS connections, and protects passwords with an advanced hashing algorithm.

More

Employee Monitoring Software Pricing

There are two cost structures for employee monitoring software. Some vendors rely on a per-user licensing system charged at a monthly or annual rate. Others charge a one-time licensing fee that allows the buying company to use the software forever, though you'll typically have to pay an annual subscription for tech support and software updates. The cost of employee monitoring software can vary widely, with the scope of the solution and the number of licenses you require affecting the price.

Some employee monitoring software can be deployed as an on-premises solution, which means the software is installed and operated on your company's own servers. This type of monitoring implementation has a higher upfront cost and requires an IT team to maintain and update it, but it grants you greater control over your own data. 

Another common deployment option is a cloud-based service (or SaaS), which doesn't require maintenance and has a lower upfront cost. It does require a monthly or annual subscription – typically $5 to $25 per user per month. 

Some companies offer free employee monitoring plans, but these often have very limited features and accessibility.

You should pay attention to three main factors when evaluating pricing.

  • Minimums: Few companies allow you to buy a single license. You typically need to buy a minimum number of licenses, usually five to 10, though some require as few as two. This will rule out some software for very small businesses and companies that only want to monitor a few people.

  • Fees: Most of these companies don't charge additional fees, but in our research, we saw some setup fees (which can be several hundred dollars) and an optional IP renewal fee. As with any service you're considering for your business, you should ask the sales rep what fees the company charges and whether it requires a contract (and how long the contract would last, if so). Read the contract or terms of service to verify that you've been informed of all costs you'll be expected to pay.

  • Add-on features: Some vendors offer extra services, such as geolocation tracking and mobile licenses, for an additional cost. 

Bottom LineBottom Line: Employee monitoring software typically costs $5 to $25 per user per month, billed monthly or annually.

Negotiation Tips

Most employee monitoring software companies are transparent with their pricing and post rates on their websites. However, most of them have custom pricing for businesses over a certain size, so if you have an especially high number of employees to monitor, you will have to contact the software companies and give them some specifics, like the number of licenses you're interested in and the features you want.

See if the following discounts are available as you compare costs among employee monitoring software.

  • Volume discounts: Many companies offer lower prices when you purchase a higher number of licenses.

  • Annual prepayment discounts for cloud software (SaaS): The companies that offer cloud-based employee monitoring software typically offer a discount if you pay annually rather than month to month, which can amount to as much as two free months of service.

  • Nonprofit and educational discounts: Several companies note on their websites that discounts are available for these types of organizations.

Buying Guide

What Is Employee Monitoring Software?

Employee monitoring software is a digital solution that provides a way for businesses to monitor, record and manage employees' online behavior while they are on company time. Whether you have a few employees or several hundred, the software can be useful, because there are so many distractions in the modern workplace for both onsite and remote employees, especially for those who use internet-connected devices to complete their daily tasks.

While employees can be trusted to do the right thing most of the time, there is always an opportunity for them to engage in unproductive behavior on company time. Worse yet, employees could be insider threats – exhibiting reckless or malicious behavior that jeopardizes your business.

What Can You Track With Employee Monitoring Software?

You can track your employees' activity and productivity on company time with employee monitoring software. The most basic features include web browsing, which allows you to see the websites your employees visit; application monitoring, which shows you the specific apps employees use; and activity tracking, which monitors keyboard and mouse activity so you can detect whether employees are actually working during their work hours.

Many solutions include keystroke logging, which shows you what your employees type across web browsers and applications – including chat messages and emails – along with a dated timestamp. This can be an incredibly useful window into your staff's activity. Some of these programs even look through the devices' cameras.

Employee monitoring software includes a wide range of features to keep tabs on how employees spend their time at work. The best monitoring software lets you and other administrators set specific rules and policies for different members of your company and receive notifications when the rules have been broken.

Whether you run a big company with hundreds of employees or a small business with a handful of workers, you can find monitoring software that fits your needs and budget.

TipTip: Before looking for employee monitoring software, determine what type of employee activity you want to track and why. Some businesses may need extensive monitoring solutions, whereas others can save money with more basic software.

Types of Employee Monitoring

Businesses can use different types of monitoring to optimize their operations. Three of the most common methods are software, email and network monitoring.

  • Software monitoring: This is another term for employee monitoring software, which you install on employees' computers to track their activities. Depending on the software you choose, it can track the websites an employee visits, the programs they use, and every keystroke they make on their computer. Most of these programs take random screenshots of user screens and allow you to see them in real time. Some even use the computer's camera to take photos that verify the employee is at their desk.

  • Email monitoring: This allows you to view the emails your employees send and receive with their company email accounts. It is often available as a feature of employee monitoring software but can also be purchased as a stand-alone application (sometimes called "email server monitoring").

  • Network monitoring: Instead of monitoring your employees, this is an IT process that checks your network to make sure all components (such as routers, servers and firewalls) are functioning properly, with the goal of eliminating network downtime.

Small Business Employee Monitoring Software: What to Look For

The best employee monitoring software for small businesses helps you manage and enforce your acceptable use policy without requiring a lot of your time to install and maintain it. You need a solution that alerts you when your employees attempt to leak vital business information, access inappropriate content, or simply waste time while they are on the clock.

Here are the main aspects to pay attention to in your search.

Content Filtering and Blocking Features

Consider the different types of monitoring features the software offers. For example, how much do you want to control your employees' internet time? It is all right for them to surf the internet during breaks and lunches, or not at all? What websites do your employees need to access to do their jobs?

With some software, you can select times when the internet or certain sites are blocked or accessible. Most applications also let you create user groups, each with its own rules and permissions. Blocking disruptive sites and creating custom permissions for specific groups is one way you can use this type of business internet software to increase your employees' efficiency and productivity.

Time Tracking and Activity Monitoring

Many businesses use employee monitoring software to track employees' working hours. The software may include login/logout features so employees can record the time they spend working. Activity tracking is a popular feature that shows how active or idle an employee's keyboard and mouse are during their work hours.

Idle time isn't always a negative thing, though. For example, if an employee spends a lot of time reading or in meetings, they might have low keyboard and mouse activity. The best software records whether the employee's activity (or inactivity) is productive or unproductive. This gives you insight into where your employees excel and where they are distracted. This is a great feature for tracking and improving employee productivity.

Application, Website and Email Monitoring

Consider the specific areas of computer activity you want to track. The most comprehensive programs keep detailed logs of the websites your employees visit and the apps they use, along with their emails, online chats, created and downloaded files, print jobs, inserted devices, and even physical locations when they're on company devices.

You may not want to keep such detailed tabs on your employees. If you choose software with a full suite of features, you can usually customize exactly what it records (and in how much detail) as well as the exceptions.

Screenshots and Keystroke Logging

Depending on your reason for using employee monitoring software, you may want it to record employees' online searches and takes screenshots of their monitors. These can come in handy if you are sued by a disgruntled employee and need to back up your claims.

You may also want to consider software that records keystrokes; however, this feature could feel particularly invasive to employees, so not all monitoring software vendors offer it.

Reports and Notifications

Pay attention to the software's reports and notification features. It should provide regular reports (at intervals you choose) with easy-to-read statistics and visual breakdowns of employee habits. For more detailed information, though, you'll need extensive notification options, and the best software has both real-time monitoring and real-time alerts. For instance, you may choose to be alerted if an employee downloads a document online or tries to access a forbidden website. Since notifications alert you to specific occurrences and reports give you a staffwide overview, you'll get the most out of your software when you use both options together.

Archive Storage

Make sure your office web monitoring software automatically archives the data it captures. You never know when you may need to review an employee's internet history. [Related article: 10 Ways Employee Monitoring Software Can Benefit Your Remote and In-Office Teams]

Mobile Apps

In addition to dashboards you can access from any browser, the best employee monitoring software offers mobile apps that let you monitor your staff when you're away from the office. Some have both Android and iPhone apps, and others are platform-specific, so if this feature is important to you, verify that the app is compatible with the operating system you use.

Ease of Use and Support

Good monitoring software should be intuitive to use, with a visually appealing interface that displays all the options without being cluttered and overwhelming. You and the other admins should feel confident using the software, getting a good grasp of the monitoring options after a few minutes of clicking around.

In case you do run into issues, though, you want to work with a company that's easy to reach. You should be able to reach tech support by phone, email, live chat, or online ticket, though even some of the best companies only offer one or two of these support avenues. Live chat is typically the fastest way to connect with a representative. Most companies also have extensive self-help resources on their websites for your reference, such as how-to guides, video tutorials, and FAQs pages.

Some companies charge extra for ongoing upgrades and support after the first year. You can forgo this option, but you run the risk of operating outdated and possibly insecure software without help from the manufacturer.

Legal and Technical Considerations of Employee Monitoring Software

While monitoring employees' computer and internet usage seems like an infringement of their privacy, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that it is legal for companies to monitor employees' actions while they are on the clock or using company equipment, including laptops, pagers, USB drives, and mobile devices. However, there have never been any regulations on the type of programs companies can use to monitor employees. This means you can use programs that monitor keystrokes and capture passwords; however, there is some ethical controversy around whether these features should be used.

While the federal government doesn't place restrictions on employee internet monitoring, some states require employers to notify their workers if they monitor online activity, including emails and keystrokes. You can disclose this within your use policy or employee handbook, address it in orientation for new employees, or simply send out email reminders.

Tip: Employees tend to have a higher expectation of privacy on their personal devices, making them riskier to monitor. If you want to monitor employees' cellphones and laptops, take extra precautions by creating an explicit bring-your-own-device policy for them to sign.

Employee monitoring software (and how employers use it) could also be impacted by the passage of new data privacy laws in the U.S. Provisions in the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), for example, give individual employees the right to request that certain businesses disclose the personal information that has been collected about them. Businesses could also be required to notify individual employees when their personal information has been collected and how that information is being used. These provisions could extend to employee monitoring and require companies to revisit their policies.

If your business is subject to the CCPA or similar data privacy regulation, consider whether the employee data you want to collect serves a clear business purpose. Also determine how long you need to store that data and how you'll ensure its protection from data breaches. Failure to secure it in accordance with data privacy laws could result in fines and lawsuits against your business.

Employee Monitoring FAQs

WHO SHOULD USE EMPLOYEE MONITORING SOFTWARE?

Employee monitoring software is not limited to certain sizes and types of business. Nearly every employer can benefit from employee monitoring software, whether to accurately track work hours, manage and improve productivity, or secure their organization from cyberthreats. That being said, some industries tend to use employee monitoring more than others. For example, a DeskTrack study shows that freelancers take the cake in using monitoring software. Other businesses that often use it include IT companies, staffing agencies, financial organizations, consultants, law firms, accountants and architects. Most of these industries are highly regulated, and employee monitoring software can help them comply.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EMPLOYEE MONITORING SOFTWARE?

Employee monitoring software can benefit your company in multiple ways, primarily regarding productivity, security, accuracy, and compliance.

  • Managing employee productivity: Monitoring your employees' device usage can motivate them to use their time wisely. The best monitoring software allows you to designate specific apps and activities as productive or unproductive, giving you a clear look at what type of activities your employees engage in each day. You can also compare employees' behavior analytics with their total output to see where they excel and where they might need guidance to improve their productivity.

  • Improving employees' well-being: While it may not sound like the most obvious result, employee monitoring software can actually help you manage employee wellness. For example, the time-tracking data can show you how many hours each employee works in a day. If you notice an employee is consistently working overtime, you can take preemptive measures against burnout. If an employee is consistently tardy or absent, this may mean they're already reaching burnout. Consider discussing these insights with your team and redistributing workloads to optimize your team's well-being.

  • Ensuring pay accuracy: With tools to track employee activity (such as keystroke logging and webcam recording), you can make sure your team is actively working at their computers when they say they are. This helps you comply with labor laws and pay your employees accurately for the time they work. Many monitoring solutions also allow for project tracking, which improves accuracy in billing or paying out for specific projects.

  • Maintaining company security: Employee monitoring software can help protect your business and your network. Features like website tracking, content filters and screen capture help you ensure your team is working on the proper websites and applications, instead of viewing malicious websites or performing risky activities. The software can monitor emails, USB insertions and print jobs for leaks of confidential data. You can also use network monitoring to track the functionality of all your network components and reduce downtime.

  • Securing legal protection: You may be glad you tracked and archived employee activity if you need proof of a disgruntled former employee's poor behavior. Instead of basing your claims on "he said, she said," you can use this data as evidence in the unfortunate event of litigation.

WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF EMPLOYEE MONITORING SOFTWARE?

Although there are many benefits to using employee monitoring software, you should also note some potential drawbacks.

  • Reduced employee morale and trust: You'll need to walk a fine line when implementing the software. Employees may view it as a lack of trust in them, which could breed resentment and lower company morale. No one likes being watched, and employee monitoring software could feel like a loss of privacy. To reduce employee turnover or resentment, explain your reasons for using the software and how it can benefit everyone in the company.

  • Complex data comprehension: Another potential drawback is the time it can take to condense and comprehend the data the software compiles. This software offers a plethora of information that can help you improve your business's security and streamline your processes, but it may take a little extra work to decipher the most important data points. To mitigate this disadvantage, look for monitoring software that breaks data down into digestible reports and graphs.

  • Access to sensitive information: If you are implementing employee monitoring software for the first time, you should also be aware of the employee privacy and security risks. It may seem counterintuitive, since this software is meant to protect your business network, but you're likely to eventually stumble across private employee data, like health records or bank account information. To reduce this risk, make it clear to employees what they should and should not access on company devices. [Learn more about privacy issues with employee monitoring systems.]

WHAT IS SILENT MODE?

You can run employee monitoring software in either silent or transparent mode. Silent mode, also known as "hidden" or "stealth" mode, means employees aren't aware they are being monitored. Transparent monitoring, also referred to as "visible" or "revealed" mode, is when your employees can see the surveillance program on their computers. While some platforms only permit one mode or the other, most let you choose which mode to deploy.

IS CLOUD OR ON-PREMISES EMPLOYEE MONITORING SOFTWARE BETTER?

The best type of hosting depends on your business, and most of the top software applications offer both options. With an on-premises solution, you'll host the software and the data it collects on your server – which means you can keep your data as long as you want. But an on-premises solution requires more IT knowledge and generally takes longer to set up.

Cloud-based software is easier to manage and quicker to set up than on-premises deployment, and you don't need a server to store all your data. But you must trust the vendor to maintain and protect your data. 

IS EMPLOYEE MONITORING SOFTWARE SECURE?

For the most part, yes. Employee tracking software is designed to be installed on multiple computers, including an administrative station. For this type of program to work, you must first turn off your firewall. You can turn it back on once the installation is complete. This punctures a hole in your security system for a short time, leaving your network vulnerable to viruses, Trojans, spyware and other threats.

A word of caution: Some employee surveillance programs look legitimate but are really viruses in disguise. While this software may give you keylogging and password-capturing capabilities, it collects this information behind the scenes to sell or use to breach your company's security measures. We did extensive research to ensure the legitimacy of each program we reviewed. However, since most of these programs work around your firewall, it is still possible for other threats to pass through undetected. 

HOW COMMON IS EMPLOYEE MONITORING?

Employee monitoring is more common than you might think – and gaining in popularity with each passing year. A recent study by Digital.com found that 60% of employers with remote workers use employee monitoring software, and another 17% are considering it. Most employers say their primary reason for using the software is wanting to understand how their employees spend their time.

CAN I USE AN EMPLOYEE MONITORING SYSTEM FOR MY REMOTE TEAM?

If your business owns the computers your employees use, yes, you can install employee monitoring software on them. You can even run monitoring on silent mode. But if your remote worker is using their personal computer for work, they're not likely to consent to having tracking software installed on it. One solution might be to use a transparent monitoring app, like Hubstaff, that only tracks usage when the employee is clocked in to work.

WILL MY EMPLOYEES KNOW THEY ARE BEING MONITORED?

This depends on the software you use and the mode you deploy. For example, you can use employee monitoring software in stealth mode, which does not let your employees know they are being monitored – or in transparent mode, which allows employees to see the surveillance software on their devices. Some platforms can even send employees their own activity reports, giving them a clear look at the information you are tracking.

It is up to you whether to inform your employees that they are being surveilled or not. No current federal laws require you to notify staff they are being monitored, although some states have their own limitations and requirements.

HOW DO I GET MY TEAM ON BOARD WITH EMPLOYEE MONITORING SOFTWARE?

If an employee is using a company device to perform their work responsibilities, there should be practically no expectation of privacy on said device. It is within your legal rights to install monitoring software to track their performance and productivity. However, just because it is legal doesn't mean your team will be supportive of it.

Start with open communication. Workers are more likely to be receptive if they understand the reasoning. Instead of secretly installing tracking software or letting your employees think you don't trust them, have a transparent discussion with your team to explain how the software can benefit your company. Focus on areas such as business security, employee development and overall productivity.

What to Expect in 2022

The rise in permanently remote and hybrid workforces has impacted the employee monitoring software industry in recent years. We believe this shift in how and where people work will lead to continued growth in the use of employee monitoring software. As employers see the value in letting employees choose when and where they work, how they track their staff has evolved. For example, with flextime as a popular benefit, some employers have started tracking employees' output instead of their hours. This has expanded the need for employee monitoring software that not only tracks when employees work, but also their overall productivity. [Related article: What Is Flextime, and Why Should You Offer It?]

Employee well-being has also come to the forefront of company agendas, and we expect monitoring software to play a role in that. Features that track employee productivity and behavior can help employers identify patterns that may lead to burnout. For example, monitoring software can show you if an employee is working extensive hours, which may indicate they need a lighter workload.

As workers operate from various locations, we expect to see more usage of advanced features like geo-tracking. This helps businesses maintain company security and employee safety through real-time GPS tracking. We also see cloud-based software rising in popularity. Not only is cloud-based monitoring software secure, but it also typically costs less to run and maintain than server-based options.

Skye Schooley
business.com Staff
Skye Schooley is a staff writer at business.com and Business News Daily, where she has written more than 200 articles on B2B-focused topics including human resources operations, management leadership, and business technology. In addition to researching and analyzing products that help business owners launch and grow their business, Skye writes on topics aimed at building better professional culture, like protecting employee privacy, managing human capital, improving communication, and fostering workplace diversity and culture.
Image Credit: undrey / Getty Images
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