Employee Monitoring Software: Everything You Need to Know

  • Kate Borucka
  • February 7, 2024
  • 11 min read

Employee tracking software evokes many controversies and can be overwhelming. Businesses need tools that drive productivity but at the same time protect data, and honor privacy of their employees.

Implementing user activity monitoring systems requires careful consideration of privacy, tailor-made customization for business-specific goals, and strategies that encourage transparency and trust among employees.

Our guide cuts through the clutter to reveal which software aligns with these goals, delving into features, user experiences, and strategic implementation for savvy decision-making in 2024. Let’s get right to it!


What Is Employee Monitoring?

Employee monitoring is all about tracking and analyzing employee activities. Its main assumptions are to prevent data breaches, boost engagement, and optimize workflows.

Yet modern tracking tools offer more than just surveillance; they provide comprehensive workforce analytics and create opportunities for productivity coaching. An employee monitoring tool tracks data such as application usage, time spent on unproductive tasks, and the productivity times of each employee, offering valuable insights for both employers and employees.

Rather than being a tool for surveillance, progressive organizations see employee monitoring as a method to collect productivity indicators.

You can use gathered data for analysis to find trends, patterns, and correlations across teams, leading to improved business processes. As a result, organizations become more profitable by increasing workforce productivity.

Types of Employee Monitoring Tools

Although traditional employee monitoring was associated with surveillance, the modern approach focuses on productivity indicators and transparency.

It provides insights that can enhance personal, team, and corporate productivity, transforming the way businesses operate and grow.

However, there are different methods to track employee activity. The most popular is employee PC monitoring software—it’s usually an app with features such as screen recording or screenshot taking, keystroke monitoring, computer activity tracking (website and URL tracking, app usage, etc.).

Another type of employee tracking tool is time tracking software. Typically, it’s used to track employee time and improve team productivity. It helps to effectively monitor work hours, track expenses, and make better decisions with detailed productivity reports. Productivity tracking can also be performed in physical spaces using smart building technology. Occupancy and motion sensors provide business owners with accurate records of attendance, with this data also helping building managers make more efficient use of office resources.

Other commonly used types of work activity tracking tools include video monitoring, keycards, network and email monitoring, GPS tracking (which is often part of the timekeeping apps), video and audio monitoring, or mobile tracking.

Tracking Employee Productivity

👉 Because in our guide, we’re focusing on the tools that allow managers to monitor employees’ productivity, we’ll guide you specifically through the land of apps and tools.

Choosing the appropriate computer monitoring software can be a daunting task, given the plethora of options on the market.

Depending on your business needs and the complexity of monitoring you’d want to establish in your business, you can choose from different tools:

  1. Simple to-do lists: These are the most straightforward tools for managing tasks, helping to keep track of daily responsibilities in a clear and accessible way.
  2. Task management software: Goes beyond basic lists by allowing for the organization of tasks into projects, setting priorities, and tracking progress.
  3. Team collaboration apps: Essential for group projects, this software facilitates communication, file sharing, and real-time updates among team members.
  4. Time tracking software: With this tool, companies can monitor the amount of time employees spend on various tasks, with insights into productivity and better time management.
  5. Project management software: It’s usually a comprehensive tool that helps in planning, executing, and monitoring all aspects of a project, ensuring that goals are met on time and within budget.
  6. Computer activity tracking software: Provides detailed reports on employee computer usage, including application and website activity, to ensure compliance and security.

What to Use Monitoring Tools for?

Remember that different tools have different purposes. There’s no universal solution. Here are a few examples of how to use employee monitoring features:

  • Project management to monitor progress of work, ensure all deadlines are met, and streamline workflow.
  • Performance tracking productivity tools help to measure the effectiveness of work, help understand how your team works, and make it easier to eliminate distractions.
  • Time and attendance tracking automated time logging helps to track billable hours, and manage attendance.
  • Remote workforce management if you manage a distributed workforce or a hybrid team, you can easily manage and allocate resources, and create a unified platform to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Security to detect and prevent security breaches, data leaks and opt out from data brokers, thereby protecting sensitive company information. This software can also prevent insider threats by identifying suspicious behavior, such as unauthorized data access or downloads.
  • HR and payroll management it’s easier to handle payroll and administrative processes with a staff monitoring system as it automates and optimizes workflows.

📚 Make sure to check our guide on remote team monitoring: Remote Worker Monitoring: How To Track Productivity

Why Use Employee Monitoring Software?

Contrary to the negative voices, using employee monitoring software has many benefits. Undoubtedly, it can lead to a significant increase in employee productivity.  

Numerous research on employee monitoring shows that using such a system can significantly boost productivity as it encourages employees to stay on task when they’re aware they are being monitored. 

And very often, for businesses, such software is a vital tool because it provides:

  • An objective assessment of employee performance.
  • Strategies for improvement or necessary retraining.
  • Identification of areas where performance does not meet expectations.
  • Facilitation of better-informed decision-making.
  • Effective workload distribution.
  • Practical remote team management.
  • Enhanced communication and collaboration among team members by providing insightful data.
  • Adequate time and resource management

The implementation of monitoring solutions is tailored to the specific goals of a company and how you use it depends on your business’ internal needs. Utilizing data engineering services can help businesses effectively manage and analyze the vast amounts of data collected through employee monitoring software, enabling them to gain valuable insights and make data-driven decisions to optimize productivity and performance.

💡 Remember that using tracking tools is to help your employees, not to spy on them, so be smart with how you measure productivity.

Key Features to Look for in Employee Monitoring Software

It’s crucial to keep in mind the key features when selecting software. Here are 4 important criteria that you can consider when looking for the perfect tool:

Time Tracking Features

  • Time Tracking is a cornerstone feature, recording detailed insights into employee work hours. This facilitates better timesheet management and attendance oversight.

Insights Through Reports

  • Reports and Statistics are vital for evaluating performance. They shed light on the balance between productive and unproductive tasks, helping to pinpoint efficiency strategies.

Customizable Alerts

  • Customization is key, with alerts and reports that keep managers informed about productivity and security risks, allowing for proactive productivity and data protection measures.

Seamless Cross-platform Use

  • Cross-platform Availability ensures the software integrates well across various operating systems, crucial for monitoring in diverse tech environments and for distributed teams.

What Is the Best Employee Monitoring Software?

When choosing employee monitoring software, large organizations often seek comprehensive solutions with extensive tracking, reporting, and data visualization capabilities, as well as long-time licenses to match their scale.

Small to midsize businesses, on the other hand, may favor cost-effective and flexible options that offer essential timekeeping and task organization to maintain control over projects and budgets.

For any business, advanced team management features and exceptional customer support are crucial for effective team oversight and ensuring smooth operations. The best fit ultimately hinges on a company’s specific size, industry, and operational needs. You can either hire a remote software developer to build your very own software or choose one from the list mentioned below.

Here’s a short list of the best employee monitoring software.

1) TimeCamp

Tracking time and expenses & monitoring productivity

Timer App TimeCamp

TimeCamp is a free time tracking tool. It’s an automated software that helps to monitor employee hours, billable time, track expenses, and manage attendance. That lets you stay on track with all tasks and projects, be accountable, profitable and productive.

The intuitive and user-friendly app automatically tracks time and activities of your employees (windows, browser tabs, and apps) without infringing their privacy. The simple one-click timer automates work.

Additionally, TimeCamp offers admin and user roles so you can limit access to company data.

Here are some of the key features:

  • Real-time dashboard with productivity monitoring.
  • Rich reporting with over 20 different types of reports; you can customize reports and download them
  • Neat timesheets with approvals and different views daily, weekly and calendar view. You can copy your time entries from previous days, add them manually, and edit them.
  • Idle time detection and private time feature.
  • Invoicing based on timesheets with adjustable rates and the ability to export and share invoices as PDF, e-mail, or private link.
  • Budgeting lets you plan your finances, customize rates, monitor project costs with financial reports, and get smart notifications.
  • GPS tracking for location monitoring.

TimeCamp also integrates with other software and productivity apps, and is available for desktop, mobile, and as a browser plugin.

⏰ Start maximizing your time today with TimeCamp! 

Sign up for free!

2) TimeCamp Planner

Task management with progress tracking and team collaboration

TimeCamp Planner is a task and project management tool that streamlines project planning and progress monitoring.

It offers several features tailored to assist in monitoring progress at work:

  1. Task management: TimeCamp Planner allows you to create and organize tasks based on projects and categories. You can assign due dates, priorities, and labels with tags to tasks for better organization and tracking.
  2. Tracking time: The app integrates with TimeCamp to track time on tasks, offering productivity insights.
  3. Scheduling and calendar integration: The planner includes scheduling functionalities, enabling users to set deadlines and allocate time for specific tasks. Integration with calendars helps users stay on top of their schedules and ensures that deadlines are met.
  4. Collaboration and team management: TimeCamp Planner supports collaboration among team members by allowing task assignment, sharing of project updates, and tracking team progress.
  5. Progress monitoring and reporting: You can monitor the progress of tasks and projects through visual dashboards and reports—a digital planner with a calendar, a Gantt chart with a timeline, estimates, a board view, Kanban boards, and to-do lists.

3) Monitask

Computer activity tracking

monitor screenshot

Monitask is a comprehensive time monitoring and productivity analysis platform that helps businesses monitor task and project duration. It features automated time tracking, random screenshot capturing, user activity monitoring, keystroke logging and detailed reporting, making it a robust tool for assessing employee productivity and optimizing workflow efficiency.

Monitask is especially beneficial for remote teams, offering transparency and privacy by only monitoring activity when employees are clocked in. The software is clear about not being a spying tool and requires user permission to operate, ensuring respect for employee privacy.

Monitask is available for both desktop and mobile devices.

4) Hubstaff

Monitoring work progress with advanced features

Hubstaff is a popular workforce management software. It helps to organize activities of remote workers, in-office, and hybrid teams.

It allows employers to monitor employees’ work, including time tracking, screenshots, app and URL tracking, and GPS location tracking for field workers. Hubstaff provides insightful productivity reports and analytics to help employers understand how their teams are spending their time and identify areas for improvement.

Additionally, Hubstaff offers timesheets to help keep track of hours, monitor profitability and worker productivity. It also integrates with various project management and accounting tools to streamline workflow and billing processes.

5) Outplanr

Task tracking with to-do lists

employee monitoring - outplanr

Outplanr is an interesting employee monitoring solution best for teams who like to organize their work into to-do lists. It’s an advanced task manager that significantly enhances productivity by helping you plan, organize, and track progress of projects. Additionally, Otplanr fosters seamless communication and collaboration among team members.

Some of the most important features include checking project details (such as assignees, tasks and events, analysis of the project, completion status, overall progress), people details, notifications, and overseeing work progress with simple time tracking. There are also user permissions to protect sensitive data.

6) ActivityWatch

Simple activity tracking app

ActivityWatch computer usage tracker

ActivityWatch is a privacy-centric, open-source platform compatible with multiple operating systems, designed to quantify productivity during computer usage.

The software meticulously logs your digital activity, capturing comprehensive details about your computer usage patterns. All collected data is stored on your local machine.

Whether for personal productivity enhancement or organizational efficiency, ActivityWatch is adept at measuring time allocation across various tasks, curbing digital distractions, maintaining a record of digital engagement, or simply offering insights into your device usage habits.

7) Insightful

Workforce analytics

insightful screenshot

Insightful is the go-to gadget for bosses looking to juice up the productivity of their whole squad. It’s a robust tool that lets you peek into your employees’ computers, checking out which apps employees are using and which ones are just gathering digital dust.

With its vivid user interface, Insightful makes it super easy to spot the work patterns of your team and figure out how to optimize productivity. It provides a comprehensive overview of software utilization, enabling strategic decisions that enhance team efficiency and productivity.

Is It Legal to Monitor Employees?

Employee monitoring is a complex topic that involves various legal and ethical considerations. And it’s difficult to give a precise “yes” or “no” answer.

The legality of monitoring employee activity varies by jurisdiction, and it’s important for employers to be aware of the relevant laws and regulations in their specific location.

Federal and State Laws

In general, in the United States, federal and state laws guide the practice of employee monitoring. The U.S. lacks a specific federal statute for employee monitoring; instead, a mix of federal and state laws, alongside court rulings, guide the practice.

There’s the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that regulates electronic communication interception, permitting employer monitoring under certain conditions like legitimate business purposes or with employee consent.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) necessitates precise tracking of work hours for overtime compensation, often facilitated by time-tracking software. If you work in the healthcare sector, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates the protection of private health information, obliging employers to secure such data. Integrating custom healthcare software development services can further enhance these analytics by tailoring solutions to specific operational requirements and compliance needs.

When it comes to state laws, many states have their own laws regarding employee monitoring, including laws related to electronic communications and wiretapping. As an employer, you must comply with both federal and state laws.

Employee Consent, Privacy Rights, and Union Agreements

In many places, employee monitoring legally requires employee consent. Employers must clearly communicate the monitoring’s scope and intent through consent forms.

Employees in the United States have certain privacy rights, but these rights are not absolute. Courts often balance an employee’s right to privacy with an employer’s legitimate business interests when determining the legality of monitoring.

You can refer to The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that ensures employees’ rights to unionize and discuss work terms freely. Ot the Stored Communications Act (SCA) which sets boundaries on employers’ access to employees’ electronic communications stored on company devices or servers. Compliance with the SCA is necessary to respect employees’ privacy rights in the context of workplace monitoring.

International Laws

If you work outside the United States, for example the European Union, there’s the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR imposes strict requirements on the processing of personal data, including employee data.

For other countries, it’s best to follow national guidelines.

To gather comprehensive information, you can consult legal experts, labor attorneys, and relevant government websites. Additionally, refer to specific state laws and regulations for a complete understanding of the legal landscape regarding employee monitoring in your jurisdiction.

How to Use Employee Monitoring Systems Ethically?

A thoughtful and ethical approach is necessary to balance productivity tracking with privacy concerns. There are three main actions you can take:

  1. Creating detailed policies and obtaining explicit employee consent. This ensures transparency about what is being monitored and why.

  2. Communicating monitoring practices clearly can foster trust and acceptance. Granting employees access to their data and choosing non-invasive tools respects privacy and avoids bias.

  3. Monitoring should be purposefully limited to relevant aspects of productivity and security. Positive reinforcement can contribute to a supportive work environment, ensuring that employee morale remains high even as their activities are monitored.

Strategies for Successfully Implementing Employee Monitoring Software

Let’s talk about getting employee monitoring software up and running smoothly. First thing first: you need to have a game plan that spells out how you’ll be keeping tabs on productivity. It’s important to establish a strategic framework that clearly delineates the objectives of monitoring and the potential outcomes—both positive and constructive—that may arise from the findings.

Now, you can’t just gloss over privacy—it’s big on the priority list. To keep everyone in the loop and feeling comfortable, here’s a quick rundown of steps you can take:

  1. Make sure you’re not playing fast and loose with personal data.
  2. Give everyone the knowledge on how you’re making things clear and upfront with the software.
  3. Pull everyone together for a chat about the new monitoring tools, where honesty is the best policy and everyone’s opinions matter.
  4. Continue engaging in dialogue; it is essential to maintain transparent communication.

Sticking to these pointers can help make sure the rollout of employee monitoring software is a win-win, boosting productivity while keeping everyone’s trust intact.

To Wrap It Up

Employee monitoring is a powerful tool for businesses seeking to enhance productivity, maintain data security, and ensure compliance. With the right software, you can track and analyze employee activities, identify productivity gaps, and implement strategies for improvement. However, it’s essential to balance productivity tracking with respect to privacy.

How do you track employee performance? Let us know in the comments!

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