Employee monitoring software can provide you with valuable information about how each member of your staff spends their time after clocking in. But it’s not merely about tracking productivity. The best software provides the analytics to help you discover bottlenecks, redistribute workloads and even uncover harassment—and keep the hum of your business at top efficiency.
From $3 per computer per month with 3-year contract
Higher costs with shorter contracts
From $8 per license at signup — a one-time purchase
$35.55 monthly for ongoing software subscription, including unlimited use of all features
Real-time violation notices
Free limited version for up to 6 users
From $3.06 per computer per month with 3-year contract
Higher costs with shorter contracts
Recordings and screenshots
From $9 per user per month
App and URL tracking
Free for 1 user
From $7 per user per month for basic
Webpage and application monitoring
Clipboard monitoring Data loss protection
From $12 per user per month for basic plan
Real-time employee reminders
From $10 per user per month
100+ app integrations
Billable rates by task
Free basic plan
From $9 per user per month with annual contract
Unusual behavior tracking
From $150 per license. Required to purchase a minimum of three, and limited to nine licenses.
File download monitoring
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What is employee monitoring software?
Employee monitoring software offers a digital way to keep tabs on how your employees spend their time and get work done during office hours. Software tracks activities that can include time spent on tasks, sites visited and even keystrokes and onscreen recording.
More sophisticated systems offer reporting, analytics and GPS tracking to help you identify gaps in productivity and uneven workloads, uncover opportunities for automation and pinpoint or prevent criminal activity and harassment.
3 types of employee monitoring software
Employee monitoring software tends to fall into three categories to solve distinct problems:
Productivity tracking. Provides nuanced insight into how employees spend their time, complete with analytical reports that can help you compare productivity between employees.
Ongoing surveillance. Monitor email, filter websites, block file access and keep an eye on printing use, document editing and more to prevent loss, security breaches and major issues with employee productivity.
Project distribution and management. Get a bird’s-eye view of your team’s productivity, timing and progress for a more efficient workflow.
Will my employees know they’re being watched?
It depends on the software you choose and the settings you select. Most software allows you to monitor activities discreetly without obvious intrusion and within your legal rights.
Many companies embrace transparency, including in employee handbooks and onboarding the details, extent and purpose of their internal monitoring programs to reinforce a positive standard for employee behavior while on the clock.
How much does it cost?
Most employee monitoring software is priced as a subscription that depends on the number of users, with fees ranging from $3 to $12 per user each month. Some providers list prices by license or computer, often if you’re required to download software rather than rely on the cloud.
Lower prices tend to come with contracts of a year or longer. But you’ll also find freemium versions, with options to upgrade to paid plans with more flexible features and support.
How can I choose the right software for my business?
When choosing the right software for your business, think about the problems you’re trying to solve — productivity, financial, theft or loss — weighing benefits against costs. Find a balance between gaining data to maximize productivity and maintaining strong employee relationships.
Cloud-based vs. downloadable software. Some employee monitoring programs are based in the cloud, so your employees can activate it regardless of the computer they use, while other software is structured around licensing and must be installed or downloaded.
Features. More functionality can be more expensive, but you may not need all the bells and whistles. A basic plan may fit your needs, whereas if your goal is to increase productivity through time-tracking analysis, look for advanced reporting capabilities.
Budget. You may find yourself comparing the fees between tiers of one software, the costs of three different brands or the benefits of a one-time fee versus an ongoing subscription. Either way, you might be eligible for a free or low-cost trial to test it out for a month or longer.
Legal requirements. Make sure the software’s monitoring methods and reporting complies with state and federal employee privacy laws.
Number of users. Some software brands offer discounts for large enterprises, while others keep costs low by focusing on small businesses of three or more employees. Find a fit with your needs to avoid spending more than necessary.
Pros and cons of employee monitoring software
Employee monitoring software can be a valuable asset for companies looking to provide a structured work environment and clear expectations. But you run the risk of demotivating workers and eroding trust if it’s used unwisely or outside a transparent monitoring program.
Reduce time loss. Pinpoint distracted employees, discover major lags in productivity and maintain clearer attendance by monitoring tasks, projects and employee activity.
Increase workload efficiency. Analyze the workflow to stay ahead of recruitment, more accurately prioritize projects and ultimately get more done in a shorter time.
Streamline payroll. Some software allows you to run payroll for freelancers, contractors and employees through a time tracking tool.
Effective delegation. Understand where your employees shine, and more clearly assign responsibilities to make the most of personal strengths.
Stronger security. From tracking potential harassment in internal communications to keeping an eye on the physical locations of your employees, you can better protect your workers, your data and your business.
Negative company culture. If you aren’t honest about monitoring, it can break down trust between employees and management, especially if your staff suspect you haven’t set clear guidelines and expectations.
Ethics of monitoring. It can be tempting to take advantage of all that software has to offer. But if your employees feel you’ve gone too far, it can lead to stress and turnover.
Potential legal issues. Courts tend to rule in favor of the employer when it comes to employee monitoring, but you must take care not to violate boundaries that come with personal devices, state regulations and general legal compliance.
Can be pricey. Software can be expensive to get started, especially if you’re looking for robust monitoring or have a big team. Also factor in the time and salaries required to analyze the data you’re collecting.
How to successfully introduce monitoring software to your employees
The best way to introduce employee monitoring software to your employees is by transparently communicating to your workers why you use it, what you monitor and how you plan to avoid privacy issues.
Get your team on board. Prevent negatively affecting morale by inviting your employees to become a part of the process. Be clear about how you expect it to help the company achieve its goals, and think about allowing a vote on the software to choose.
Present the benefits. Put together a presentation underlining the upsides of adopting the software, including fair reporting of productivity, higher levels of engagement and the ability to assess when more help is needed.
Write an official policy. Lay out your monitoring program in plain language, so that employees can easily understand expectations. This can also help you avoid future legal issues.
Train your team. Provide a tutorial so that employees understand how the software works, what reports look like and their role in implementing the program.
Ask for feedback. Model two-way communication between management and employees as key to staying on the same page. If employees are unhappy with an aspect of the software, it could be an opportunity for you to brainstorm a better solution together.
What are the legal implications to digitally monitoring employees?
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of electronic monitoring of employer-provided devices and for employees generally while on the clock. But while implementing an employee monitoring system is legal, a growing number of states require employers to disclose the extent of their monitoring, including what exactly they’re monitoring, like phone calls, keystrokes and screens. And you must take care with how you use and disclose employee data.
Before going live with your new monitoring program or software, speak to your legal team or an outside attorney about the laws regarding the use of software to monitor your employees in your state or county. Understand the ethical and legal risks involved in tracking your staff digitally, and avoid using the data or reporting gleaned from monitoring in a way infringes on privacy rights protected by HIPAA and similar laws.
Alternatives to employee monitoring software
If employee monitoring software isn’t right for your business or budget, consider project management software that can help with productivity without surveilling employee activity. Tools like Asana and Monday.com are designed to improve team workflow, providing detailed productivity analysis that can flag issues with efficiency — no screenshots or tracking required.
Employee monitoring software is designed to track the activity, performance and even clicks and screens of your staff, helping you to increase productivity and keep a closer eye on employee activity. With more companies embracing a remote workforce, it’s just one way to prepare your team to work from home.
Frequently asked questions
Sign up for a free trial with:
Most software brands make it easy for your employees to download and install programs themselves, without the help of an IT team. Talk with a rep to make sure the software you choose allows it.
Standalone apps like FlexiSPY focus on remote device monitoring, including call interception and password capture. Some employee monitoring software offer upgrades that include ability to monitor company-owned phones and tablets.
Amy Stoltenberg is a staff writer covering all things travel, shopping and lifestyle. After earning a BA at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked as technical designer in corporate fashion before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop's closed, you can find her wandering around Los Angeles looking for hole-in-the-wall eateries and plotting her way to all 50 states (she's currently at 28).
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