Companies of all sizes have an interest in keeping an eye on what their employees are getting up to while they’re on the clock. After all, the future prosperity of the business will depend, in large part, on the performance of the company’s staff. Employee productivity is the start and end of many businesses.
Employers are interested in time tracking not because they seek greater control but because the future of their business can depend on it.
While companies have always wanted to keep an eye on employee activity, they haven’t always had the monitoring systems to do so effectively. In the past, real-time workplace monitoring accounted for little more than simply keeping a watchful eye over the office. That wasn’t all that effective, to begin with, and in the age of stealthy internet usage and now remote work, it would be completely useless anyway.
The digital age has provided businesses with a whole host of employee time tracking tools, including employee monitoring tools that allow employers to keep tabs on their team members’ work time in a variety of ways, including checking social media, the employees’ internet activity, and monitoring their company laptops and company devices. Some of these tools are so precise that they can even have functions like monitoring keystrokes with permission (what your employees type on keyboards while they’re on the internet or instant messaging).
Even big tech companies are starting to get in on tracking worker productivity to reduce slack . Google and Microsoft allow authorized administrators to view emails in Gmail or Outlook, and Amazon makes use of tracking technology for its drivers and warehouse workers.
Not that employers are completely in control of what they view. There are federal laws that protect employee privacy to a certain extent, such as the electronic communications privacy act (ECPA). However, the real variance in protections is most often seen in state laws. For example:
- California says employees have to be informed about network activities such as browsing history, search history, and information regarding a website, application, or advertisement.
- Connecticut, Delaware, and New York all require that employers notify employees of any workplace monitoring.
However, in these cases the goal is mostly to inform office and remote employees that they might be monitored in their activities and chats, and only in four total states. Otherwise, there’s not too much standing in the way of employers ensuring their team members focus on tasks throughout the workday, though they should be careful about data breaches due to the tools used.
In this blog, we’ll run through everything you need to know about the monitoring tools that companies use, including the tracking software and other monitoring tools favored by large companies and small businesses, how to find out if your company is tracking you, and how companies can monitor its staff.
Note: If you’re looking for a way to hold employees accountable for their work and to record metrics such as job costs or GPS locations, we highly recommend Buddy Punch. We’ve helped over 10,000 businesses streamline workflow, improve employee productivity, and streamline payroll in order to take their business to the next level. Learn more here.
How are companies monitoring remote workers?
Companies are monitoring their remote workers using a variety of digital monitoring techniques. Employee surveillance tools became much more prominent during and following the coronavirus pandemic, when many employees worked — and continue to work — from home.
Modern remote monitoring software provides employers with a wide range of employee information. It allows them to see exactly what the employee is doing on their work computer, including the websites they’re visiting, the messaging apps they’re using, and anything else.
Not all monitoring software comes with these features, and, equally, not all employers are interested in what their team of staff is doing. Some companies may just check that a member of staff isn’t spending all their time playing online games; others will use the employee surveillance tools to read the private messages that are sent/received on work devices.
Another tool that allows employers to see what remote work employees are doing is the screenshot feature. This tool, available on tracking software, takes screenshots at regular or random intervals throughout the day.
Other employers take monitoring technology a little too far, using video surveillance that activates the employees’ webcam. But that’s rare. The majority of companies just use monitoring software to track the employees’ work data, such as their working hours, how much time they’re spending doing their work, whether they’re spending a long time sending social media messages, and general data collection that allows them to improve the employees’ workflow.
Buddy Punch is one such example of a tool that manages to be intuitive and easy to use for monitoring without being invasive. We built it to cover most modern concerns with employee accountability, such as recording tasks completed and time it takes to finish them, tracking locations of remote employees, and streamlining both scheduling and payroll. Click here to learn more about Buddy Punch’s features and start a 14-day free trial.
How do I know if my work email is being monitored?
You can usually see if your work email is being monitored by looking at the advanced settings of the email client that you’re using. If you’re using Outlook or Google Mail, you can head to the settings and see if there’s a local or proxy server for the POP and SMTP servers. If it’s a proxy, then the email is being monitored — or, at least, it could be monitored.
You can also check to see if your computer is broadly being monitored by checking what applications are running. You can do this by opening the task manager and looking for any unusual programs that are running in the background. The vast majority will be entirely innocent, but if you see a program that you don’t recognize, it is recommended to search for the name online — it could well be monitoring software.
With that being said, as a general rule, workers should assume that the company they’re working for is monitoring their emails and just about everything else. This is especially true if employees use company laptops. It won’t be difficult for the administrator of the network to see exactly what employees are doing on their devices since they’ll have a key to the backdoor that provides all that information.
How do companies track employees?
Companies track employees using a wide range of methods, both digital and non-digital. With the rise of remote work, many companies have turned to tracking software to monitor their employees’ performance while they’re not in the office.
Companies will use the software to collect data and general information – anything from emails to phone calls – throughout the workers’ day (including the time they started/stopped working). But they’ll also use the software to ensure that the employee is doing what the company believes they should be doing — working — rather than wasting time.
Many managers keep an eye on their employees’ web browsing habits or how much time they spend checking social media. No company expects its employees to never visit a non-work website or send personal email communications, but all companies have a vested interest in ensuring that their remote workers don’t spend too much time doing these digital activities.
Some companies go further in their tracking than others. Some just collect data about the amount of time they spend using a work application. Others use keylogger software, which effectively shows the company how much time the employee spent doing work, or use video surveillance in the workplace, which shows what the employee was doing in the office. It is legal to video employees in common areas during regular work hours.
How do employers track work from home?
Employers track employees who are working remotely by using monitoring software. Though many employees believe that, by working from home, they’re beyond the reach of their employers, the opposite is actually true. Many companies have invested in employee tracking software, which allows them to see what their staff is doing on work computers while they’re not in the office.
Employers use tracking software to enhance productivity and boost security. They may monitor the contents of emails to check that no sensitive company data is being leaked. They may use the software to take screenshots of the employees’ computers at regular or random intervals.
While employers can use tracking software to monitor many details about their employees, in truth, most do not use it to monitor anything that could be considered invasive. They just use it to keep track of the amount of time the employee spends working. This will include the time they log in, logout, and idle moments throughout the day. They may also monitor web browsing in a loose way; for example, they may have some limits on the type of content that the worker can view on their company computer.
How do employers track you?
Your employer can track you in a variety of ways, using both digital monitoring software and non-digital means. With monitoring software, employers tend to keep an eye on what their employees are doing on their work computers, including the amount of time they’re spending on social media, the websites that they’re visiting, their idle time, the content of work email accounts, and more.
They do this using tracking software, which is installed on the work computer. If you use your personal computer for your job, then it’s less likely that your employer will be monitoring you — though they can still see what you’re doing on any work-related programs, systems, and accounts. For example, they could see the contents of your work emails.
Employee monitoring software comes in various forms. Some software offers a complete overview of what the employee is doing. Other software is a little less invasive and just records key information such as the amount of time the worker spends working.
How do you monitor employees at work?
Companies can monitor their employees at work through digital and non-digital methods. You may monitor a member of staff just by observing what they’re doing in the office; that’s a non-digital method that has been around for as long as employees have been around.
Digital methods arose in response to the rise in the number of remote workers. The most common method of tracking remote workers is through employee monitoring software. This allows employers to see a lot of information about what their team of staff is doing while they’re not in the office. Information provided by monitoring software includes seeing how much time the worker spends working, reading the contents of work-related communication, and viewing the websites they’ve visited.
In some cases, it’s possible to track your employees’ computers without telling them, though it’s important to check that what you’re doing is legal. In general, it’s best to tell your employees that their web history, email contents, and other computer activity will be visible to the organization since this helps to foster and maintain trust between the company and its staff.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one accountability and scheduling tool to help you improve your team members’ productivity, then you can’t go wrong with Buddy Punch.