As online work has grown, so has the number of remote workers. This means many companies have an increased need to monitor how employees are spending their time on company devices. Employee monitoring software offers the tools to do so, allowing companies to analyze employee productivity, ensure network security and more. This buyer’s guide will steer you toward some of the best employee monitoring software.
Employee monitoring software provides employers with detailed information about how employees are spending their time, including what programs they are using and how much of their time they are spending on work-related projects and tasks. Employee monitoring software tracks and records employees’ behavior when they are on the clock, including the websites employees access, the messages they send, the programs they use and the files they open. The purpose of employee monitoring is twofold: to ensure company policies and rules are not violated and to guarantee employee productivity and accountability.
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Employee monitoring largely involves a software application that is installed on select company computers. However, there are other types of employee monitoring:
Companies can use employee monitoring software to perform the following tasks:
With employee monitoring software, businesses can track how much time employees spend on work, identify problematic usage and, if necessary, limit an employee’s access to company devices.
The cost of employee monitoring software can vary significantly depending on the included features and the number of licenses you need. In our analysis of employee monitoring software, we found that the cost of these programs ranges from $20 to $150 per user per year, though most fall between $40 and $80 per user annually.
Employee monitoring software is typically based on a per-user, per-month pricing model, although sometimes these prices are expressed in terms of annual subscriptions. Many require a minimum number of users — or employees being monitored — which is typically five but can sometimes be significantly higher. However, it is rare to find a subscription plan for a single license.
Employee monitoring software is generally either an on-premises solution or cloud-based software. On-premises solutions typically cost more upfront and require an IT team to maintain a server, but they grant companies more control over the data collected. A cloud-based solution costs less initially and removes the maintenance burden associated with on-premises solutions. However, with cloud-based software, you must entrust a third party with the management and security of your data.
Some companies also charge setup fees, which can be several hundred dollars. Ask for a pricing breakdown that includes all fees and any contractual requirements, such as cancellation fees or software update subscription fees.
Finally, some employee monitoring software packages offer additional tools, such as mobile licenses or geolocation tracking, for an extra cost. Add-ons are useful, but they increase the total cost. So before you buy these features, consider how they will affect your employee monitoring budget.
Employee monitoring is offered as a cloud-hosted or on-premises solution. Costs typically average between $40 and $80 per user per year. For an affordable and effective employee monitoring software platform, read our SentryPC review.
The first step in selecting employee monitoring software is to understand each platform’s features. Also consider each platform’s ease of use and efficacy, which you should be able to determine from a software demo or trial.
Additionally, knowing all of the costs and evaluating the company’s customer service levels will help you make your final decision. For smaller companies without a dedicated IT team, working with a highly responsive company can be a game changer.
Employee monitoring software features
You may want your employee monitoring software to include these features:
Most employee monitoring software vendors understand that employees behave differently when they know they are being monitored. Employee monitoring software can typically be set to stealth mode, in which users aren’t aware that software is actively tracking and storing their behavior.
What if you employ freelancers who use their own devices? Some programs come with a mode that is visible to the user and is active only when they clock in to track time for your project. The rest of the time, it is turned off, meaning freelance users can use their device without fear of being watched but you can still monitor their activity when they are on the clock for your company. Employers can also use this visible mode with full-time employees if they want their workers to know that their behavior is being tracked.
Most employee monitoring solutions offer stealth mode, which covertly runs the software. There is also a mode for freelance workers that tracks their time when they are on the clock. This mode is visible to freelancers and can be turned off when they are not working on company tasks.
As data privacy laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act become more common, the risks associated with mishandling sensitive user information increase as well.
The same could be true for employee data, the disclosure of which could run afoul of federal privacy laws such as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Employers must understand and weigh the legal and ethical risks of utilizing employee monitoring software. It’s wise to consult with an attorney about the implications of collecting potentially sensitive employee data as part of any employee monitoring policy.
If you use employee monitoring software, make sure the data you collect does not violate any laws, such as HIPAA. Consult with an attorney to ensure you are properly collecting and handling data.
While there are many considerations when you’re deciding on an employee monitoring platform, this software may benefit your business by increasing productivity. By understanding the features that each platform offers and what your company needs most to thrive, you can select the employee monitoring software that helps your business grow and improves your bottom line.
Diana Brandon and Max Freedman contributed to this article.