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The Best Employee Monitoring Software for 2021

By
Skye Schooley
,
Business News Daily Staff
| Updated
Jun 03, 2021

We've researched and reviewed the best employee monitoring software for businesses in 2021.
Best for Remote Workforces
Visit Site
Cloud and on-premises software
7-day free trial
6-view dashboard
Best for Workforce Analytics
Visit Site
Cloud-based software
14-day free trial
Extensive workforce insights
Best for Security Threat Protection
Visit Site
Cloud and on-premises software
7- to 14-day free trial
Insider threat detection
Most Affordable
SentryPC
Cloud-based software
Free demo available
No user minimums
Best for Productivity
Hubstaff
Cloud-based software
14-day free trial
Mouse and keyboard tracking
We've researched and reviewed the best employee monitoring software for businesses in 2021.

The Best Employee Monitoring Software

Employee monitoring software gives small business owners and managers insight into how employees spend their time at work. The best software can monitor web browsing and application use, track user activity, block content and applications, capture random screenshots, log keystrokes, and provide insightful reports. To help you find the best solution for your business, we evaluated and reviewed the best software applications based on affordability, ease of use, and features that help you monitor employee activity, productivity and cybersecurity.

Find the Right Employee Monitoring Solution for Your Business

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Compare Our Best Picks

Employee monitoring software Best use case Cost per plan Minimum user requirement Free trial period Keylogging Stealth or visible mode
Live chat support 
Teramind Security threat protection Starting at $10 per user per month or $5 per endpoint per month 5 users or 10 endpoints Yes Yes Stealth and visible Yes
InterGuard Workforce analytics Starting at $9.99 per user per month 2 to 5 users Yes Yes Stealth and visible Yes
ActivTrak Remote workforces Starting at $9 per user per month (free plan also available) 5 users Yes No Stealth Yes
Veriato Enterprises Customized None Yes Yes Stealth No
SentryPC Most affordable Starting at $59.95 per license per year None No Yes Stealth and visible No
Hubstaff Managing productivity Starting at $5.83 per user per month (free plan also available) None Yes No Visible Yes
Work Examiner Perpetual licensing Starting at $25 per user per month 3 to 10 users Yes Yes Stealth and visible Yes
Controlio Video recording Starting at $7.99 per user per month or $79.90 per user per year None Yes Yes Stealth and visible No
Workpuls Employee privacy Starting at $4.80 per user per month None Yes No Stealth and visible Yes
BambooHR Performance management Customized None Yes No None No

 

Our Reviews

InterGuard: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Remote Workforces

InterGuard can monitor mobile devices.
It offers remote endpoint lockdown and data retrieval.
InterGuard requires a minimum of two or five users, depending on the plan.
Visit Site
InterGuard's employee monitoring solution provides businesses with instant insight into the productivity of their remote employees. The platform allows you to quickly see when employees log in and out, their idle versus active time, and just how productive their active time was. Screenshot capture, email, website and chat monitoring, website blocking, and file tracking are also key services InterGuard offers. The intuitive and well-organized user interface, which helps you quickly spot trends and possible concerns, provides a variety of dashboards that can be customized for your specific needs. InterGuard is available as a cloud-hosted or on-premises solution. It supports Windows, Mac, Chromebooks, Android and iOS devices, as well as VDI and terminal server environments such as Citrix and VMWare.
Read InterGuard Review

ActivTrak: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Workforce Analytics

ActivTrak offers free and paid plans.
The software has a comprehensive dashboard with workforce analytics and productivity insights.
Keystroke logging is not available.
Visit Site

ActivTrak is a cloud-based employee monitoring solution that tracks and measures employee behavior, productivity, efficiency, workload balance, and goals on an individual and team level. ActivTrak has a free plan (up to three users, 3GB) and three paid plans (with five-user minimums). The best plan for your business will depend on the features you need.

Editor's score: 9.2/10

Businesses looking for a standard and affordable employee monitoring solution can access its Advanced plan ($9 per user, per month) with an annual or monthly contract. Businesses in need of advanced monitoring and workforce insights may want to consider its new Premium plan (released in April 2021), which runs for $15 per user, per month with an annual contract. You can access this Premium plan risk-free with a 14-day free trial. Large organizations can contact ActivTrak for a custom quote on its Enterprise plan.

If your focus is to improve employee productivity and efficiency, ActivTrak may be the right tool for you. It has all the features necessary to monitor your employees in a transparent way. For example, you can use the software to track not only how many hours employees work, but also how engaged they were during those hours. ActivTrak can pull a variety of data, like how much time your employees engage in productive vs. unproductive behavior and active vs. passive (idle) behavior. It uses details like mouse movements, keyboard activity (not keystroke logging), and website and application usage to determine these behaviors. ActivTrak can also help employees stay on track (and safe) by blocking specific websites and applications on a user or group basis. Other security features can include audit trails, USB activity tracking, automated responses and risk scores.

One of the best features of ActivTrak is its advanced insight capabilities. It offers a wealth of knowledge that can help employers and managers make informed business decisions and create goals. The software shows employee analytics like productivity, work efficiency, workload balance and tech usage. You can break these stats down by teams or individual users to identify top performers. Those top performers can then share helpful tips and insights on their success with the rest of the team. These comparisons also help you identify which employees or teams have low levels of productivity or efficiency and may need help. Identifying key features like employee burnout can also help you address workload inefficiencies and improve employee engagement.

ActivTrak is customizable, such as in how it sends alerts and reports. It is very easy to install and use, but if you need assistance, the company offers 24/7 support, product demonstrations and multilanguage support.

Read ActivTrak Review

Teramind: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Security Threat Protection

Teramind has a live screen view and history playback.
You can control employee devices remotely and manually override user accounts.
Teramind requires at least five users or 10 endpoints.
Visit Site

Teramind is extremely secure software that can be deployed on your business premises or in the cloud. It can monitor Windows, Windows Server, Mac, Citrix, VDI, VMware Horizon and terminal servers.

Editor's score: 9.3/10

This monitoring software is available in three plans, each containing features to satisfy specific tracking needs. Teramind cloud plans require at least five users and include a seven-day free trial; on-premises plans require at least 10 endpoints and include a 14-day free trial.

  • Teramind Starter: $10 per user, per month (cloud); $5 per endpoint, per month (on-premises)
  • Teramind UAM: $20.83 per user, per month (cloud); $20.42 per endpoint, per month (on-premises)
  • Teramind DLP: $12.50 per user, per month (cloud); $25 per endpoint, per month (on-premises)

The plan you need depends on the level of monitoring and protection you want for your team. The Starter plan is the most basic option, suitable for standard monitoring needs. The UAM (user activity monitoring) plan is for businesses that need more comprehensive monitoring features. The DLP (data loss prevention) plan is for businesses that need all the features of the UAM plan and additional security features.

Teramind offers user activity monitoring features that allow you to track employee behavior like website and application usage, email activity, online meetings, file transfers, web chats, social media activity, keystrokes, clipboard functions (copy and paste), and print jobs. You can block employees from engaging in certain activities, and record their device activity on video and audio. If you don't want to record employees' screens constantly, you can customize the settings to record only when violations occur. Unlike many competitors, Teramind also gives you the ability to remotely control employee devices, which can be beneficial if you need to override an employee's access to secure company information.

You can access user behavior analytics like dynamic risk scores, insider threat detection, malicious or abusive behavior detection, anomaly detection, active vs. idle time analysis, and workforce productivity. If you need additional protection for company data and IPs, you can access data loss prevention features like content-based rules, file operation-based rules, malicious or negligent data exfiltration prevention, and document and data fingerprinting. Teramind hosts your data in a secure, Tier 3 data center, and it encrypts data in motion and at rest.

You can also access a plethora of reports, real-time alerts and policy management functions. If you want to test out the software before committing, you can use Teramind's free live demo, which shows you around the system with sample employee data. If you have further questions about the software, you can reach customer support by phone, email and live chat.

Read Teramind Review

SentryPC: Most Affordable Employee Monitoring Software

There are no minimum user requirements with SentryPC.
Top features include location IP logging, keylogging and app tracking.
You can only contact customer support by completing an online form.

SentryPC offers several affordable plans for its cloud-hosted monitoring software to fit even the tightest software budgets. For inexpensive plans, they don't skimp on features; they include everything you need to monitor your team successfully.

Editor's score: 8.5/10

  • Basic plan: $59.95 per PC per year. This plan includes monitoring for one PC and up to 500 stored screenshots. Additional licenses cost $19.95 each.

  • Business 50: $995 per PC per year. This plan can monitor up to 50 PCs and store up to 500 screenshots. Additional licenses cost $19.90 each.

  • Business 100: $1,595 per PC per year. This plan can monitor up to 100 PCs and store up to 1,000 screenshots. Additional licenses cost $15.95 each.

  • Business 250: $2,995 per PC per year. This plan can monitor up to 250 PCs and store up to 1,000 screenshots. Additional licenses cost $11.98 each.

  • Business 500: $3,995 per PC per year. This plan can monitor up to 500 PCs and store up to 2,000 screenshots. Additional licenses cost $7.99 each.

  • Business 1,000: $4,995 per PC per year. This plan can monitor up to 1,000 PCs and store up to 2,000 screenshots. Additional licenses cost $4.99 each.

You can view a free online demo of the software before purchasing. This demo lets you browse sample data and reports to get a feel for the software.

SentryPC is straightforward monitoring software. After you install the software on the devices you want to monitor, you can view the tracking data from any device with web access. You can track employees' activity, such as when they log in and out each day, what they download on their devices, when they change or reset passwords, when they enable or disable two-factor authentication, and when they install and uninstall applications. For each of these events, the software logs the activity details, the associated IP address, and the timestamp.

With SentryPC, you can set maximum employee hours and track employee behavior like the websites and applications they use, the programs they access, games they play, and their keystrokes. You can take screenshots of user activity as well. Windows devices can record even more actions, like file activity, chats, portable drive usage and print jobs.

This monitoring software allows extensive content filters. You can set restrictions on certain apps, websites, games, chats and keywords for each employee. You can block or allow these activities as needed, and you'll receive an alert when an employee tries to access a blocked activity. If you need assistance with SentryPC, you can contact customer support by online inquiry.

Read SentryPC Review

Hubstaff: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Productivity

Hubstaff tracks activity rates based on mouse and keyboard usage.
Paid plans offer access to unlimited screenshots.
Hubstaff does not log keystrokes or track files and print jobs.

Hubstaff is our choice as the best monitoring software for employee productivity management. It can be hard to know how productive every single employee is, especially remote workers. To alleviate this problem, Hubstaff has noninvasive features that allow you to accurately track employee time and user activity, as well as to improve your team's overall productivity.

Editor's score: 8.4/10

Hubstaff is flexible software – it can support various industries, devices, and worker types (e.g., in-office employees, remote workers, freelancers and field service workers). You can rest assured that Hubstaff is compatible with your employees' devices, as it supports Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome, iOS and Android devices.

Hubstaff has a free plan and three affordable paid plans, making it a viable option for businesses of all sizes. All paid plans have a two-user minimum, and you can test out the software risk-free with a 14-day free trial and a 60-day money-back guarantee. You can cancel, upgrade or downgrade your software plan at any time.

  • Free plan: $0. This plan is available for one user and has basic features like time and activity tracking, limited screenshots, and limited payment capabilities.

  • Basic plan: $7 per user, per month. This plan has everything in the Free plan plus unlimited screenshots, one integration, individual user settings and 24-hour support.

  • Premium plan: $10 per user, per month. This plan includes everything in the Basic plan plus tracking features for URL and application usage, mobile GPS, and vehicle fleets. You can manage employee hours with features like scheduling and attendance, time-off requests and approvals, timesheet approvals, weekly maximum hour settings (with alerts when an employee is nearing overtime), and automatic discard of idle time. You have access to online invoicing payroll, the ability to pay team members for their work, client and project budgets, expense tracking, and unlimited integration options.

  • Enterprise plan: $20 per user, per month. This plan has everything in the Premium plan plus VIP customer support, concierge account setup, unlimited job sites and higher public API limits.

Hubstaff focuses on tracking employee time and improving productivity (while maintaining employee privacy). It uses mouse and keyboard activity levels to gauge how active your employees are; instead of tracking the exact information they type (keylogging), Hubstaff assigns a "true" or "false" value to the activity to indicate productivity. It can take screenshots at regular intervals, but employees can delete screenshots that contain sensitive information (e.g., banking information or medical details). 

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BambooHR: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Performance Management

This is a complete HR software solution that offers performance management add-on features.
BambooHR has a mobile app with employee self-service features.
The software does not log keystrokes or block applications.

BambooHR is cloud-based HR software that can be used for employee performance management. It is not traditional employee monitoring software; instead, it is a comprehensive HR solution with various features to help small businesses hire and onboard employees, manage employee performance, track employee hours, and run payroll. BambooHR has two paid plans (Essentials and Advantage) with a seven-day free trial and no cancellation fees. BambooHR plans are charged on a per-employee basis with month-to-month agreements. There are add-on capabilities for payroll, time tracking and performance management.

Editor's score: 7.4/10

BambooHR's software is intuitive and easy to use. It works on desktop and mobile devices. For more flexibility, employees can access self-service capabilities with the mobile app. For example, they can access the software with single sign-on, manage their time off, view company calendars, and access employee directories and organization charts. If you have questions or issues with the software, you can easily connect with a support representative by phone, email or web chat.  

The Essentials and Advantage plans both include standard HR features to help you manage your team, such as employee records, benefits tracking, workflows and approvals, document storage, reporting, and email alerts. Businesses looking for software that can also help with hiring and onboarding will want the Advantage plan, as it has extra components like an applicant tracking system, onboarding and offboarding features, e-signature capabilities, audit trails, training tracking (for compliance), and integrations. It also gives you access to an employee satisfaction report (the Employee Net Promoter Score, or eNPS), which is great for identifying employee engagement and opportunities for improvement.  

If you want to access the full scope of BambooHR's performance management capabilities, you will want to add on the Performance Management plan. This lets you create, monitor and collaborate on each employee's individual goals. Your staff can use peer feedback tools to identify strengths and weaknesses and to conduct short, objective self-evaluations to reflect on their performance.

BambooHR also offers employee and company performance reports, so you can get a holistic view of performance and engagement at every level. If you need payroll and time-tracking capabilities, you can add on the TRAXPayroll plan (which includes full-service tax filing, comprehensive reporting, and data security assistance) and the Time Tracking plan (which offers functions for daily time entries, timesheets, overtime calculations and automatic reminders).

Read BambooHR Review

Controlio: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Video Recording

Controlio offers real-time surveillance and continuous screen recording.
The software allows you to calculate productivity scores.
Controlio only monitors PC devices.

Controlio, by EfficientLab, offers cloud-based and on-premises employee monitoring software that tracks and records employees' PC activity. Smaller businesses are typically better suited for the cloud option, whereas larger organizations can choose between on-premises and AWS cloud options.

Editor's score: 7.7/10

The cloud plan has a low monthly fee of $7.99 per user, or you can save money with an annual fee of $79.90 per user. If you want to test out the Controlio software risk-free, the company offers a 14-day free trial for up to three users.

Controlio is easy to implement and access. All it requires is a one-time software installation on the PC you want to track, and then you can view that PC's activity from any device. Since the data is stored in the cloud, you can view activity from the web-based dashboard, wherever you are. This is ideal for managers who need to check in on employee behavior away from the office. Controlio lets you create individual monitoring profiles, so you can see an employee's entire activity in one organized location. You can use Controlio in stealth and tray icon modes, giving you further control over how you monitor employees.

One of Controlio's best features is its ability to track screen activity. Admins and managers can gain firsthand insight into employee behavior with screenshots and video screen recording. Controlio lets you watch employee screen activity in real time. If you want to review past activity, you can watch previously recorded video footage of an employee's computer behavior as well. Screenshots and video recordings of computer activity not only give you an idea of how your employees are spending their time, but can also help protect your business from liability for a problematic incident. The software also offers keylogging, in case you need further visibility into employee activity.

Controlio has all the standard features you need to safely monitor your staff. You can track employee attendance, monitor web and application usage, store up to six months of data (unlimited storage for the on-premises and AWS cloud plans), record file usage, and view productivity scores. It also allows you to set web filters so employees don't access unproductive or risky websites, and you can set behavior rules and alerts for when an employee attempts an unacceptable behavior.

Before you sign up for Controlio's free trial, you can view an online demo of the software. This will give you more insight into how the product works. If you have questions about the software, you can access technical support by phone, email or live chat.

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Veriato: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Enterprise

The software has insider threat detection capabilities.
Volume discounts are available, which can cut down on the cost for large businesses.
Veriato's employee monitoring software can be complex to learn.

Veriato is comprehensive employee monitoring and insider threat detection software for businesses with Mac, PC and Android devices. The advanced capabilities of the software are especially useful for large enterprises that want complete insight into employee behavior. For example, it helps you track workplace productivity, detect insider threats, conduct employee and forensic investigations, maintain legal compliance, and prevent data loss.

Editor's score: 8.6/10

Veriato has three employee monitoring plans – Cerebral, Vision and Investigator. The plans vary in hosting method (cloud or on-premises), the target size of business (small, midsize or large), and features (employee monitoring and insider threat detection). The Cerebral plan offers the most features and greatest flexibility. Pricing varies as well, so you will need to contact a Veriato representative for a custom quote. Veriato caters to larger organizations by offering discounts as endpoints scale up. You can try out the software with a free trial.  

Veriato is somewhat complex to learn, since it has a lot of monitoring features and capabilities. You can track user activity and status for both in-office and remote workers, including document and network activities. You can monitor employee behavior like the applications they use, the websites and browsers they search, and the emails they send. If you're looking to improve employee productivity, you can use features like productivity scoring, reporting and alerts. Veriato also offers employee disengagement analysis, which can help you determine how engaged your staff is.

If there is harmful or unproductive content that you don't want employees to access, you can block specific URLs and filter which websites are accessible. Some features that can be especially beneficial if an inside threat occurs are the ability to record screenshots and log employee keystrokes; however, you should use these surveillance features carefully. Additional insider threat detection features include risk scoring, artificial intelligence, user and entity behavior analytics, and printing and USB device usage detection. Veriato offers a variety of helpful security alerts for anomalies, events, policy violations, specific keywords and compliance.

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Work Examiner: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Perpetual Licensing

Work Examiner charges a one-time licensing fee rather than monthly fees.
Perpetual licenses include a year of support and updates.
Work Examiner only monitors Windows devices.

Work Examiner, by EfficientLab, is on-premises employee monitoring software for Windows devices. Instead of selling the software as a monthly subscription, Work Examiner charges a one-time licensing fee (plus support and update fees) for a perpetual license. It has two software plans – Standard and Professional. Work Examiner offers a 30-day free trial for up to five clients, which is a much longer trial period than most competitors offer. This gives you plenty of time to evaluate whether the software will meet your monitoring needs.

Editor's score: 7.8/10

Standard Plan

This plan is best suited for small businesses. It includes essential features like website and application reporting, screenshot recording, and keystroke logging. It can monitor your employees' searches, file usage, emails, chats and IMs, downloads and uploads, and print jobs. You can also use it to block the use of USB devices, filter websites and applications, and schedule reports.

Fees for this plan are as follows:

  • 1 or 2 users – $60 per license
  • 3 to 24 users – $45 per license
  • 25 to 49 users – $40 per license
  • 50 to 99 users – $30 per license
  • 100 to 149 users – $25 per license
  • 150 or more users – custom quote

Professional Plan

This plan is best suited for midsize and large businesses. It offers unlimited remote console access and real-time monitoring. You can record employee keystrokes and screenshots to get a firsthand look at your employees' activity.

You can track websites they visit, applications they use, their searches, files they use, instant messages and web chats, printing activity, emails, and downloads and uploads. You can also secure your network by blocking USB activity and filtering potentially harmful apps or websites. This plan includes scheduled reports, active directory integration and multiple login capabilities.

These are the fees for this plan:

  • 1 to 19 users – $60 per license
  • 20 to 49 users – $45 per license
  • 50 to 99 users – $43 per license
  • 100 to 199 users – $40 per license
  • 200 to 299 users – $37 per license
  • 300 or more users – custom quote

Work Examiner allows you to record multiple screen displays. You can also receive notifications of certain employee activities and create a custom schedule to export reports.

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Workpuls: Best Employee Monitoring Software for Employee Privacy

You can use Workpuls in visible or stealth mode.
Workpuls includes two-factor authentication.
Only enterprise accounts offer 24/7 phone support.

Workpuls is an ideal monitoring solution for employers who want to track their employees' activity while retaining employee privacy. It caters to a variety of industries, including architecture, insurance, healthcare, call centers, law firms, virtual assistants and data entry. It can support office employees, remote workers and even large enterprises.

Editor's score: 7.6/10

Since Workpuls has both a visible and a stealth mode, you can use it to monitor company- and employee-owned Mac and Windows devices. The software runs in visible mode on employee-owned devices, meaning the employee clocks in and out to run it. On company-owned devices, you have the choice between stealth mode (the software runs invisibly in the background) and visible mode. The visible mode gives employees more control over when they are monitored, which can improve employee privacy.

Workpuls' employee monitoring software can be deployed in the cloud or on-premises, depending on the plan. Its standard employee monitoring plan costs $4.80 per employee, per month (if you pay annually) or $6 per employee, per month (if you pay monthly). If you are looking for a large enterprise account, you can contact a Workpuls representative for a custom quote.

Workpuls also offers monthly and annual time-tracking plans ($6.40 to $8 per employee, per month) and automatic time-mapping plans ($12 to $15 per employee, per month). You can add on features like second-by-second raw data, manual screenshots, higher screenshot limits and alerts. Workpuls offers a seven-day free trial.

Workpuls has standard features like real-time activity monitoring, productivity tracking, and app and website monitoring. These features are great for ensuring your staff is on task and productive. You can also track employee time and attendance with its timekeeping features. If needed, you can access manual time entries. The software can take up to 30 screenshots per hour, which can be helpful to review if you run into an issue with employee behavior. However, if your priority is employee privacy, make sure your staff knows you intend to take screenshots so you don't accidentally capture private data like employees' banking information or medical documents.

Every Workpuls account includes two-factor authentication, an API and live support. Enterprise accounts can also include features like on-premises deployment, role-based access, audit logs and dedicated account managers.

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How Much Does Employee Monitoring Software Cost?

Pricing for employee monitoring solutions depends on the features you need and how many employees you have. For instance, a very small business that needs basic features and has one or two employees may be able to use a free option, whereas businesses that need top-shelf features may pay up to $150 per user per year. On average, however, you can expect to pay $40 to $60 per user per year.   

Pricing is usually calculated on a per-user basis, is billed either monthly or annually, and includes the software, updates, and tech support. Some vendors charge a one-time licensing fee, and then charge for annual software updates and support plans. 

When you're comparing pricing, here are four factors you need to look for so you aren't surprised when you get the bill. 

  1. User minimums: Some companies allow you to buy just one or two licenses, but some require a minimum of five or 10.
  2. Add-on features: If you want specific advanced features, such as geolocation tracking, you may have to pay extra for them.
  3. Extra fees: Additional fees aren't common, but it's important to look for them before you sign up so you know exactly what costs you're agreeing to. Check for setup fees – which may be hundreds of dollars – and IP renewal fees.
  4. Contract requirement: Many employee monitoring software providers offer month-to-month plans, and some offer a discount if you pay annually. As with any service, you should find out if you have to sign a contract. If that's the case, ask for a copy of the contract and review it, paying particular attention to the term length and the cancellation procedure. 

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: Employee monitoring software can be billed monthly or annually, and it ranges from free to hundreds of dollars per employee per year.

What Features Should Employee Monitoring Software Have?

Employee monitoring software can have many features, and the ones you need depend on how you want to monitor your employees. 

Consider your reasons for wanting to monitor your employees. Do you want to make sure they aren't surfing the internet and scrolling through Facebook when they're on the clock? Do you worry about confidential information or trade secrets leaking? Are you looking for a way to monitor productivity? You also need to decide if you'll be actively using the software or if you need it to send you notifications when it detects certain actions. 

Here are some key monitoring features to look for: 

  • Content blocking. There are obviously some types of websites your employees shouldn't visit during working hours – or even at all when they're using work-issued computers and internet access – and this feature allows you to block those types of websites as well as individual URLs. Some software allows you to set time limits for certain sites or designate times when blocks are lifted, such as if you allow your employees to visit social media or shopping sites on lunch breaks. Others allow you to set access permissions by individual or user group.

  • App and website tracking. This feature shows you which applications your employees use – such as Word or Excel – and the URLs of the websites they visit. It also shows you how much time they spend on them.

  • Keylogging. With this feature, you can see every keystroke your employees make, whether it's in emails, instant messages, Word documents or online.

  • Screenshots, video or live feed of monitors. Want to see what your employees are working on? Most employee monitoring solutions take random screenshots of employee monitors (and many support multiple screens). Some record video of monitored activity, and some even give you a live view.

TipTip: Monitoring features like keylogging and screenshots can land you in hot water if you accidentally capture an employee's private information (e.g., medical records or bank numbers). To protect your business, establish a policy with your employees that there should be zero expectation of privacy on company devices.

  • USB and print monitoring. If you're worried about data leaks, these are must-have features. You'll receive an alert if the software detects that a thumb drive or portable hard drive has been inserted into a company computer. Print monitoring means that the software tracks the files that have been printed from each computer.

  • Productivity tracking. There are various ways to track employee productivity. For instance, some software tracks productivity by detecting keyboard and mouse activity. Others require employees to track their work time against tasks or client projects.

  • Mobile apps. If you travel or have employees working at nonstandard times, it's convenient for the software to have a mobile app that you can use to access the software and receive alerts. Some apps are platform-specific, however, so make sure the software is compatible with your phone if this feature is important to you.

What Are the Benefits of Employee Monitoring Software?

Employee monitoring software offers several potential benefits to your business.

Employee Productivity

Software monitoring features like keystroke logging, mouse activity tracking and webcam recording can show you how active your employees are on their work computers. Is their device idle for long periods, or are they actively engaging in work activity throughout the day? Although the specific employee activity monitoring features vary by software, it can be useful to have some idea of which employees are working when they say they are. 

Employee Engagement and Attendance

Software monitoring features like website tracking, content filtering and screen capture can provide insight as to what content your employees are engaging with, including which websites and applications they spend most of their time on. Are they staying engaged with work-related websites, or are they getting distracted watching YouTube videos all day? You might even notice an employee is spending their day filling out job applications. With employee monitoring software, you can see (and block) the websites your employees use and discuss any performance or engagement issues with those who are using company devices improperly. 

Company Security

Software monitoring can help with security and legal disputes as well. If you've recorded and archived employee behavior, it could help you back up a claim if an employee files a complaint against the company or a co-worker. Managing website permissions and monitoring USB usage and print jobs can help you prevent leaks of confidential data. Employees will be restricted from viewing malicious websites or behaving maliciously themselves. 

If you want to secure your entire network (instead of tracking individual behavior), you can use network monitoring. This software allows you to track the functionality of all network components (e.g., firewalls, routers and servers) to reduce or even eliminate network downtime.

Employee Monitoring FAQs

What is employee monitoring software?

Employee monitoring software is a cloud-based or on-premises solution that tracks and records employees' computer behavior. This software shows business owners and managers how employees use their company computers or other work devices. For example, it can monitor the websites they visit and the applications they use, track their work hours, block harmful or unproductive websites and apps, and even record events as they occur on the screen. Employee monitoring software is commonly used to improve productivity, employee engagement and company security.

How does employee monitoring software improve a remote workforce?

Remote work presents certain challenges for employees and managers, and employee monitoring software can alleviate some of them – specifically in terms of attendance, productivity and security. When employees are in the office, a manager can easily take a stroll to get an idea of who is at work and what they are working on. Employee monitoring software gives managers a way to do this remotely, and it holds employees accountable for working when they say they are.

Working from home comes with a variety of distractions that aren't as present at the office (child care, housework, errands, etc.), but not all employees will admit they're having trouble focusing. Employee monitoring software can show you who is being productive and who needs extra guidance or assistance. It can also inform you on what hours of the day work best for your team and what technology they need to be productive.

A remote workforce also brings potential security threats to your business. If an employee is accessing company information from an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection or using their company-owned device to access harmful content, it can open up your company to security breaches. Monitoring software can help you block harmful content and identify potentially high-risk remote employees.

Should you tell employees they are being monitored?

Whether you tell your employees they are being monitored is often up to your own discretion. Some states have limitations and requirements regarding this, but there are no current federal laws that require you to tell your employees if they are being monitored. Either way, it is usually a good idea to tell them. Getting employees on board with the software often has better results.

For example, if the purpose of your monitoring software is to improve employee productivity, explain that – your team is likely to work harder if they know their actions are being tracked and reviewed. This is also a good opportunity to discuss acceptable and unacceptable use of company devices, potentially reducing the likelihood of harmful or unproductive activities.

What to Expect in 2021

When many businesses shifted their teams to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, employers with newly remote teams sought to ensure that employees were maintaining their productivity, increasing the demand for employee monitoring software. As more businesses move to a permanently remote or flexible work arrangement in 2021, we can expect this demand to continue increasing.

However, employee monitoring is a sensitive subject, and the rules and regulations vary from state to state. The activity you can monitor often depends on whether your company or the employee owns the computer they use for work, whether employees work onsite or remotely, and what information you are trying to capture. You must know your state's laws – and whether any new legislation or legal proceedings are likely in your state in 2021 – to ensure your implementation of employee monitoring software doesn't trigger a lawsuit. 

Federal law is relatively lenient, but many states are beginning to restrict the types of data employers can collect. Some states, like Delaware and Connecticut, require companies to notify employees when they are monitoring email or web activity. Others, including Colorado and Tennessee, maintain additional protections for public employees. Some states also regulate what kinds of data companies collect; email communications might be OK, for example, but the capture of biometric data requires the employee's knowledge and consent. 

Further complicating the issue is the fact that many employees bring their own devices to work. Federally, employers have a great deal of latitude to monitor their own devices operating on their own network. But what if freelance or remote employees use their own devices? This case is a little less clear, and experts recommend the cautious crafting of a policy that requires employees to consent to limited data capture and monitoring (with explicit mentions of which data would be captured and for what business purposes). If someone doesn't consent to this policy for their own computer, the policy should require that user to work on a company-owned device instead.

Our Previous Winners

Business News Daily strives to find the best products and services for your small business. We invest hours into identifying and researching the best products and services so you feel confident about our recommendations.

We revisit our categories each year, evaluating new changes in the industry and new companies. Our process involves revisiting our previous best picks to determine if they are still the best in their category.

In addition to our current recommendations, here are the companies we previously selected as best picks:

Best for Internet Management: SoftActivity Monitor 

Best for Content Filtering: ContentProtect

Our Methodology

 

Locating the Best Services

To begin our research, we asked small business owners about the software they use and would recommend to others. We also considered the companies on our current vendor list, those that had asked us to review them, and other vendors we learned about as we researched this topic, bringing our initial contender list to 29 companies.

Choosing the Best Services

With this initial list in hand, we combed through company websites, customer reviews and other online review publications before narrowing the list of candidates down to 14. We eliminated companies that have very poor reviews, don't post their pricing online, haven't recently updated their software, or failed to meet other criteria.

Researching Each Service

After browsing websites and reviews, we evaluated the remaining companies on more detailed criteria to narrow the list down further. We downloaded free trial software where available and reviewed video tutorials and training materials to determine how the software performs and what features are available. Our considerations included the software's ease of use, pricing, activity monitoring features and availability of technical support.

Our Best Picks

After reviewing all these factors, we selected the top 10 employee monitoring software solutions based on use case. We identified what features users were looking for and matched those needs with what each business did best to serve those needs.

Skye Schooley
Skye Schooley
Business News Daily 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: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
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