Employee monitoring software – spying or a productivity tool?

Business 30th October 2020

Is it ethical to check if your workers are shirkers?

Recently we looked at how remote working affects employees’ efficiency. The next question is – ‘who knows how well we’re working?’ We might have an idea – but what about our line managers and our bosses?

Who’s checking up on the hours we put in – how many breaks we take and for how long – how many non-work websites we’re visiting? Today, we’ll look at staff tracking software – how it works and what employers and employees think of it.

Employee monitoring software – what does it claim to achieve?

The main boast of employee monitoring is that it’s a great way to maintain productivity, establish accountability and keep track of working hours.

However, it only works when used properly.

Employee monitoring can also lead to privacy issues, lowered employee morale and potential legal complications. So read on … and take care!

Employee Monitoring – the pros

1. Evidence of working patterns and habits

Remote working throws up all kinds of employee challenges –

– When exactly do they clock on and clock off?

– During the working day, are they actually doing the job you’re paying them to do or are they shopping on Amazon or scouring YouTube?

– How much time are they dedicating to each task?

Effective employee monitoring tools can give employers a reliable record of each of the above.

There are plusses for your staff too.

If the need arises, it will be easy for them to explain and justify how they spend their time. As their employer, you’ll be able to verify their points.

2. You can track productivity rates

Employee monitoring software will give you daily and weekly reports highlighting –

– how many hours your employees are working

– which applications they’re using

– which websites they’re visiting

– which tasks they’re working on

These reports will enable you to identify productivity weaknesses and work on improvements. Also, of course, your employees will see the reports, enabling them to self-manage improvements and correct time-wasting behaviour.

Whether your people work remotely or on-site, employee monitoring software will help you to

– cut costs

– identify time wasters

– increase productivity

3. Establishing a positive standard for your people

Onboarding is the time to define what online activities are allowed during work hours. Of course, you may also use firewalls to block certain websites and apps.

However, when it comes to remote employees, it’s difficult to justify blocking certain websites; especially if you aren’t providing a separate company computer.

But of course – with the help of an employee monitoring system, you can check which apps and websites your people are using during your time.

In this way, you can identify what is and isn’t appropriate and set better standards of behaviour.

4. It highlights who’s trustworthy … and who might not be

Employee monitoring software can help an employer verify whos’ pulling their weight and who isn’t.

When you know which are in the former group, you can reward them, as well as use them as examples to be followed. Those who aren’t working to your company standards might be subjected to training or disciplinary procedures.

Of course, it might be that an employee might not necessarily be dishonest or lazy – merely struggling to cope in some way. You’ll then be able to support them and get them back on the productivity track.

5. Helping to avoid conflict

Imagine you entered into a contract with a freelancer to deliver a project. They quote by the hour, and it transpires that the invoice you receive is way over what you’d anticipated. If it was part of your agreement that the freelancer’s hours were monitored, then you’d know whether they had spent the hours working on your project that they claimed to have spent.

Employee monitoring – the cons and how to address them

1. Privacy Concerns

Employers have been known to monitor their employees without their knowledge. This is unwise and unfair and of questionable legality. By effectively spying on your staff, you’re in danger of breaking the law and undermining all trust between you and your employees.

Only monitor your employees if you have their permission via a properly prepared agreement.

For it to be effective, you want your monitoring software to be seen as a productivity tool – not a Big Brother type spying mechanism.

2. Potential Trust Breakdowns

There’s always a danger that introducing staff monitoring software will undermine trust. The way to avoid this lies in communication – how you present the software to your people.

Inform them that this is now company policy. It isn’t personal or targeted at anyone in particular. Everyone in your organisation, including at executive level, will be using it.

Present the employee monitoring software as a productivity tool that protects both the company and the employee.

Demonstrate that your monitoring tool is nothing like video surveillance or spying on them. Instead, it will:

– boost productivity

– establish accountability

– help build more efficient schedules

– enhance the billing process


Here at Gravitas HR, we understand employee psychology – what makes people tick and how best to provide the support they need. Talk to us about employee monitoring software. We’ll be your sounding board and help you towards making right decision for your business and your employees.

For straight-talking HR advice – 01604 763494

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