What is Employee Monitoring?

Written by Cloudfish

April 22, 2020

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Employee monitoring allows a business to track employee activities and monitor worker engagement with workplace related tasks. A business using employee monitoring on a computer can measure productivity, track attendance, ensure security and collect proof of hours worked.
Tools like modern employee monitoring software are a new implementation, but the practice itself has been around for a long time. In fact, the first timesheet was invented in 1888 (and would lead to the tech behemoth we know as IBM!). Now, we can track not just how much time people spend at work, but how productive they are, monitor internet usage, which applications they use most, what tasks they struggle with, when they work best, and more.
Thanks to modern technology, companies can monitor almost 100 percent of employee activity and communication, including:
  • Internet and app usage
  • Email
  • Computer screen recording
  • Phone use
  • Video/audio surveillance
  • GPS tracking by vehicle
  • Location tracking by access badge
This data transforms the decision-making process. You can determine everything from appropriate salary, rates, and product prices, to optimal team size, tool-kit, and work process. Not to mention, if there’s anything you should know about a specific employee (such as, Jane has gotten much less efficient in the past month, or Joe has really accelerated his work rate lately), you’ll know objectively—not intuitively.
Despite all these benefits, employee monitoring is a contentious topic. In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know before implementing it.
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In this guide, you can explore current employee monitoring practices and tools that make workplaces more efficient and teams more productive. Continue reading or choose the chapter that’s most relevant to you.

Chapter 1

Types of Employee Monitoring Systems

Employee monitoring comes in all shapes and sizes. Check out the most common forms (including some you might not expect).

Internet usage

Around two-thirds of businesses monitor their employees’ Internet use, so if you adopt this system, you’ll be in good company.
Obviously, it can be helpful to use an internet monitor to see which URLs your team members or freelancers open; for example, if they’re spending most of their time browsing online shopping sites, you can be reasonably certain they’re not doing their work.
But some jobs make this type of monitoring problematic. Say you’ve hired a social media manager—if you see she’s always visiting Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, that shouldn’t raise any red flags. But you’ll still have no idea whether she’s being productive.
With an app like Hubstaff, you can tie employee tasks or projects to their Internet time, which gives you a much better sense of what someone’s doing online.
URL-blocking also falls under this category. Many employers will restrict their employees from visiting websites with unquestionably inappropriate content (think: pornography), while others may allow certain “questionable” sites, like Twitter or YouTube, but only for a limited period of time.


You might be surprised to learn 43% of employers monitor employee email. Not only can this help companies anticipate problems before they come up, but it can also be important when settling disputes. To give you an idea, a Massachusetts judge ruled an employer who’d gotten two sexual harassment claims was required to search his employees’ email.
Almost three-fourths of the companies that monitor email use software, while 40% have an individual open and review messages.


If you’ve ever dialed customer service and heard “This message may be recorded for quality assurance,” you’ve been on the other end of an employee-monitored phone call.
Recording your staff’s interactions with clients, users, prospects, or suppliers is helpful for a variety of reasons. Say you look at the latest customer support statistics, and you notice two representatives are getting much higher scores than everyone else. If you can listen to their phone conversations from the past month, you can quickly figure out what they’re doing right so you can ask your other team members to do the same. On the flip side, if someone is getting really poor feedback, listening to his or her old calls will uncover the issue.
However, companies who are solely concerned about phone misuse—rather than quality control—only monitor which numbers employees are calling and how much time they’re spending on the phone.


Only 9% of companies monitor employee voicemails. In the past, before email and chat were so ubiquitous, leaving someone a voicemail was a pretty standard way to communicate. These days, the practice has almost disappeared: Less than one-tenth of the entire American population uses it.


Tracking the location of mobile employees (whether by vehicle, smartphone, or both) has gone way up lately. According to the latest study, which was conducted in 2012, 62% of organizations that have “roaming” workforces keep records of their movement. That’s up from 30% in 2008. Although we don’t have exact numbers, the percentage has no doubt risen in even more in the past four years.


Wait, there’s more? Yup. Any time you’re keeping track of employee activity, you’re conducting “employee monitoring.”
That applies to companies like Buffer, who give their team members activity trackers. Every Buffer hire receives a Jawbone UP wristband. Sleep, exercise, nutritional choices—the wristband tracks it all, and each individual’s results are open to the entire company. This counts as employee monitoring.
Deloitte, the famous consulting firm, recently conducted a pilot program in which each employee got a “smart” ID badge. These badges tracked how often they spoke in meetings, left their desks, and used effective body language. This counts as employee monitoring.
Japanese tech company Hitachi developed a similar badge-like device for tracking employee happiness, based on “distinct physical movements.” With the data, Hitachi could figure out which internal teams were the happiest and why. This counts as employee monitoring.
As you can see, employee monitoring isn’t automatically invasive or Big-Brother-ish.

Chapter 2

The Pros of Employee Monitoring

Entrepreneurs, executives, and team leaders can reap a lot of rewards from employee monitoring software. Let’s dive into the most common benefits.


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