Since the advent of the vastly expanded remote workforce, employers around the world have changed the way their staff goes about maintaining productivity. They've had to shift how their employees operate. Remote work is very much here to stay. Organizations and employees can both benefit from the ‘work from home’ and hybrid work revolution.

Cost savings is a driver for supporting remote work. Employee morale and productivity also can be higher when employers grant this flexibility.

A majority of organizations support some types of remote work. In their article, ‘Remote Work Statistics and How they Influence the Workplace’, Squaretalk shows us these numbers:

16% of companies are completely remote

40% support hybrid office/remote working

44% do not allow employees to work remotely

There are both benefits and downsides to this new environment comprised of a largely remote workforce and hybrid work. Employers worry about the Cybersecurity risks of remote teams – and rightly so. Managers can find it more challenging to make sure employees are doing what they should do.

The remote and hybrid work environment has led to the rise of employee monitoring tools which have been received with mixed reviews from employees.

What does employee monitoring software show?

Simply put, employee monitoring software tracks digital movements to show an employer what workers are doing on their computers. This can include everything from general clock-in clock-out tracking to taking screenshots of an employee’s computer several times per hour.

Tracking tools like Hubstaff track many activities on a person's computer. The information is then sent in a daily or weekly report to the company.

Items that these tools can track are:

Time clock

Keyboard activity


Mouse activity

Websites visited

Screenshots of the desktop

Apps used and how long in use

The most invasive of tools can even track the sounds and video of the employee. This tracking can be visible, so the employee knows about it, or hidden. It depends on the tool used and the ethical considerations of the employer.

This type of monitoring can benefit an organization worried about ‘productivity theft.’ But it can also alienate good employees and torpedo morale and trust. Before you set up this type of system, it’s advisable to consider the pros and cons.

What are the pros and cons of employee monitoring?


It Helps Managers Understand How Employees Spend Their Days

The ability to track time by project is a valuable feature, which helps managers understand where employees are prioritizing their time. Knowing how much time employees spend on a project helps with ROI projections.

Reduces Non-Work Activities During Working Hours

Employers worry that remote employees will waste time. A manager doesn’t want to pay someone only to find out the employee spent half their time watching television or cruising around Facebook. conducted a wide-ranging survey and found that about half of monitored employees spend 3+ hours per day on non-work activities. Employees are less likely to goof off if they know that their boss is monitoring their app usage and general activities.

Monitoring Is an Easy Way to Track Time for Remote Workers

Tracking tools can be convenient for smaller companies that work with fully remote teams. Employees or freelancers can track their time at the click of a button. Employers can put an hour-per-week cap on time. They can also manage payments automatically through the app.


Can Damage Employees' Morale & Productivity

Nobody likes ‘Big Brother’ watching their every move. When monitoring is introduced, many employees feel like they’ve been put in a cage. Morale can plummet, and when morale goes, it takes productivity along with it.

Instead of completely focusing on work, employees’ minds wander through various thoughts like, “If I think about this problem too long, is the tracking going to give me a low productivity score?” Or “What happens when I’m on the phone with a customer and not moving my mouse around? Will the tracking make it look like I’m not working?”

This can cause extra, superfluous motions like unnecessary mouse clicking, changing web pages, opening and closing emails – just to ensure the tracker that the employee is being a good little worker bee.

Some of the logical feelings that employees can have when monitored are:


No longer trusted

Loss of company loyalty


Treated like a number instead of a person

It becomes difficult to believe it when management says, “We’re all in this together as a team”, when the song going through your mind is ‘Under My Thumb’ by The Rolling Stones.

“Activity Monitoring” Does not Equal Productivity

Many of these tracking tools send employees and employers ‘activity reports’ that simply look at keyboard and mouse activity during a specific time.

But what if the employee must solve a workflow issue and needs to use their brain, not their mouse? What if a salesperson is on the phone with a customer, not using their keyboard? Zoom calls bring a similar quandary. If you’re in a Zoom call, your mouse and keyboard aren’t being actively used as they would if you are typing.

The activity report will not include this information. It will simply give a score of ‘X%’ based on keyboard and mouse activity. This is like chastising a construction worker whose ‘smart hammer’ isn’t logging the requisite number of hits – when the worker has actually been laying concrete for the last hour. Employers can easily be led to think a worker was goofing off when they were actually working hard.

Costs Organizations Good Employees

According to, nearly half (47%) of tech employees surveyed stated that they would quit if their boss tracked them. Employers implementing monitoring can alienate good employees and make them feel untrusted. They can also feel unappreciated.

When you demote everyone to a number of keyboard strokes, you constrain creativity. Good employees often stay with companies where they feel appreciated and can grow. Once that’s gone, they’re likely to leave. Also, good employees show proof of their productivity simply by doing an excellent job.

Find a Balance

A few things to think about when finding the right balance between tracking too much or too little are:

What do you really need to track?

Should you treat all employees the same?

What do your employees think about monitoring?

Are you trying to solve a problem that does not exist?

What features are unnecessary that you can turn off?

Is the tool giving you accurate data related to productivity?

In Summation

The wise employer will evaluate employees in ‘real time’ with real criteria. If a worker is maintaining or improving their level of productivity, let them do their job with little or no interference. Don’t rock that boat.

If an employee is lagging behind previous levels of productivity, then perhaps a ‘talk’ is in order as a first move. Beyond that, this employee would be a prime candidate for monitoring.

Much talk is being bandied about concerning ‘Office Culture.’ Activity Monitoring can have a deleterious effect on that.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How does user activity monitoring work?

A:  This monitoring software captures the use of applications and programs on the monitored workstations of employees. These onscreen user activities are maintained in a log, which is accessible to managers to assess workforce analytics. It is wise to consult with your IT services.

Q: What is an example of a software tool that is used for employee monitoring?

A: Hubstaff is generally the best reviewed and most detailed software. Other prominent software names include Insightful, Clockify, ActivTrak, Kickidler, Teramind, Monitask, CleverControl, Vericlock, and ControlUp.

Q: How do I know if someone is tracking my keystrokes?

A:  For a consumers using Windows, check your Task Manager. To open it, press and hold Ctrl + Alt + Delete and click on Task Manager. Once there, click ‘more details.’ For Mac users, search ‘Activity Monitor’ on your launchpad.

On Macs or PCs, this is where you can manually search the real-time list of events happening on your computer. Look for processes that appear suspicious.

For a company network, these processes might not be available without an admin password.

Q: How do I know if my work is monitoring me?

A: Follow the steps in the previous FAQ. As stated, the evidence of tracking might not be uncovered without an admin password. Your employer is under no obligation to inform you. The courts generally agree that private-sector employees have little expectation of privacy within an employer's workplace or if they work remotely with employer-provided equipment.

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