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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Remote Employee Tracking

Is employee monitoring software a good idea?

Barrett Dilger

Employee Tracking Review

The world took a dramatic shift with the pandemic, and ever since managing of employees has changed. As employees shifted in how they work, business owners and managers have had to shift equally as much.

The results that surprised most is how much benefit was found in work-from-home environments. For the company, remote work is a cost savings. For employees, their morale and productivity are higher.

It’s a win-win scenario, which is why remote and hybrid work is here to stay.

A couple of statistics regarding this new work environment:

16% of all companies worldwide are completely remote.

48% of employees kept working remotely, at least some of the time, after COVID-19       

74% of US companies currently, or plan to use, a hybrid work model.

It’s clear that there are benefits to this new working environment, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its challenges as well.


Cybersecurity is always important, but the nuance changes when employees are remote. Workflow best practices become very important to prevent data sprawl and keep all files and data organized and safe. Then, of course, there are device policies. There’s a difference between providing all the employee hardware and a BYOD solution.

Mostly though, the soft costs come down to employee relations and communication.  The biggest challenge for remote employees is keeping connected and interacting with the team. The biggest challenge for managers is ensuring employees are doing what they should be.

The latter challenge is why there has been a big rise in employee monitoring tools. Software to monitor employees is nothing new, but the focus on it has become exponentially increased in the past few years.

I wrote about this topic and why managers need to change their style. This is a second look at the subject to see the pros and cons of employee monitoring software and inform you so you can decide what is best for your business.

Employee Monitoring Software

If you aren’t already in the know, employee monitoring software is exactly what it sounds like. It monitors the activity of employees on company devices and networks. Tracking can be visible to the employees or hidden without their knowledge. There is no federal law in the US that requires employees to be informed they are being monitored.

The types of things tracked include websites accessed, emails, instant messages, virtual meeting time, keystrokes, mouse activity, screenshots of the workstation, and applications used. Some tools even track the video and sounds of the employees.

The concern behind monitoring employees in this fashion is productivity theft. This is the practice of employees using company resources (including work hours) for non-work-related activities. Those activities result in lost productivity for the company and negatively affect its bottom line.

Some popular options (not recommendations or referrals) would be:

  • Time Doctor (tracks tasks, websites, and apps)
  • DeskTime (time tracker)
  • ActivTrak (cloud-based keyboard and mouse tracking)
  • Hubstaff (GPS tracking and screenshots)
  • InterGuard (email, messaging, and chat tracking)

THE GOOD of Monitoring Software

Being able to keep employee productivity high is the biggest pro for monitoring tools.  This is practical in a number of ways.

The most obvious is it reduces non-work activities. The biggest worry of employers is that their remote employees will waste time and not be productive. They shouldn’t be spending their time on social media or watching videos when they should be working, right? 81% of companies that have implemented an employee monitoring solution have seen an increase in productivity.

It allows managers to see how their team spends their day. You can see how employees prioritize time and tasks. They most likely aren’t tracking their own time per task, so this allows managers to get a good read on how long things take and helps with future projections.

THE BAD of Monitoring Software

There are some clear benefits of monitoring tools, but there are also some clear drawbacks.

Most would say the biggest deficit is in morale. When monitoring is introduced, employee reactions become negative. They are filled with feelings of hurt, distrust, betrayal, and feel they are treated as a number instead of a person. All of these things make their company loyalty drop and only want to meet the bare minimum of requirements.

Is the tradeoff employee morale for greater productivity and good reporting of those metrics? Not necessarily. It depends on what you are tracking. Is the activity of a mouse and keyboard really a proper representation of the productivity of an employee?

I literally just paused for a few minutes thinking about how I was going to convey this next bit of information. That fact just became my example. You would expect gauging keyboard activity to somebody writing a blog post to be a good measurement. Except I just stopped to think. That’s a few minutes of “inactivity” as far as a report sees it. However, I was fully engaged and active.

That information could easily be falsely interpreted as nonproductive by a manager reading a report. To interpret the report properly, it requires some nuance beyond the black and white. That nuance will come from interaction with the manager.

Here’s the kicker. If the manager is engaged with their team, then they get to know their team and habits. How well they do at certain tasks, how driven they are, how competitive, or even how lazy. If they know that, then why do they need a report of time in meetings, time typing, and screenshots of them working? Really, they don’t.

THE UGLY of Monitoring Software

Wait, the bad wasn’t bad enough? It gets ugly? Yes. It gets worse.

I’ve said the good and I’ve said the bad. What does that end up looking like in the real world?

Here’s the thing, you will weed out some bad employees by using tracking tools. No doubt about it. But what is the cost to your company culture? It’s a huge cost.

Monitoring tools are surveillance tools. Surveillance makes people feel untrusted. When they are untrusted, they are unappreciated. When they are unappreciated, they are unmotivated. When they are unmotivated, they will not do their best work. 

Simply put, employee monitoring tools are used in an effort to make employees more productive. Except they kill creativity and devotion, producing the opposite result.

Your company culture will become one of mediocrity at best. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a business owner want the worst for their company, yet this decision seems to be chased because of some fairytale promise of easy management and perfectly performing employees.

The Wrap Up

As I close and recap my thoughts on this, I should be telling you how much you SHOULD implement employee software monitoring. We’re an IT company, we can set it up for you. Give us a call!

Yeah, no. The more I deal with these the more I want to stay away from them. Of course, every business is different. As a caveat, I can’t say that there is a one size fits all solution in either direction.  With broad-stroke generalizations though, I think it is better for our clients to NOT implement employee monitoring. I think it is better for their business long term, and I want them to be successful. 

Ok now for my plug. That is why Xentric is a great partner. We don’t just want to sell you stuff we sell. We want to provide you solutions you need, so you can be productive and grow. Our customer wins are our wins. We love helping people reach their goals.

If you do need any assistance with your IT solutions, we’d be happy to help you succeed too. Schedule a 15 minute call on our live calendar for a free consultation.