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The term “employee monitoring” reached new levels of popularity in 2020.
We mean that literally.
As businesses scrambled to start working remotely because of the pandemic, the concept of employee monitoring entered the mainstream.
Managers weren’t able to check on their teams in person anymore. Business owners who had long been skeptical of remote work were creating work from home policies on the fly. Other companies embraced remote work wholeheartedly, telling teams they could work from anywhere permanently.
Across all of these different situations was the need to know what was getting done during the day, and having one central system for tracking progress.
Interest in monitoring grew — as did concerns from employees.
On top of trying to carve out corners of their homes for remote offices, employees were getting used to these new processes and had some questions.
How does this software work?
Is it going to record me through my webcam? (For Hubstaff, the answer is always no.)
Why do we need this?
Even as big proponents of remote work, we can understand the uncertainty. Working as a distributed team has its challenges, including communication and learning how to use new technologies.
We also know that remote work isn’t going anywhere. In a 2020 survey, only 15% of respondents said they intend to go back to the office full-time.
Another estimate claims that 73% of all teams will include remote workers by 2028.
In other words, there is a need for remote work monitoring, especially tools that benefit both employers and employees.
In this guide, we’ll explain the pros and cons of employee monitoring (which is also referred to as proof of work software) for everyone on your team. We’ll also cover the legal considerations, how to choose the right software for your business, how to implement it well, and more.
Let us clear things up — for both team members who are unsure of this type of software and for managers who are considering it.
Employee monitoring is a growing practice in which companies use digital tools to track work, employee performance, and work in progress. Businesses use different monitoring methods to measure productivity, track attendance, assess behavior, ensure security, and collect proof of hours worked. There’s a wide range of what is considered employee monitoring, from proof of work capture to outright surveillance.
Let’s look at the most popular approaches.
Employee monitoring varies greatly depending on the software and the industry you’re in. Different work monitoring tools offer a range of capabilities and data.
These days, most remote employees are familiar with the idea of work being tracked. However, many are opposed to features that go beyond knowing that work is getting done, and cross over into what feels like micromanagement or an invasion of privacy.
A survey by Salary.com revealed 69% of men and 62% of women admit to surfing the internet for personal reasons during work hours.
Being able to see the URLs your team visits while on the clock can be helpful for onboarding new team members or addressing potential productivity concerns.
For example, if an employee is spending a lot of time browsing shopping sites and has failed to respond to a colleague in a timely fashion, they’re likely not doing work.
Of course, some jobs make this type of monitoring challenging. A social media manager, for instance, will visit Facebook as part of their daily tasks. But if you only look at a list of URLs, you still won’t know if they’re being productive.
However, if you notice team members repeatedly missing deadlines or not communicating, you can check apps and URLs and identify if they’re getting stuck. Or you can see if they lack the tools or training they need to get the job done.
There’s also a security reason for gathering this type of data. Employees that are handling sensitive company data or patient information are putting themselves and their company at risk by visiting certain sites.
URL-blocking and web-filtering are higher levels of monitoring for those who need it. Many employers will restrict their employees from visiting websites with wholly inappropriate content (for example, pornography).
Meanwhile, others may allow potentially “questionable” sites, like YouTube, but for a limited period. Some employee monitoring software offers detailed social media monitoring. In these cases, you can see who is logging on to Instagram, how often, and for how long.
The Hawthorne effect claims that “increased observation equals increased productivity.”
Many companies have taken such a long time to offer remote work because they assume that the observer has to be in the same room as the observed. They fear workers will be less productive if the manager can’t see them.
Other managers just want to be able to see work in progress, and know that a team member isn’t going too far down the wrong path. This can be costly, and frustrating for that person, who might have to rework the project once they’ve spent a fair bit of time on it.
Screen capture technology aims to address this. Managers can view screenshots of their teams’ screens while working to ensure everyone is focusing on the right priorities.
However, there’s a huge range of what falls within video and screen capture.
Many tools, like Hubstaff, are only interested in capturing the work done on the device. This is useful for managers and helps cut down on employees having to provide constant updates on their work.
On the other hand are apps that take random web camera images of employees or tools that keep their video on while working.
For instance, Teramind allows for live video feeds of single screens or entire teams.
This level of monitoring crosses over from understanding productivity into serious privacy concerns.
Time tracking features give team members the power to clock in and clock out with the touch of a button. They’re in control of when they’re working, and can stop the timer at any time when they need to take a break.
Employees can record exactly how long they worked each day. And, depending on the tool, how long they worked on a specific project or task.
It’s easy to see what was worked on that day. Managers can use time tracking data to create better estimates and budgets in the future.
Many industries track time for their teams, including agencies, developers, lawyers, and consultants.
A deeper level of monitoring might look like file tracking, transfers, and conversions. And also, the recording of USB and printer access and use. For example, managers can see which employees edited which files, when, and how.
Keyloggers record every keystroke made on a computer in a readable file. The intent is to keep employees focused on work-related tasks.
Yet, they pose a large risk.
First, anyone who reviews the data can read any passwords the employee enters.
Second, employees cannot tell if a keylogger is recording their keystrokes or not. This lack of transparency makes workers nervous and anxious.
Tracking the location of mobile employees is also on the rise. Using the GPS functionality in a company vehicle, work phone or personal device, managers can determine where their employees are at a given time. They can also review historical data, such as the routes taken between customer sites.
Contractors use this form of monitoring so they can see if their crew is on-site and working when they’re scheduled. Companies with field service teams such as landscapers or HVAC technicians use this data to estimate arrival times and to communicate that with clients.
Hubstaff’s GPS time tracking shows you where your team is throughout the workday.
More than half of all employers check employees' emails. This helps companies identify issues before they become problems.
Also, it can be useful when settling disputes. To give you an example, a Massachusetts judge ordered a company to examine the emails of two employees charged with sexual harassment.
Proponents of email monitoring say that it helps identify sensitive data leaving the company or disgruntled employees who are at risk of leaving.
There’s an argument to be made for blocking suspicious emails for data protection, but the benefits of email tracking might not be worth the stress that employees feel about being overly monitored.
Recording staff interactions with clients, users, prospects, or suppliers is helpful for a variety of reasons.
Let’s say you look at the customer support statistics, and two representatives are getting higher scores than everyone else. If you can listen to their phone conversations from the past month, you can figure out what they’re doing right. Then, you can ask your other team members to do the same. Meanwhile, if someone gets poor feedback, you can uncover why by listening to their calls.
Customer support and sales teams are two of the most common departments relying on this practice.
Still, it is not a very effective work monitoring tool. The practice of leaving voicemails has all but died out.
Instant messengers, like Slack, and softphone software, like WhatsApp and Skype, have replaced phone calls, voicemail, and texting because they are faster, more powerful, and cheaper to use.
Remote workers rely on these tools to collaborate, send and receive data, and even socialize. As such, some employee monitoring tools enable managers to track how workers use the software either in real-time or by reviewing recorded information later.
Generally, employers just want to know that data is being shared efficiently and securely. This method can also help settle disputes, such as workplace bullying.
Beyond that, monitoring instant messaging apps isn’t as valuable as some of the other routes mentioned here.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras remain a useful way to monitor work locations, such as offices or construction sites. Beyond encouraging employees to behave and work efficiently, they are a deterrent for thieves.
The remote work equivalent is to watch employees through their webcams via live feeds or frequent photo capture. Again, this is a contentious method. Some employees compare the technology to “spyware” or “Big Brother.”
It has little to do with the actual work and more with having the ability to directly see what people are doing all day.
With proof of work apps, you can cut this cash leak. For example, time tracking tools let you pay people for the time they’ve spent working — not more or less than that.
The workday can be more efficient, too.
The average worker attends 62 meetings a month, but more than a third are unproductive. Work monitoring tools help employees collaborate better. Thus, avoiding the need for yet another meeting.
And as we have mentioned, productivity rises, as well. A recent study reported a 7% increase in profits when employees knew the software they were using provided activity data.
By using behavioral analytics and bio-data, you can track and even predict employee activity.
Japanese tech company Hitachi developed a smart badge-like ID 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.
Amazon has used wristbands that buzz if an employee is reaching for the wrong item.
The idea behind this software is to analyze workers’ use of language to detect changes in mood or attitude.
That said, regular employee surveys and check-ins with direct reports might alert you to the same thing in a less invasive way.
Entrepreneurs, executives, team leaders and employees can all stand to gain something from employee monitoring software.
Let’s dive into the most common benefits so you can decide which method is right for you.
The typical full-time team member is paid for 8 hours of work each day. But on average, eight hours are wasted each week. Inefficient use of time isn’t just slowing down work; it’s costing you money.
However, it can be difficult to know where these inefficiencies are coming from without accurate time tracking.
Let’s look at meetings as an example since they’re an obvious culprit.
In a recent HBR survey, 65% of executives said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Your team likely feels the same way.
It’s common (though unproductive) to invite team members just to listen in. Time tracking apps can show you how much time was spent in meetings over a week or month, and the activity levels (such as mouse and keyboard usage) for each person.
With this data, it’ll be easier to be more targeted with meeting invites. Most of the time, one person can summarize the meeting or next steps and share with the full team afterward.
This way, you can give team members more time for deep work instead of having them tune into a meeting they may or may not need to be a part of.
And that’s just one example.
Having more insight into what your team members are doing lets you catch mistakes before they spiral out of control.
As a team member, this can save you from the frustration of spending hours headed in the wrong direction, only to have to pivot later on.
Maybe you notice one of your employees has started working on a low-priority project, but you really need him to focus his efforts on a more timely or important task.
You can shoot him a quick message to say:
But there’s more to it than that.
As an employee, you have visible proof of how long tasks take. The next time a project manager asks for an hours estimate on a new task, you can give an accurate count based on past work.
This provides you with enough time to complete the job, and allows for a more favorable due date.
At some point in your career, you’ve likely noticed decreased engagement or dissatisfaction among your team members. Maybe you’ve been a team member that’s felt this way.
For many companies, this is a sign to dig deeper and get to the heart of the problem.
Microsoft did this in 2018 after noticing widespread unhappiness within one division that included 700 employees. The employee data on workplace behavior and habits that they gathered changed how the team approached meetings, emails, and employee transfers to other departments.
Mitch Collier, vice president of product management for StayWell explained, "This data collection allows supervisors to better understand areas ... for process improvements, including in areas of added machinery, new software updates or even the addition of new employees.”
"From our experiences, [this] has been a positive effort to protect the health of employees and to find ways to help employees be more productive and effective in their roles."
Beyond these benefits, it’s important to note that monitoring employees doesn’t just identify the lowest performers. It also highlights the highest performers, making it easier for you to assess what’s working and reward them.
It also makes it easier to agree on achievable goals based on each employee’s performance, which boosts their engagement and loyalty.
Hubstaff, for example, sends out automatic achievement badges when team members reach time or productivity milestones. Employees are celebrated and sent virtual high fives that reiterate how much they’re appreciated.
More than three-quarters of the workforce have reported being bullied at work.
Bullying can happen by any means, so monitoring company communications is important. This is especially important as over half of all employees say the bully is their own manager.
Employee monitoring levels the playing field, so employees feel the company culture is fair, and can reference specific examples.
Another benefit of employee monitoring is that it boosts security by ensuring field or mobile teams aren’t in danger.
"If an employee is supposed to be back at a certain time and nobody has heard from them," says Paul Randhawa, senior management analyst at Santa Clara Valley Water District in California, "We can look up on the GPS, see where they’re at and check up on their safety."
This can also increase the security of company assets and data.
Managers tracking emails and instant messages can flag employees sharing passwords without care. You can then arrange for better training or strengthen security protocols if the problem is widespread.
Also, if team members know about the software being used, they are less likely to visit risky websites. This means viruses or malware are less likely to infect your company’s software and data.
As an employee, the chance of accidentally sharing company information or inviting threats is minimized. There’s no need to send tech support that awkward email.
Employee monitoring can have a tremendous impact on your ability to synchronize your teams. If you have access to data from each and every employee, you can get high-level and granular views of what’s happening any time you want.
For example, if you know your graphic designer is taking longer than expected on an assignment, you can give the heads-up to your marketing freelancer. Instead of waiting around, the freelancer can make progress on other tasks.
As an employee, this means you won’t be waiting around for work. Projects are assigned with manageable deadlines and you won’t be asked to get started without having all the pieces in place.
The more you understand each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, the better you can delegate.
Successful delegation fosters collaboration, helps employees grow their skills, makes the business more productive, increases team trust, and lets everyone focus on the bigger picture.
It also makes employees feel valued. In turn, this increases rates of happiness and retention.
None of this will happen if you’re assigning tasks to the wrong people. When you know your employees’ strengths, you can allocate tasks to suit their talents.
Sometimes, that means assigning a task to the person who’s least equipped to handle it, so they improve and can grow in this area. Other times, it means giving projects to the person who can do it in their sleep. You cannot make either decision without great data, which employee monitoring tools provide.
But delegation doesn’t mean giving up all control. Most proof of work software allows you to customize it for your specific needs. You can access the most relevant data without unnecessary distractions.
For employees, this means fewer interruptions and check-ins are needed.
Meetings and regular status updates can take you away from your most important work, which can be detrimental when you’re up against a deadline.
Corey Ciocchetti, associate professor of Business Ethics and Legal Studies at the University of Denver, said, "It is more efficient to monitor employee hours via software as opposed to on paper as it reduces hours inflation and human errors."
With the right employee monitoring tool, you can automate much of your administrative duties like payroll, invoicing, and more.
For example, Hubstaff tracks employee work hours and integrates with payroll, so you can automate timesheets, invoicing, and payments.
You only have to set a team member’s client bill rate (and a separate pay rate for payroll) once. Then every time you need to invoice a client or pay your team, the amounts are calculated based on hours worked and ready to be paid.
Despite the many advantages, there are some drawbacks to employee monitoring.
However, we will explain how you can mitigate these risks both as an employee and employer.
One study confirmed that while employee monitoring improves productivity, some workers consider it an invasion of their privacy and believe it will diminish their morale and motivation.
Anecdotally, you might also hear that this type of software — depending on how invasive it is — can add more stress or make people feel watched. If you’re an employee, you might feel this way when software is introduced without explanation.
This is why it’s important to choose the right type of software: one that’s not overly intrusive and can be customized to your company’s goals.
To overcome any potential risks, first ask yourself if you’ve taken steps to be transparent about how the software works and why you’re using it.
When there’s an air of mystery around company-wide decisions, you run the risk of speculation instead of understanding. Be clear and upfront with your team about what you hope to accomplish.
As an employee, feel comfortable going to your manager if you have questions or ideas. There might be something a manager overlooked or had not considered when trying out new software. Your feedback is helpful for getting the team on board.
Communication and feedback can help anyone within the company avoid burnout, which can be a contributing factor to low morale.
The best proof of work tools give users access to all of their own data so they see everything their manager sees. There’s nothing hidden from them so it’s clear that the intention isn’t to spy.
However, we will explain how you can mitigate these risks both as an employee and employer.
In the U.S., "[for] the most part, private employees have no right to privacy," says Ciocchetti. Many methods of employee monitoring are legal when disclosed. However, since many states have their own laws about what private organizations can and cannot monitor, it’s important to check your state laws or consult a lawyer before you implement a system. For example, some states require you to get consent from your employees before you monitor them. Others require disclosure. Even if it’s not legally required, this is a good practice to follow.
If you’re a private employer with a federal contract that includes record-keeping obligations, or a public company, your employee monitoring rights are restricted.
When it comes to international laws, monitoring and privacy laws also vary from country to country. Depending on the worker’s location, you may need to adjust your policies.
In Canada, for example, employee monitoring is allowed when Canadian privacy statutes are upheld.
Keep in mind that what you’re monitoring also affects how you can do so legally. Let’s take a look at different methods for a better understanding.
In the interest of giving you as much useful information as possible, the rest of this chapter will focus on U.S. legal considerations.
When you own the computers and the network your employees are using, you don’t need to tell them you’re keeping or reading the data. Still, you should always tell your employees what you’re tracking — and why. The next section gets into further details about this.
Employers also have the right to monitor their employees’ personal computers being used within working hours, although you will need to notify your employee and receive their consent to install any essential software.
As the employer, some federal laws may require you to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. For example, the USA Patriot Act.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) protects against the interception of in-transit digital and electronic communications. However, there is an exception for businesses.
Employers have the right to access the communications of an employee on any systems provided by the employer when done in the ordinary course of business. This includes email and instant messaging.
Employee Matters director Natasha Hawker explained, "I think people are under the illusion they can send emails and no one's going to look at them. But the employer can review your emails because it's their company property."
Security cameras are common in physical workspaces and pose no federal legal issues. Yet some states restrict the recording of employees, and cameras that record audio can run afoul of wiretapping/eavesdropping laws.
While many employees consider webcam monitoring too much, it is legal for employers to use this method to observe their workers.
Laws prohibiting people from opening letters delivered by the U.S. Postal Service are restricted to the delivery of the item. In fact, the item is considered delivered when it arrives at the printed destination, not in the hands of the addressee.
Thus, you may open any employee mail if it is addressed to the workplace.
If a call is made on a company-issued phone device/SIM card or during business hours, the employer may listen to and record it.
It’s legal to track employee location if the company owns the mobile device or vehicle. You can track employees using their personal devices and vehicles, as well, but it’s a little more complicated.
To avoid getting into hot water, there are a couple of measures you can take to stay on the safe side.
Step 1: Provide the tracking equipment. There’s always a lower expectation of privacy when an employee is using company property rather than personal devices.
Step 2: Ask for the employee’s consent. Once you’ve gotten approval from the person you’re monitoring, you don’t have to worry so much about legal rights.
Step 3: Don’t monitor non-business activity. Many employees expect a reasonable right to privacy, and giving it to them helps establish trust.
While you can monitor and restrict your employees’ use of social media during business hours, you cannot request to access information that is otherwise unavailable and that is not already in the public domain. For example, private Facebook messages sent or received outside of working hours.
Of course, there is a difference between what employers can do legally and what you should do. It is possible to monitor workstations and track behavior within the confines of the law and still damage trust and morale.
Depending on the laws of the states within which your business operates, you might not have to tell your employees you are monitoring them. We recommend you do either way, however.
First, you can avoid unnecessary legal disputes if you already have permission from your employees to track them.
Second, your employees will consider you to be an open and honest employer. This will encourage a company culture where your employees trust you and are open and honest in return.
If you collect employee data to streamline and improve project work and company processes, you are using your proof of work tools correctly. But if you use them to spy on your workers for the sake of it, then you are being unproductive and potentially harmful.
If you use information about an event that took place outside of work hours to incriminate someone, other employees and perhaps your clients will frown upon it. It is precise because this is unethical that it could hurt your reputation and ability to retain team members.
Just because there are so many ways to streamline work tracking, it doesn’t mean you need to use them all. Consider the following to narrow down your list.
Ask yourself three questions before you test drive any new system.
Will it help our teams be more productive?
Will it help our business avoid liabilities?
Will it help our business spot problems before they develop?
To show you how you’d use these criteria, let’s walk through a hypothetical scenario.
Sarah is the CEO of a design agency. She’s based in New York City, but her five full-time employees work remotely. Sarah also regularly hires freelancers for one-time assignments.
While business is going well, Sarah suspects that some of the freelancers she’s worked with have overcharged her. In addition, she’s wondering if she should raise her rates. Her projects never seem to be completed by the agreed deadlines.
For these reasons, Sarah starts looking at employee monitoring systems. She’s torn between two choices: a time-logging system or a time and activity tracking tool, like Hubstaff.
She asks herself:
Will the time-logging tool improve the business? Assuming no one abuses it, yes.
Will it help me avoid liabilities? Probably not.
Will it help with issue prevention? No.
Then, she asks:
Will Hubstaff improve the business? Yes, and it’s set up to give employees transparency, access, and control.
Will it help me avoid liabilities? Hubstaff makes payments accurate down to the second, so it helps you avoid financial battles.
Will it help with issue prevention? Yes, because if a problem crops up with an employee, whoever manages that person will know immediately. It also enables employees to take control of their own data and set productivity benchmarks for themselves.
As you can see, this three-question framework will transform a seemingly tricky decision into an easier one. You might have other criteria to keep in mind, in which case, you can add to this list.
Of course, you’ll also want to account for the type of team you run.
If your team is all within one office, some of the remote work features like screenshots or activity levels are less crucial. You can typically see if people are getting their work done or not.
If your employees are constantly traveling to meet clients, using a GPS tracking system can help you keep track without having to call everyone.
If most or all of your employees are paid by the hour, consider a time tracking app that has payments integrated to speed up the timesheet process.
Next, consider each person’s role.
You shouldn’t check in on every employee in the same way. For example, if you have designers and writers who spend most of the day at their desks, you might want to use screen capture software.
Account executives who are out at client meetings or pitching prospects might be better suited for GPS time tracking as it can account for travel time and meeting duration.
These roles might also need expense reporting features built-in.
Knowing this before you choose your software will ensure you have the right features for all of the different roles on your team.
Of course, you’ll also want to account for the type of team you run.
Finally, before you sign on any dotted lines, look at the potential system’s integrations.
For example, if you use Gusto for payroll, you can integrate with Hubstaff for faster, easier payroll. Think about what you want to connect with your time tracking or monitoring app and search their integrations list prior to signup.
As you’ve likely gathered, we take employee privacy seriously.
We value data and the opportunity to learn from our own behaviors in order to work better.
To us, proof of work software makes remote work more streamlined and gives employees the freedom to work how and when they want.
There’s no question about what’s getting done — it’s all easily visible across teams and on an individual level.
However, not all software is created equal.
There is such a thing as being too invasive, where it goes beyond tracking work.
Hubstaff is not spyware. It’s not designed to run secretly without your knowledge or to keep an ultra-close eye on your people. The software doesn’t log keystrokes, take webcam photos, or read your emails or messages. It’s all about showing work in progress.
Everything we build is done with our guiding principles in mind:
Transparency about how the software works
Access to all of your own data
Control over how and when the app is working
When your team is using Hubstaff, they’ll get notifications when the timer starts and stops, and when screenshots are taken (if that feature is enabled). It’s clear when Hubstaff is running and when it’s not.
And when it’s not actively tracking time, data isn’t recorded.
Your team members can choose to allow certain permissions on their devices. They can also delete any time along with the data attached to it.
Proof of work features are fully customizable and can be turned off completely. You can set these up for each individual person since not everyone works in the same way.
Hubstaff is available as an app for desktop, web, mobile, and as a Chrome extension. Each app offers different features, which your team can opt into or out of.
See how the Hubstaff apps differ in what they capture and keep track of while you’re working.
Finally, Hubstaff integrates with over 30 different business apps. You can add your favorite project management tool or payment app and keep everyone and everything in sync.
Of course, you’ll also want to account for the type of team you run.
When you’re the boss, you don’t need your team’s permission to use a new system. But getting it will make your life way easier. Your employees will be much more likely to adopt a system they pre-approved, and you won’t suffer a dip in trust.
How do you get buy-in?
First, prepare a demo. Maybe that’s a simple slide deck, or maybe you hold an all-hands video call. In any case, you should have a detailed explanation of how this system will improve the business.
A convincing presentation will show your staff that there are benefits for everyone. Here are some ideas to get you started:
They’ll never be underpaid again.
They’ll receive payments automatically, without having to submit an invoice.
They’ll get insights into their own work patterns, which will help them identify areas of improvement.
They won’t have to turn in tedious daily or weekly reports.
They’ll get more autonomy. As managers will be up-to-date, they won’t always be checking in.
They’ll have more efficient team members. It’s always frustrating to work with people who don’t pull their weight, and the right software will help eliminate those feelings.
They’ll have extra motivation to focus. And they can turn off email and notifications without managers thinking they’re avoiding communication.
They’ll get more recognition. Celebrating productivity as a company shines a spotlight on the team members who are excelling, and shows your appreciation.
After your employees sign off on a tool, it’s time to write out your official policy.
Having a public policy shouldn’t be an issue if your employees vetted the tool firsthand. And publishing the software you are using and why for all to see will help avoid potential legal or mistrust issues.
There are several characteristics of a good policy. It should:
Be written in plain language, with no jargon or obfuscating terms.
Cover each tool being used, how regularly the monitoring will take place, the kind of information being collected, what will be done with that information, and how long that information will be stored.
Require each employee to acknowledge they have read and understood it.
Invite employees to ask questions or seek clarification.
Be distributed or published before the software is implemented.
Include any relevant legal provisions.
Address what employees should do if they feel the policy is being violated, or if they have suggestions to improve it.
Using plain language is especially important. If you hide behind legal mumbo-jumbo, your employees will feel like you’re trying to pull one over on them.
An example of a badly written policy
The Company has the capability to access, review, copy, and delete any messages sent, received, or stored on the email system. The Company reserves the right to access, review, copy, or delete all such messages for any purpose and to disclose them to any party (inside or outside the Company) it deems appropriate.
An example of a well-written policy
To make sure nothing sketchy is happening via email (which unfortunately is something we have to worry about), our company uses software that lets us open, read, copy, and delete any message that goes through the email system. That means any message that an employee has sent, received, or saved from a work email on the system. We can also share these emails with anyone (whether they work at this company or not). Of course, we’d need a good reason to do so. For example, if one of our employees shared a trade secret or if private information was shared so we can address the situation.
Once you have the support from your teams and a published policy, you can move forward with implementation.
Here’s how to do it well.
Are you using new software? Train your employees on how to use it.
Try to make the sessions fun and engaging. Maybe you’re running a centrally located team and can take everyone out to dinner when you’re done. If your team is remote, promise gift cards to the five team members who participate the most during the webinar.
Giving everyone a tutorial will show them how easy the tool is to run, and it’ll mitigate some of the resistance to its adoption.
Your employees will feel much more comfortable with the new system if you’re open to comments and suggestions. Transparency reassures employees that you value their opinions, have their best interests at heart, and encourages an open and communicative company culture.
Luckily, you have plenty of opportunities to ask individuals what they think:
When you’re onboarding them
When you (or their direct manager) meet with them for a check-in
When you’re giving a company update
When you’re having a normal conversation and it feels right
Here are a few different ways to frame your questions:
I’d love to know your thoughts on the system we’ve set in place. If you were me, what would you change? Why?
How could we improve the system? What’s your biggest source of frustration?
Is there anything about the system that surprised you?
What do you like least about it? What do you like most?
Do you feel like this system benefits both the team’s operations and your own work?
How could I do a better job conveying why this system is important and even essential?
It’s important to respond to feedback with gratitude and composure. If you don’t get defensive, you’ll win your employees’ trust. Then, they will be more likely to be honest with you going forward.
Let’s say a freelancer doesn’t like having his productivity quantified.
You could respond, "Okay, I definitely understand that. Do you have any suggestions on how we can track how much work you’re doing, so we can pay you the right amount every time?"
Not only does this answer show you’re open-minded. It also shows that you’re getting the employee to take part in the process and see things from your perspective. And hey, if he has a better idea, then everyone wins.
When employees say they like an aspect of the system, thank them for their feedback. Then, ask if there’s any way you could make that benefit even more visible.
For example, you might reply, “That’s so great to hear. One reason we started using this program was to give everyone more freedom. Out of curiosity, is there any way we could increase autonomy even more?”
With this approach, you can show even the least enthusiastic employees that monitoring helps everyone.
The best way to ensure you are operating legally and ethically when monitoring your employees is to get their consent. Include an employee monitoring policy in their contract and ask them to review and sign it.
Including a policy is also useful because it ensures every employee is aware they are being monitored (which generates trust). Also, it is an opportunity for you to dispel the myths and share the benefits of employee monitoring.
To help you get started, we have created a template policy for you here. Unlike most policies, this one includes a brief list of the advantages of employee monitoring, so your teams can understand how tools like Hubstaff benefit them, as well as the organization.
You can download the template and modify it to your specifications.
But please remember that this is just a template. Make sure to add details about local or state laws with which your business must comply.
As comprehensive as this guide is, there is more to know. As the demand for employee monitoring software grows, so, too, does the range of available solutions. And as technology expands what can be monitored, it is your responsibility as a business leader to comply with the law.
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**Disclaimer.** This is not legal advice. This article contains information that can only provide a general understanding. Please check your local laws and legal counsel for more information.
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