How Desktop Monitoring Software Works & The Best Pick for 2024

Now that over 70% of employees work from home at least part of the time, businesses are looking for ways to manage their employees' work virtually. Enter desktop monitoring tools.

You don't need high-end human resources software and HR analytics to know that a number of employees love the freedom of working from home and operating asynchronously. Still, many business leaders worry that it will decrease productivity and bring business operations to a screeching halt. Fortunately, employee desktop monitoring software means it's time to hire employees you can trust.

Remote desktop monitoring software tracks an employee's computer activity during their workday. This productivity software can monitor employees' computer usage, screens, keyboard activity, apps, and URLs and send activity reports.

The software is typically installed onto computers or laptops and can create a culture of trust and transparency for both on-premises and remote employees. About 60% of employers say that they currently use employee monitoring software for their employees.

Desktop monitoring software can enhance employee productivity by establishing benchmarks and rewarding accomplishments. It can also help management determine which employees perform specific tasks most efficiently and assign tasks accordingly.

However, there is a fine line between over-monitoring and using this tool for the good of your organization.

At Hubstaff, we use our software internally to ensure that employees are appropriately compensated for their work and on the same page with their team members. It also helps to prevent burnout.

What Does Employee Monitoring Software Do?

Employee productivity software holds employees accountable, enables managers to be more hands-off, and ensures that vital company information is safe.

Over 40% of hourly team members commit time theft while on the clock. This can lead to a lack of productivity and trust, whether intentional or unintentional.

Time tracking and workforce analytics software can encourage team members to be productive and reduce the need for constant check-ins from management.

With the strategic workforce planning metrics you'll uncover using workforce analytics software and talent management, you can find actionable insights to reduce your voluntary turnover rate, improve workforce performance, and create a team of satisfied full-time employees. 

Track productivity

Once workforce management software is set up on a computer or mobile device, it can track websites and apps, keyboard and mouse activity, and even location.

One of the more popular methods is activity monitoring. When employees type, the software intercepts the signal sent from the keyboard to the application.

This data gleaned creates valuable metrics to help organize employee workloads and optimize productivity.

Decrease burnout

Many monitoring platforms, including our own, also provide time tracking software.

This can ensure employees’ work hours stay within the allotted time each day or week. According to the World Health Organization, long work hours caused 745,000 deaths in a single year.

At Hubstaff, we use our time reporting tool to prevent burnout and ensure a healthy work-life balance for our employees. Ensuring that team members are not putting in 60 or 70-hour weeks to get their tasks done is paramount — for their health and productivity.

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Improve communication

Workforce metrics can also improve communication between managers and employees. Notifications can be set up for certain activities, such as letting a manager know when a user spends a certain amount of time on a social media website.

Employee productivity tools can also link with communications software so that employees can more easily share files and videos. With this integration, employees will always know the status of each project.

Employee activity information can help with workflow optimization because management will know how much employee time each task requires. Managers will receive real-time updates on what each employee is working on and their progress without interrupting them to ask.

With this information, management can better evaluate which types of work contribute the most to the company’s bottom line and reward employees for their contributions.

Automate processes

Along with automating communication, time tracking software can also help automate payroll and notifications.

Onboarding and training programs are another way that employee monitoring software can improve processes. Managers can train employees more easily and provide new employees with time benchmarks to increase their focus.

Using time tracking software or an employee monitoring tool can help managers discover bottlenecks that cause productivity problems. For example, are employees spending too much time in meetings or doing operations manually that they could automate?

Safety and compliance

Many platforms can also monitor potential viruses, insider threats, other security issues, and user activity.

Monitoring desktop activity helps keep accurate attendance record information and ensures compliance with wage and hour laws. If employee time is billed to customers, invoicing also will be easier.

The information gleaned from user activity monitoring can create helpful metrics for organizing employee workloads and optimizing productivity.

Desktop Monitoring Features

Remote desktop monitoring software is not meant to take away employee privacy but rather improve their productivity and, ultimately, employee engagement and satisfaction.

Companies can ensure that employee productivity features benefit the company without violating employee privacy by considering the desktop tools that will provide the most helpful information and not abusing their features.

When selecting an employee productivity solution, there are certain features you should be aware of and look for.

Features to look for include:

Time Tracking

Time tracking apps record the amount of time employees spend on specific tasks. It can generate automatic timesheets and invoices. It makes paper time tracking or time clocks unnecessary and can gather accurate data to determine the required resources for specific tasks or projects. It also can automate breaks, time-off requests, and payroll.

Location Tracking

GPS-enabled apps can tell employers where a company device or vehicle is. Some software also contains a feature that will wipe the device clean if lost or stolen. Location tracking software is particularly useful for businesses that have field service employees.

These features can improve productivity and communication. However, using an employee desktop monitoring tool has its advantages and disadvantages.

Activity Tracking

Some controversial apps use keystroke logging to monitor each employee's keystrokes throughout the day. They're then transmitted to the supervisor or administrator.

Keystroke Logging

Some controversial apps use keystroke logging to monitor each employee's keystrokes throughout the day. They’re then transmitted to the supervisor or administrator.

Keystroke logging is also sometimes called keylogging or keyboard capturing. This is different than activity tracking, which does not monitor the actual keys you're pressing.

Screen Monitoring

Screen monitoring apps send screenshots of an employee’s screen to a dashboard on the manager’s computer. Some software does this only when an employee creates a task; others take incremental screenshots throughout the day. When employees stop their timer, screenshots stop, too.

Some even have video recording features that record the computer screen and live stream the information to a manager or system administrator.

Advantages of Desktop Monitoring

Employee performance monitoring has several benefits, including better training, task planning and assignment, and improved productivity.

These tools can be helpful for team members in a variety of industries.

Remote teams

Remote work is rising, and remote desktop monitoring is beneficial for companies with remote contractors or freelancers. Employees and employers can effortlessly stay on the same page with remote screen monitoring software.

The desktop time tracker data can also help them stay focused while increasing billable hours. Most platforms provide all the information on one central dashboard that is easily accessible to employees and employers.


The solutions are helpful for freelancers and contractors because they automate business processes like time tracking and billing. Freelancers and contractors can enter a client's rate, and the software automatically generates an invoice.

Companies that work with freelancers and contractors will see the hours a freelancer is billing rather than being surprised by their invoices.

They also can verify that contractors and freelancers spent the time on the projects they billed and set limits (based on their budgets) for the number of hours the freelancer can bill each month.

Field employees

GPS and geofencing features are also highly advantageous to businesses with field employees. The software typically allows for:

  • Location-based time tracking

  • Automating payments

  • Job scheduling

  • Planning routes

  • Invoicing

  • Expense reporting

Location tracking optimizes routes and tracks locations throughout the workday so that employees don’t waste time looking for a customer’s location or sitting in traffic jams.

It can also alert management if a call takes longer than expected so that management can decide whether to reassign jobs to ensure they meet customer needs.

Employee monitoring can also provide warnings if an employee is careless in dealing with confidential, personal, or sensitive information.

Disadvantages of Desktop Monitoring

While monitoring employee computer activity has numerous advantages, it does have some drawbacks if used unethically. The key to using desktop monitoring well is transparency.

Transparency should go both ways with employee desktop monitoring. Leaders need to be transparent about what information is being gathered and why.

Lack of transparency

According to Forbes, “a lack of trust can make workforces sick and dysfunctional.” If employees discover that management has been monitoring their activity secretly, they will likely feel that leadership has betrayed their trust. This can have a negative impact on employee satisfaction, which leads to high employee turnover rates, which can be a nightmare for HR professionals. 

Privacy infringement

When misused, desktop monitoring features have the potential to infringe on employees’ privacy. This is why employees must know how and when they are monitored and be able to turn it off during breaks and after hours.

Without this boundary, employees might access their bank balance or credit card information during their break. The company could potentially record personal information that it doesn’t want and should not have.

Fortunately, some tools stop monitoring when users stop their timers.

Best Desktop Monitoring Software for 2024

Each company has different needs, and the best desktop employee screen monitoring software will vary for each company depending upon those needs.

Hubstaff is an excellent choice for many companies because of its wide range of employee productivity features and its ease of use in managing remote workers.

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We might be biased here, but we have worked hard to ensure our software is the best on the market for time tracking, activity, location tracking, and more.

Our software is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook desktop operating systems. Our mobile app works on both Android and iOS devices.

Our employee activity tool includes the following features:

Time tracking

Time tracking features automate timesheets, track time for tasks and projects, centralize time off approval, and provide detailed reports for planning, scheduling, and pricing.


Geofencing features allow you to create a radius around Job sites for automatic clock-ins and clock-outs. It also leads to quicker invoices and more reliable timesheets and payroll.

GPS tracking identifies the routes team members took to and from each job, and a time clock app notes the amount of time spent on each Job site.

Employee Monitoring

An employee monitoring solution allows you to track employee time and monitor desktop activity from your computer or device. These tools also provide detailed reports, a centralized dashboard, streamlined administrative tasks, and activity monitoring.

It also tracks apps and URLs to provide transparency into employee mental health, workloads, and potential bottlenecks.

Hubstaff provides 24/7 support and offers several pricing plans for businesses ranging from small businesses to enterprises.

Project budgeting

Project budgeting features allow companies to set budget limits and receive notifications when employees near these limits. It also allows companies to determine and predict project costs.


Detailed reporting enables employees and managers to improve scheduling, cost analysis, performance analysis, and planning. Reports can provide information by project, week, month, or team member.


Automated payroll, allowing staff to shift focus away from routine tasks and instead work on initiatives that can grow the business.

Productivity tracking

Productivity tracking includes dashboards that allow managers to see the entire team’s productivity in one view. This enables easy assigning and prioritizing of tasks and makes it possible to immediately celebrate employee success.

Final Words

Computer monitoring software can help companies to increase their profits. It provides managers or business owners with information that can help them:

  • Estimate project costs and stay on budget

  • Train employees and reward their performance fairly

  • Improve productivity by establishing benchmarks and locating bottlenecks

  • Automate business processes, such as payroll and scheduling

  • Avoid unnecessary overtime, interruptions, and check-in meetings

More than 95,000 companies work productively with Hubstaff. The Hubstaff team is eager to answer your questions about our user-friendly desktop monitoring programs and add your company to our family.

Reach out to us and request a free demo and 14-day trial today.

Our pricing plans are customized for your business

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