Companies have tracked employee activity since the days of punch clocks. Now, many companies are using employee monitoring software to improve efficiency and productivity and to ensure company resources and data are being used appropriately.

A variety of software applications are available to examine employee activity, ranging from simple tools to track attendance to complex programs that check computer activity, count keystrokes, monitor web searches, and scan emails and instant messages for inappropriate or sensitive content.[1]

Although this may sound like Big Brother is watching, these software applications can help employees work more efficiently and focus on priorities. When used appropriately, employee monitoring software can provide companies and employees with many benefits:

  • Performance data – Companies can learn what tools employees need, the hours of highest productivity, how teams interact best, and how to improve organizational structure.
  • Increase productivity – Computer activity monitoring can discourage employees from participating in non-work activities such on online shopping and gaming during work hours.
  • Promote safety – UPS vans use advanced telematics that document activities such as seat belt usage and safe driving practices.[2] Companies can track employees in the field through GPS software to ensure they are safe.
  • Assist training – Most company call centers record customer service and marketing calls to help representatives improve service delivery. These tapes can be used to pinpoint problem areas that require additional training and reinforce positive behavior.
  • Provide documentation – If an employee should engage in inappropriate behavior, email records can be used to document it to support disciplinary or legal action. Web activity can be tracked to document inappropriate access to prohibited websites.

Limitations to surveillance

Under federal law, employers generally have the right to monitor employees as they perform their work. Limits do apply, such as restrictions against monitoring restrooms, locker rooms or other non-work areas that invade employees’ personal privacy. State laws on workplace monitoring vary, primarily related to obtaining employee consent for monitoring email and making audio or video recordings.

Some employees may feel inhibited by productivity monitoring actions. If monitoring activities are aimed at improving work processes and improving efficiency, communication of these company objectives can go far to ease employee concerns and reduce stress. Legal experts advise that companies be transparent and communicate clearly with employees about their monitoring processes in advance and obtain written consent from employees.[3]

[1] “Monitoring Employee Productivity: Proceed with Caution,” by Lee Michael Katz, Society for Human Resource Management, June 1, 2015. Available at:

[2] “Monitoring Employee Productivity: Proceed with Caution,” by Lee Michael Katz, Society for Human Resource Management, June 1, 2015. Available at:

[3] “Should you use employee monitoring software?” by Dave Nevogt,, April 10, 2015. Available at:

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