Employee Monitoring Software: Should You Track Every Keystroke?

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Employee Monitoring Software: Should You Track Every Keystroke?

As we enter the pandemic’s third year, most Melbourne businesses have adopted remote or hybrid working arrangements. 

So whether your employees are commuting into Southern Cross or logging in from Box Hill, keeping tabs on productivity and morale is a delicate balancing act.

The majority of companies across Australia now support some remote work, with statistics showing that:

  • 24% of companies are 100% remote
  • 31% support hybrid office/remote working
  • 45% currently don’t allow employees to work remotely

While there are straightforward work/life and productivity benefits, employers must be aware of challenges working in this environment. For example, many businesses and companies are concerned about the cybersecurity risks of remote teams. And for some people, leaders struggle to adapt to leading their teams remotely, ensuring they are completing the work they should be doing. 

As a result of the uptake in remote and hybrid working, many employers have turned to using employee monitoring systems – leading to concerns and mixed reviews from employees. 

What does employee monitoring software do?

In simple terms, employee monitoring software tracks digital movements. Such as tracking your employees’ work start and finish time to taking screenshots of an employee’s computer several times per hour.

Employee monitoring software tools like Hubstaff and BambooHR track can include many activities on a person’s computer. The software tool then collates the information into a report (daily or weekly) to the business.

For example, the software can track the following activities: 

  • Time clock
  • Keyboard activity
  • Keystrokes
  • Mouse activity
  • Websites visited
  • Desktop screenshots 
  • Applications used and length of use 

In some instances, the tools can track the sounds and video of the employee. 

You should decide if the employee is aware of the tracking or not. Ultimately, this decision should be made by people leaders and HR considering the ethical, legal and privacy rationale behind whether the tracking is visible.

Many companies implement employee monitoring software, generally to monitor lost productivity. But, the decision to use these tools can result in decreased team morale and erode trust. 

Let’s examine the pros and cons to help you decide whether these tools would benefit your business.

Pros of employee activity monitoring tools

Assist leaders in understanding the time spent by employees 

One feature of most tracking tools is the ability to track time by project. This helps leaders and the business understand where employees prioritise their time. And by leveraging this information, you know how much time employees spend on a project so that you can accurately forecast ROI for future projects. 

Reduces non-work activities during the working day

Like most leaders, you may be concerned about how much time remote employees spend on personal activities, such as social media or organising their next holiday to Thailand. Of course, a reasonable amount of personal activity may be permitted. Still, a recent study found that half of the monitored employees spend more than 3 hours daily on non-work activities. Employee monitoring can help reduce loss of productivity when employees are aware they are being tracked. 

A simple method to track time for remote workers

For many SMEs using employee monitoring tools helps them manage time worked for remote employees. And remote workers or freelancers can track their time at the simple click of a button. In addition, SMEs and employers can introduce an hour-per-week cap on time and seamlessly manage payments automatically through the app.

Cons of employee activity monitoring tools

Damage employees’ morale, trust and productivity

Many employees feel their privacy has been invaded when monitoring is introduced. For the employee, this can erode trust and result in a decrease in productivity or discretion effort. Instead of focusing on the work and tasks, they start to doubt their contribution to your business. 

Some employees may start to have unhelpful thoughts. Such as, “If I spend too much time thinking about how to solve this problem, will the report show a poor productivity score?” 

Or “When I’m on the phone with a client, and I’m not typing on the keyboard? Will the report make it look like I’m not being productive?”

As you would expect, here are some of the feelings that impacted employees can have when monitored:

  • Betrayal
  • Lack of trust and independence
  • Resentment to the company
  • Perceived lack of support or loyalty
  • Hurt and anger
  • Just another number

Activity monitoring ≠ Productivity

Many tracking tools can send employees and employers “activity reports.” These reports can look at keyboard and mouse activity during a specific period. 

But what if the employee must solve a workflow issue? Or what if a salesperson is on the phone with a client, not at their keyboard? And Zoom phone calls can bring a similar issue. 

As you know, when you’re on a Zoom phone call, you’re not using the mouse and the keyboard. So you are not as active as you would be if you were typing an email or updating the CRM. 

So, you need to be aware an activity report doesn’t include capturing this information. Instead, it will simply give a score of x% based on keyboard and mouse activity. You must consider this impact to avoid making the wrong conclusions about the time the employee spends. When reviewing the report or discussing the outcomes with the impacted employee, you think about these factors. 

You could lose high-performing employees.

Nearly half (47%) of surveyed tech employees have expressed they would resign if their manager or employers started to track them. Companies implementing monitoring can isolate high-performing employees, leaving them feeling untrusted and undervalued.

When your business decides to track everyone’s number of keyboard strokes, it can constrain creativity and critical thinking. High-performing employees often stay with companies where they feel appreciated and can grow their careers. However, when they feel unappreciated or disillusioned with the company’s direction, they often leave, seeking that support elsewhere.

How can you find a balance? 

Here are things you should consider about striking the right balance between tracking too much or too little:

  • What are the core activities you need to follow?
  • Should all employees be treated the same way? 
  • What would your employees think about monitoring and tracking?
  • Does the problem exist? Or are you trying to solve something that’s not there? 
  • What unnecessary features can you turn off?
  • Is the tool giving you accurate productivity data?

Are you interested in learning more about employee monitoring?

In case you are wondering, we do not use software to monitor our staff’s productivity. We look at their output and talk with them to determine how they are working.

When introducing new employee monitoring tools, you should engage with an expert to help guide the transition. Contact us to discuss a no-obligation session to learn more about how to implement employee monitoring for your company successfully.

About the author

Yener is the founder and Managing Director of Intuitive IT. Prior to running his own business Yener worked for a number of corporate organisations where he gained invaluable experience and skills, as well as an understanding of how IT can complement and improve business outcomes.