The number of technological options and professional apps that you can use to optimize your business is staggering these days. Questions ranging from how to send a file to a hundred people at the same time to how to track all activity on your computer devices - have all been answered.


One of the modern-day marvels that can help your company flourish with productivity and high level of organization is certainly employee monitoring system such as Workpuls.


There’s so much you can do with this sort of software - monitor app and website usage, track time, and even view employee screen. With its intuitive dashboards, clean reports, accurate statistics and almost entirely hands-free handling, computer tracking software can offer you insights into the way office time is used within your company, productivity levels and the overall performance of your workers.


But easy as it is to see how this way of tracking can be extremely beneficial to your company, it’s just as easy to see how employee monitoring can be abused when implemented for the wrong reasons.


One of the problems that could arise is failing to consider personal privacy when tracking employees. This article will discuss how to monitor PC activity while respecting employees’ privacy at the same time.


Defining Privacy and Whether It Exists in the Workplace


Generally speaking, privacy can be defined as the right to deny someone access to your private matters, relationships and information. The question is - can we apply this concept to the context of working environment?


You could argue that there’s no place for private matters at work. The amount of time employees are required to spend in the office is technically company’s time and therefore the managers should be able to know everything that’s happening. The fact that employees are increasingly accessing private channels and sharing personal data on company computers just adds to this argument.


However, taking this stand and sticking to it all the time can seem a bit robotic in nature. Your employees are entitled to breaks, right? During those breaks, it’s unreasonable to expect them to keep away from their Twitter account if that’s what they wish to do. But at the same time, this is private information. So apparently, there is indeed some overlap between personal and professional within office hours and it’s your job to learn how to monitor computer usage without going full Big Brother on your employees.


Which Activities Should You Monitor?


The short answer is all of them. But don’t take this at face value. It’s the extent to which you monitor specific activities that draws the line between tracking software as performance booster and tracking software as employer spyware. Let’s try to illustrate this with an example.


Employee monitoring software lets you detect which apps and websites your employees are using. You’ll be able to see that employee X is currently working in Word, while employee Y is browsing Amazon. So far so good - you have the right to know how your employees spend their time. More specifically, whether they use it productively or not.


The issues begin with screenshots and keystroke monitoring. The minute you consciously take a screenshot of your employee’s private email inbox for no apparent reason other than your curiosity is the moment you turn an invaluable app into spy monitoring software. So restrict monitoring employee emails to corporate accounts and these advanced tracking features to actual work apps and platforms.


How to Track Computer Usage Time in a Fair Way?


The question on how to monitor employee computer activity becomes a bit more nuanced when you mix in a time tracker. As we’ve said, office time is unavoidably constituted of both professional and private activities, and this is something that should be accounted for when tracking time.


Basically, you should track both ‘productive’ and ‘unproductive’ time for the sake of accurate performance evaluation, but don’t consider ‘unproductive’ time as something inherently bad. These breaks help employees regain focus and if they want to scroll through their Facebook feed during this time, you should respect that.


Protect Employees’ Private Data


You should be extremely careful when using any aspect of employee tracking system, including online tracking software and file monitor software. Because your employees are bound to use corporate computers to access private accounts from time to time, it’s best that you turn off automatic screen capture or keystroke detection.


If you have these features turned on at all times, what can happen is that you accidentally take a screenshot of employees private bank account details, for example. If a similar issue does happen, it’s advisable to delete the record in order to protect employees’ personal privacy. But it’s best for everyone to try and figure out how to track PC activity without using these features.


And of course, don’t ever share your monitoring data and reports with third parties. Especially if they contain employees’ names and other information.


Consider Anonymous Aggregated Data


The safest bet, and also the most convenient solution for big companies, is using the team monitoring software functionality. This means that you get data on a team level - no names, just ‘Social Media Department’ or ‘Front-End Web Development Team’.


There are two perks to sticking to this system. First, you ensure everyone’s privacy by not attaching any computer activity to a specific person. And secondly, you get a much clearer and more concise collective team performance overview which is really all you’ll ever need in most cases.


Conclusion


All in all, we get how being able to see everything your employees are doing on their computers is exciting, but if there’s one thing you shouldn’t lose sight of while enthusiastically trying to oversee and optimize all business processes, it’s protecting your employees’ privacy. After all, they’re your greatest asset and you should make sure they don’t feel scrutinized.


Workpuls Teramind ActivTrak Hubstaff DeskTime Time Doctor RescueTime Kickidler Veriato Work Examiner
OVERVIEW
Price $6/user/month $6/user/month $7.20/user/month $7/user/month $7/user/month $9.99/user/month $6/user/month $9.99/user/month $150/licence/year $60/licence (lifetime)
Free trial 7 days 7 days No 14 days 14 days 14 days 30 days 7 days Yes 30 days
Ease of use Very easy Difficult Very easy Easy Easy Very easy Very easy Very easy Very difficult Easy
TRACKING METHODS
Unlimited (tracker working 24/7)
Fixed (defined working hours)
Automatic (when computer is connected to a specified network)
Manual (start/stop)
Project based (track time only on projects)
GENERAL MONITORING FEATURES
Stealth mode
App and website usage
Real-time monitoring
Offline time tracking
Attendance
Activity levels
Keylogger
Geolocation
Remote desktop control
Website/activity blocking
SCREENSHOTS AND RECORDING
Screenshots
Screenshots on demand
Screen recording
PRODUCTIVITY FEATURES
Productivity trends
Websites and apps labeling
Category labeling
Productivity alerts
ADVANCED SECURITY FEATURES
User behavior analytics
Data loss prevention
Advanced file and web monitoring
REPORTING
Productivity reports
Team reports
Timelines
Email reports
Access management
PLATFORMS
Web
Mac desktop app
Windows desktop app
Linux desktop app
Mobile app iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android Android
Browser extension Chrome Chrome Chrome
Other Citrix, VMware Chrome OS
OTHER
Support Phone, email, online Phone, email, online Phone, email, online Email, online Phone, email, online, in-person Online Phone, email, online Email, online, Viber, Whatsapp Phone, email, online, support ticket Phone, email, online
Knowledge base
Video tutorials
Integrations comming soon
API
Deployment cloud, on-premise cloud, on-premise, AWS, Azure cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud on-premise cloud, on-premise on-premise
Kronos Humanity Timeclockplus Tsheets Wheniwork Deputy Replicon Jibble EbilityTimeTracker OnTheClock
OVERVIEW
Price (per month)Available upon requestFrom $2 per userAvailable upon requestFrom $6.40 per user + $16Free for up to 75 usersFrom $2.50 per userBasic plan: $30 for 5 users + $5 per additional userFrom $1.50 per employeeFrom $4 per user + $8From $2.20 per user
Free trial30 days14 daysYes14 days14 days14 days30 days
Ease of useDifficultEasyDifficultVery easyEasyEasyDifficultVery easyEasyEasy
FEATURES
Timecard management
Scheduling
Shift Trading
Timesheets
Break time management
Real-time tracking
PTO Management
Payroll
Invoicing
Client billing
GPS tracking
Clock out reminders
Alerts
Manual time
PUNCH-IN METHODS
Web app
Mobile app
Time clock device
Time clock kiosk
Facial recognition
Fingerprint scanning
Geofencing
Group punch-in
REPORTING
Visual reports
Email reports
Time rounding
MANAGEMENT
Permissions
Manager approvals
Add time for others
Integrations
PLATFORMS
Web
Android app
iOS app
Mac desktop app
Windows desktop app
Linux desktop app
OTHER
SupportPhone and onlinePhone and onlinePhone, chat and onlinePhone and chatEmail and onlineChat and phonePhone, email, chat and onlinePhone and onlinePhone, email, chat and onlinePhone and online
Knowledge base
Video tutorials
Community forum
API
Workpuls Hubstaff Toggl TimeDoctor Harvest TimeCamp Timely Everhour Tick TMetric
OVERVIEW
Price (per month) $6 per user $5.83 per user $9 per user $9.99 per user $10.80 per user $5.25 per user $99 for 5 users $7 per user $19 for 10 projects $5 per user
Free trial 7 days 14 days 30 days 14 days 30 days Yes 14 days 14 days 30 days 30 days
Ease of use Very easy Difficult Difficult Very easy Easy Very easy Easy Difficult Very easy Difficult
TIME TRACKING METHODS
Manual
Start/stop buttons
Automatic time mapping
IN-DEPTH TASK AND PROJECT ANALYSIS
Screenshots
App and website usage
Activity levels coming soon
Real-time tracking
TASK AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Project adding
Project templates
Project status
Task assignment
Task priorities
Budgeting coming soon
Mark billable/non-billable hours
Payroll calculation
Invoicing
ALERTS
Idle time reminders
Deadline alerts coming soon
Budget alerts coming soon
REPORTING
Client login
Productivity analysis
Email reports coming soon
PLATFORMS
Web
Mac desktop app
Windows desktop app
Linux desktop app coming soon
iOS app Beta
Android app
Browser extension Chrome Chrome, Firefox Chrome Chrome Chrome, Firefox Chrome Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge
OTHER
Support Phone and online Email and online Email and online Online Online, email and phone Email, online and support ticket Email and chat Email and chat Email Chat
Knowledge base
Video tutorials
Integrations coming soon
API
On-premise hosting

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