Ethical concerns & before you buy

When you type “ office and remote employee time tracking software” in Google’s search bar, chances are that somewhere among the suggested results you’ll see an “ethics” suffix. Clearly we live and work in the era of Internet, but also in an  era of security concerns and great ethical debates in this field. According to PCWorld, in 2011 more than 75% of American companies practiced some sort of monitoring or tracking of their employee’s Internet use; today that number is probably considerably higher. If you’re not a part of that number and you feel like you should be, there are some things that you should take into account before simply clicking on “Buy software.

All faces of time tracking

First of all, it is extremely important to be informed about your employees’ time consumption at work. The most obvious and most common problem is productivity loss caused by frivolous websites and unread mail that pop up every now and then, drawing their attention away from important issues and sucking out their energy. Still, managers should consider the difference between monitoring and surveillance, says Andrew Walls, security and risk analyst at Gartner Inc. It is not controversial to monitor events on a company’s computer system to ensure proper use; however, surveillance, defined as tracking all individual’s activities (including the private ones), has “a creepy factor” that can cause pushback from employees, or even result in legal suits. Luckily, there are many less invasive practices that can provide you information about your employees’ time usage.

One of them is well-known timesheets, where employees record the amount of time spent on each job themselves. This widespread practice grew to be essential in many organizations; however, most of them became aware that this method isn’t just impractical – it’s also unreliable. Perhaps a better solution would be an automatized time tracking software that does all this and more, since they operate independently from a human factor – they collect all the information and generate reports with far greater accuracy and non-partisanship. Whatever method you find suits your business better, keep in mind that general monitoring with employees’ full knowledge, is a necessary practice.

Implementation tips & tricks

If you decide to install some of the numerous time tracking software solutions into your company, consider some of the steps you need to take in order to keep the relationship trustful:

1. Set written policies.

It’s important to create a corporate policy on Internet and device usage that makes rights and responsibilities clear to everyone. A policy should also spell out how monitoring will be done and how data will be secured or destroyed.

2. Inform your employees.

It’s best to be upfront with staffers about what you track and why. Many companies accomplish this with a simple statement in the employee handbook telling workers plainly that everything they do on company computers can and will be tracked. Explain the risks to the business from improper use of digital assets, the company’s digital policy, limit on employee privacy in the workplace and the fact that monitoring will occur. Letting employees know that their actions are being monitored can serve as a powerful prevention against unwanted online activity.

3. Uphold ethical standards.

Make sure that the monitoring exercise remains moral. Understand that a person does not give up all of his or her privacy when they are at work.

4. Use technology tools.

To reduce the potential for office friction, the collection of sensitive personal information and the amount of time you spend on the task, consider using technology that can alert you to potential problems, so you can focus on what matters and pry less. The most secure way to monitor PC use is to deploy a system that consists of a host, server or appliance, together with client-installed software. Unless you have a dedicated IT staff or the budget to bring someone in on a regular basis to check on things, a cloud-based service is probably the best choice. You may also want to filter or block some Web content, such as porn and hate sites that could create a hostile work environment and spiral into a dangerous problem.

5. Check reports regularly.

If you decide to implement a software solution with strong analytics and reports generating options, make sure you analyze them thoroughly beforehand. Although your staffers most likely don’t procrastinate spending hours on Facebook, you might discover some interesting facts you never knew were an issue. For example, one of our clients in WorkPuls realized that their employees spent a huge amount of time using Google Translate, so they organized additional language training and managed to decrease wasted time on this website by 35%. It is important to identify potential problems early and take adequate remedial action.


Nobody likes to be watched behind their back while working on something – however, that’s exactly how many people feel when they’re first being faced with time tracking tool. One way to make this experience less uncomfortable is to explain to employees how your new software works. Try to show them a single daily report – it is possible that most of them are not quite aware themselves of how much time they throw away every day.

Whatever you discover – whether it’s a time-wasting website that everyone is visiting this week or a single person who’s addicted to Minesweeper – you can often fix problems with a simple e-mail that tells your team you know what’s up: “Just a reminder, people: Twitter is not an appropriate use of company time. Thank you!

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