March 31, 2020
How to Monitor Employees at Work: 7 Best Practices
With the number of insider-related breaches rising every year, employee monitoring is becoming a common practice.
Modern employee monitoring solutions help businesses track their employees’ productivity and work attendance, minimize administrative work, and enhance cybersecurity. In this article, we discuss why you should monitor your office staff, list the benefits and shortcomings of doing so, and how to record user sessions and monitor their activities efficiently yet respectfully.
Why monitor employees? Pros and cons
Does monitoring increase employees’ efficiency or make them mad?
Monitoring employees allows businesses not only to track employee’s activities and efficiency but to secure critical corporate data and commercial secrets.
However, you should be ready for several drawbacks, including a negative reaction from your employees. If information about monitoring measures isn’t provided completely and in a reasonable way, employees may think of these measures as unpleasant surveillance.
Let’s explore both the advantages and shortcomings of employee monitoring.
The most obvious benefits of employee monitoring are:
User monitoring secures businesses from insider threats that may result in abuse of valuable corporate data such as client databases, intellectual property, and trade secrets. This information can be copied or deleted, leading to financial and reputational losses. Dedicated monitoring solutions can detect abnormal user activity and immediately notify security officers.
Read also: How to Prevent Human Error: Top 4 Employee Cybersecurity Mistakes
Employee monitoring solutions are often used to meet various IT compliance requirements. Many regulations like HIPAA and the GDPR require companies to monitor access to sensitive data and put measures in place to prevent potential leaks, misuse, and theft. The idea behind these regulations is to secure vulnerable data that may contain personal information of employees and customers.
Companies that charge hourly rates for their services may want to make sure their employees are spending time productively and not taking care of personal matters. Modern employee productivity solutions and virtual desktop monitoring tools can determine how efficiently workers do their jobs by calculating hours spent on work-related resources and applications and tracking progress.
Less administrative work
Employee monitoring software can automate routine tasks for HR managers, such as calculating payroll and tracking employee productivity. With a vast number of additional features like offline monitoring, monitoring only during working hours, and live session views, employee monitoring solutions save supervisors time and reduce micromanagement. Employees are also satisfied when managers aren’t looking over their shoulders.
Better business process transparency
Every manager wants to keep the team engaged, hardworking, and synchronized to reach their goals and meet their deadlines. With user monitoring solutions, managers can quickly detect when an employee is having difficulties with a task and can do something about it. Such solutions are also extremely useful when monitoring remote desktop sessions to track the progress of freelancers and remote workers.
Read also: Remote Employee Monitoring: How to Make Remote Work Effective and Secure
Although employee monitoring is beneficial both for businesses and staff, it also has several drawbacks. Here are three major shortcomings and ways to smooth the waters:
Increased stress among employees
Knowing they’re being monitored is stressful for lots of employees, especially for those experiencing it for the first time. The most frequent consequences of such stress are anxiety, decreased productivity, and mistrust of management. To prevent increased stress, educate your employees about the monitoring system and explain its advantages.
Employees who feel especially uncomfortable when being monitored are more likely to accept offers from other organizations and leave your company. To avoid high turnover, you can improve your interview process and provide people with more information about employee monitoring when hiring them.
Concerns about lack of privacy
Even if your staff has no problems with employee monitoring systems, they still may have concerns about their private data. To eliminate these concerns, choose monitoring solutions with functionality such as monitoring only during work hours. That way you can provide your staff the opportunity to check personal emails before or after work.
Learn more about User Activity Monitoring
After weighing the pros and cons, it seems obvious that creating an employee tracking system is a good idea and that the existing shortcomings can be managed. However, there’s also the crucial question of the legality of monitoring. Let’s take a quick look at whether it’s legal to track people at work.
Legal issues of employee monitoring
Is it legal to monitor employees?
This is the first question every employer should ask before thinking about how to monitor their staff and creating an employee monitoring strategy. The answer depends on several factors:
- Laws of the country (and state) you’re working in
- Types of monitoring methods and software you’re planning to use
- Whether employees are notified about monitoring
In some European countries and Canada, monitoring employees without their explicit consent is illegal in most cases. However, when employees officially consent to monitoring and the process is organized according to legal recommendations provided by European legal entities, monitoring poses no or minimal legal risks.
Employee monitoring is legal in the US, since it helps businesses increase productivity, prevent cybersecurity incidents, protect confidential information, and detect suspicious behavior.
In the US, note that you should keep an eye on both state and federal laws. For instance, there are no federal laws that specifically require employers to notify employees that they are being monitored. However, state laws in Delaware and Connecticut oblige employers to send notices to their staff before engaging in any type of electronic monitoring.
The best practice is to consult with a lawyer to check whether laws in your area permit employee monitoring, require written notices, or place any restrictions on the types of information you can monitor.
In any case, you should not take this blog post as legal advice.
Read also: Legal risks and recommendations for employee workplace surveillance
Metrics to monitor
What should you pay attention to when monitoring employees at work?
There are numerous ways to monitor employee performance. But before deciding which monitoring solution to choose and which practices to apply, you should list all the things you want to track.
The most common things to monitor are:
- Company phones — Recording phone conversations helps companies improve customer service and find clues in case incidents occur.
- Employee emails, voicemails, and texts — Monitoring emails and instant messages helps organizations detect and prevent insider threats. Sensitive information can be transmitted through emails or in messages sent over social media or messenger apps.
- Computer activity — User activity should be monitored to track employees’ productivity and make sure employees don’t access shady resources that may lead to phishing or other cybersecurity incidents. To prevent breaches caused by insider threats, use solutions that take screenshots, record audio and video sessions, and block specific websites.
- Corporate devices and accounts — Access to all corporate devices and accounts has to be secured and monitored, since these accounts store critical data that can be valuable to competitors and cybercriminals. To minimize risks, apply privileged access management practices.
- Working hours — Payroll has to be fair if it depends on hours worked. To calculate actual work hours, you can use time tracking software, surveillance cameras, and card access systems.
- Specific metrics — Depending on the industry, businesses may need to track metrics like employee location and vehicle mileage.
Learn more about Insider Threat Management
Best practices for employee monitoring
The biggest challenge of proper employee monitoring is keeping a balance between tracking essential metrics of staff productivity and doing it ethically. Moreover, employee monitoring is concerned with questions of legality and employee privacy.
Let’s take a look at seven tips that can help you efficiently monitor your employees:
1. Create a clear monitoring policy
When monitoring your staff, it’s important to establish clear and transparent policies. You should explain how monitoring is conducted, what the purposes of monitoring are, and how you protect employee data. Such a policy should be written and should contain information about the assets under monitoring and rules for using those assets. Make sure your employees are familiar with this policy and stick to it.
2. Comply with legal requirements
Pay attention to changes in state and federal legislation that concern employee monitoring. Don’t forget to review compliance practices and update your monitoring policy in case something changes. This way you can avoid legal problems and financial penalties.
3. Notify your employees
Notifying employees about monitoring systems is mandatory in many countries and in some US states. Be specific. Outline what you’re monitoring and why monitoring is important for both security and productivity. Introduce your employees to the system: explain how it works, list the benefits, arrange training, provide a trial period, and answer questions. Even if sending written notices to staff isn’t required by law, letting your employees know is a good practice and helps to create a healthy atmosphere in the company.
4. Block undesired content
Blocking social media websites, porn sites, sites that contain hate speech, and various suspicious resources is a common practice within organizations. Doing so minimizes the risk of employees wasting work hours and accessing shadowy websites that can lead to cybersecurity incidents.
5. Practice monitoring, not surveillance
Make sure to monitor only information directly related to your business. Employees already feel anxious about having their every move monitored. Your monitoring policy shouldn’t overreach and seem like spying. The main goal is to collect only information necessary for your business.
6. Respect employee privacy
Respect employee privacy by tracking user activity only during working hours. Consider monitoring personal employee emails and other forms of communication only when it directly impacts your bottom line. Also, avoid recording sensitive information like passwords and bank card details.
7. Use dedicated software
You can use insider threat management (ITM) or employee monitoring tools. Compare ITM software before deploying one and think of the metrics you need to track to meet your specific needs. Note that Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) monitoring tools or any other monitoring software should be unobtrusive and should not disturb your employees’ workflow. If your purpose is to ensure security or achieve compliance, make sure your employees aren’t able to pause or terminate monitoring applications no matter how tech-savvy they may be. It’s also important to protect collected data from misuse by storing it in a secure location with limited controlled access.
Read also: 5 Levels of User Behavior Monitoring
Using Ekran System for monitoring employees at work
Ekran System is a universal employee activity monitoring tool that can effectively monitor employees on corporate servers and desktops. Ekran System records everything users see on their screens along with mouse movements and relevant metadata in an advanced video format.
By using Ekran’s Web Management Tool, you can watch every video recording and see exactly what your employees are doing, both in a live session view and recordings.
While being able to record each and every user action, Ekran System provides record filtering capabilities to focus on or avoid recording certain users or applications. Thus, you can make your monitoring more efficient and respect user privacy.
Context-rich recordings by Ekran System include the names of opened applications, active windows, visited URLs, keystrokes, entered Linux commands, etc. All data is coupled with a timestamp and is clearly associated with a certain moment in the video recording, which allows for faster audits. Also, one-click search across suspicious activity makes investigations faster and more effective.
By using the User Activity Monitoring solution in Ekran, you can ensure comprehensive employee monitoring and benefit from helpful features like:
- Session recording in audio and video formats
- Offline monitoring
- Keystroke monitoring and multi-monitor recording
- Monitoring only during specified time intervals
- Web page and application monitoring
- Keyword-triggered monitoring
Ekran System offers a customizable alert feature that can be used to configure any rules to trigger real-time notifications and automatic responses, allowing you to only pay attention when an alert is relevant.
Also, you can customize your reports with a variety of selected parameters like visited websites and used applications. Reports generated by Ekran System can help you evaluate security risks and measure employee performance.
With floating endpoint licenses, Ekran System allows you to monitor as many workstations as you wish. Ekran supports a wide range of operating systems, allowing you to track employees working with Windows and Linux desktops and servers, virtual desktops, and even local console sessions.
Learn more aboutEkran System Remote Desktop Recording Software
Monitor with ethics and privacy in mind
Employee monitoring plays a crucial part in securing your data and ensuring productivity. However, monitoring always needs to be approached with ethics and employee privacy in mind.
By applying the practices mentioned in this article and solutions such as Ekran System, you’ll be able to conduct efficient employee monitoring that’s beneficial for your organization and unobtrusive for your staff.
Case study: An HVAC Service Provider Secures Data and Maintains Employee Productivity after Switching to Remote Work [PDF]