manage employees

Employee tracking: Monitoring employees in the workplace

More and more employers are implementing employee monitoring technology in the workplace, especially with remote work becoming the new norm. This technology can be valuable for any type or size of business. It provides insights into the efficiency of your workforce, from analyzing when employees are most productive to revealing long periods of idle time. Employee tracking paints a full picture of an employee’s workday. However, there are important legal considerations before implementing these systems.

By the end of this guide, you should understand what employee tracking is and whether it’s suitable for your business. Start by reading this post from beginning to end or use the links below to navigate each section.

What is employee tracking?

Employee tracking lets employers monitor their staff’s location and activities during the workday. The primary purpose is to strengthen your workforce’s productivity. Employee tracking may also prevent theft and ensure appropriate use of company resources. There are various types of employee monitoring, such as keylogging and surveillance of computer activities.

Is employee monitoring legal?

In the United States, it’s legal to use employee monitoring solutions. However, federal privacy laws related to employee monitoring are vague. For example, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act(ECPA) prohibits electronic monitoring unless companies can prove it’s for a legitimate reason.

The regulations a company must follow may also depend on the state where the business is located. There aren’t many laws requiring employers to inform workers they’re being monitored. However, a few states may require employers to give notice. This includes Connecticut and Delaware.

If you conduct business in one of these states, you must inform workers before monitoring them. This should be communicated to your employees in writing. The notice must also contain details about your monitoring policies and methods.

A handful of states have adopted laws regarding employee monitoring, such as:

  • California, New York, and West Virginia: Employers can use video surveillance as long as employees are aware. Systems can’t be installed in restrooms or locker rooms. Employers in California can also monitor employees’ work emails and devices with prior notice and consent.
  • Colorado and Tennessee: Employers must have email monitoring policies to monitor their employees’ emails.

If you’re thinking about implementing employee monitoring, it’s important to prevent legal issues. Questions to ask yourself before using an employee monitoring system are:

  • What specific state and local laws regarding employee tracking does my business need to follow?
  • Are there specific rules or steps I need to follow to comply with federal law?

Even if you aren’t required to inform employees about your monitoring practices, it’s best to include them in your employee handbook. Have your human resources department ensure all information regarding employee activity monitoring is up to date.

Types of employee monitoring

There are many ways to monitor your employees’ activity at work. In case you’re unfamiliar with employee monitoring, we’ve listed the most common techniques below.


Internet monitoring includes tracking web pages visited and time spent on sites. This tracking can prevent employees from wasting time on social media sites and other pages.

If your workforce conducts most of their work online, internet usage is essential to your profits. However, the web is full of distractions that hinder productivity at the office and even more so at home. According to a study by e-conolight, 77% of remote employees admit to online shopping during work hours.


Employee monitoring software scans incoming and outgoing emails. Many companies implement this system to:

  • Ensure remote teams are productive
  • Prevent workers from leaking confidential company information
  • Enforce data security policies
  • Identify and stop inappropriate behaviors, such as harassment

Keystroke logging

Keystroke logging, or keylogging, is a tracking feature that records what employees type on their keyboards. Employee monitoring programs that use keylogging automatically capture screen recordings or screenshots when you type certain words or phrases.


Computer monitoring software works in a similar way as internet tracking software. The main difference is that computer monitoring tracks everything an employee does on their work computer. For example, it monitors what applications are in use, time spent on applications, and whenever an employee’s computer goes into idle mode.


Typically, this method of employee surveillance is used for quality assurance purposes. It’s a great way for managers to ensure their workers provide excellent customer service during phone calls with clients. As an example, suppose a representative at your company receives poor feedback from customers. A recording from one of their calls may help you evaluate what they’re doing incorrectly and where they can improve.


Also known as GPS tracking , location monitoring is vital for businesses that need to track vehicles, including delivery and postal companies. This allows you to see if drivers are using the quickest routes for an efficient delivery. It also improves customer experience by providing accurate tracking, delivery updates, and so on.

Time tracking

Employee time tracking ensures workers are clocking in and out when they’re supposed to. Depending on the size of your business, this can range from a simple spreadsheet template to software like QuickBooks Time. Using robust time tracking web tools makes time tracking more efficient and easier to monitor.

Advantages and disadvantages of employee monitoring

Like any system, there are benefits and drawbacks to activity tracking at the workplace. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of employee monitoring below.


An employee tracking system can help you:

  • Gain insight into business processes
  • Create coaching opportunities
  • Increase and measure productivity
  • Boost employee engagement
  • Retain employees
  • Prevent theft

The data gathered from an intelligent employee monitoring system allows management to uncover your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing each team member’s strengths may make scheduling and delegating projects simpler. It also makes it easier to notice when your employees are taking longer than usual to complete their work.

If this is the case, managers can check with workers to find the root of the problem. Managers should ask struggling employees if they know how to perform certain tasks or use the available resources to their full potential. Managers can also provide tips and additional training where it’s needed.

When your management team evaluates employee performance and helps employees succeed, employee engagement can improve. This is a powerful management technique in 2021, with the number of remote workers on the rise. From extra coaching to providing valuable feedback, investing in your employees will increase your profitability and productivity. That’s a win-win.

Tracking user activity also prevents inventory shrinkage due to theft. For example, employee monitoring via camera surveillance makes stealing unlikely. Tracking also protects your business from a data breach and prevents insider threats, such as employees passing along trade secrets to competitors.


While there are many benefits to workplace monitoring, there are also a few disadvantages you should be aware of, such as:

  • Employee privacy concerns
  • Lack of trust among staff
  • Reduction in job satisfaction
  • Increased stress among employees

One of the biggest concerns for employees is their workplace privacy. Whether they use their work computer for personal reasons or find this form of technology invasive, reassure them that their privacy is important. Emphasize that the point of a monitoring system is not to steal their sensitive information but for the well-being of the company. After all, this isn’t the TV show Big Brother.

Note that a reputable and trustworthy system will not have access to private details, such as passwords, credit card information, and social security numbers.

It’s vital that you address this subject to prevent employees from feeling like they’re being spied on. The last thing you want is for employees to hold a grudge against your company for using monitoring practices. This anger can turn into dissatisfaction and result in disengagement and complacency, costing your business thousands of dollars.

Using employee monitoring tools can also cause employees to feel like they need to work more and not take breaks during work time. In turn, this may lead to burnout and stress among your workforce. Being transparent about the purpose of productivity tracking alleviates the pressure some employees may feel when they know they’re being monitored.

Wrapping up

Monitoring employees in the workplace can be valuable for your business if done properly. The advantages mentioned earlier can improve employee productivity and increase your company’s profitability. Here are a few more things to remember about employee monitoring:

  • It’s legal to monitor employees in the United States. However, federal laws are vague, so tread carefully.
  • Certain states, such as Connecticut, Delaware, and California, have their own laws. Stay up to date with the laws in your state to prevent legal issues.
  • The best method for monitoring your employees will depend on the industry and your business goals.

If you’re considering implementing GPS and time tracking at your business, look no further than QuickBooks Time. With real-time tracking software at your fingertips, it’s easy to ensure employees are correctly logging billable hours and drivers are finishing their routes. QuickBooks Time also seamlessly integrates with your preferred accounting software to automate timesheets and payroll.

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