What Is Online Monitoring?
As your employees self-isolate at home, are you aware of what they do online during work hours? We are fortunate to live at a time when project management tools can effectively enable remote work. There are time trackers, video conferencing apps, and cloud services that make collaboration and communication smooth for geographically scattered teams. Indeed, online tools have become a lifesaver for companies during the pandemic. However, they also brought the need for employee computer monitoring.
Even without the pandemic, people working from home or traveling a lot had to store company data on flash drives and in personal accounts. Now, with social distancing regulations, more people are able to work completely from home. Of course, this also means that company information is used and stored in various locations. As a manager, you’d want to learn how to look at other people’s computer screen to manage and measure productivity. At the same time, you’d want to use online monitoring software to prevent data theft.
Computer Monitoring Systems Are Becoming More and More Popular
Gartner VP Brian Knopp mentioned that over 50% of companies with over $750m annual revenue explored unconventional methods for monitoring employees. These businesses monitor employee computer activity, including Internet, email, and phone usage. Some companies even track sleep patterns and heart rates to analyze how these factors affect their employees’ performance.
In 2017, Crowd Research Partners surveyed 472 cybersecurity professionals. The context of monitoring desktops revealed that:
- 94% of companies use some method of corporate surveillance
- 93% of organizations track access to sensitive data
- 44% manage user behavior by employing online monitoring methods
Where Can You Use a Computer Monitoring System?
Remote computer monitoring comes in various forms. Here are the most common ways companies use this system:
Web Activity – Under this category, a manager can monitor which URLs their team members open. It helps determine if an employee is doing their work or visiting online shopping sites, watching online videos, or even gambling in casinos. This category also covers URL blocking to prevent workers from accessing inappropriate content.
Email – Monitoring emails can help settle disputes and identify data theft in a company. It also allows companies to spot risks and issues at their early signs. In most cases, it is legal for employers to investigate work emails in extraordinary circumstances like sexual harassment claims.
Phone – Organizations can also record their staff’s phone communication with prospects, users, clients, and suppliers. It is beneficial in tracking support and performance statistics. This is also the reason why you mostly hear the default script, “This message may be recorded for quality assurance,” whenever you contact support numbers.
Location – Certain industries use monitoring apps with GPS tracking to ensure the safety of their workforce. This monitoring method applies to delivery services, manufacturing settings, and construction sites.
Other – There are other ways companies can monitor their employees’ activity. For instance, Buffer employees get a Jawbone UP wristband. This device tracks a user’s nutritional choices, exercise, and sleep. Results are transmitted online and are open to the entire company.
What Is the Purpose of Using Computer Screen Monitoring Software?
There are undeniable concerns about ethics in online employee monitoring. However, it is perfectly justifiable as long as it is carried out without malicious intent. Managers can track an employee’s screen to ensure productivity and to protect against insider threats.
Ensuring Remote Workforce Productivity
Long before COVID-19 forced the work-from-home setup on companies, the gig economy has been flourishing. There has been a virtual environment wherein organizations employ freelancers for short-term engagements. Companies have had the opportunity to manage a geographically scattered workforce. Of course, this has increased the necessity of tracking output and ensuring productivity over a virtual environment. Managers do not have to walk around the office just to monitor activity.
Organizations turn to remote employee monitoring software to identify the applications used, break duration, attendance, and policy compliance. The data gathered by the tool gives managers an overview of the typical behavior of a remote worker. Consequently, it can be used to determine weaknesses, strengths, and productivity leaks. Time trackers give employers insight into the following:
- Time spent on applications tagged as non-productive/productive
- Faulty workflow and systems that may hinder productivity
- Quality of customer service
When employing a monitoring tool, it is crucial to have the ability to customize tracking according to user groups. One application may be considered useful for one role, yet it may not be beneficial for another. Take social media managers as an example. They spend most of their time working on ad campaigns for social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These platforms are an integral part of their job function.
Now, if these social media sites do not add value to the work of your remote employees, then seeing them in the tracking results can raise a red flag.
Protection Against Data Breach
Your company’s sensitive data, network infrastructure, and intellectual property can be vulnerable to risks. Insiders like vendors, employees, and partners can become threats that will leak your data. There are two types of insider threats:
- Those with vengeful intent or nefarious motives of using critical information for financial gain
- Those with negligent behavior that is susceptible to scams
The 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon revealed that 25% of the breaches they analyzed were caused by internal culprits.Part of the leakers were found to have malicious intent while a percentage were found to be negligent insiders. Another 2% of the factors behind the breaches were credited to another type of insider threat—partners.
The thing is, end users find convenient ways to improve efficiency. Because companies want bigger results in a shorter amount of time,employees resort to dangerous workarounds. Intermedia Cloud Communications’ 2017 Data Vulnerability Report provides an insight into this practice. After surveying on over a thousand employees, they discovered that:
- 99% of the employees have committed at least a single, potentially dangerous action. This includes storing and sharing login credentials, as well as transmitting work files to personal email accounts.
- 34% have admitted to using sync-and-share services to store work documents. Doing so allowed them to access the saved files even after leaving office premises, using their personal accounts.
Traditional security systems are usually not focused around the aforementioned perimeters. As such, they fail to spot insider threats and attacks before or as they happen within the network. Now, managers are asking themselves, “What is a way of monitoring the entire system in a company?” With that in mind, they use tracking tools that will offer insightinto online activities across crucial IT systems.
Online monitoring software can help managers understand the typical activity patterns around file transfers, instant messages, emails, and external storage use. The system identifies red flags that can be considered as data compromisers and insider threats. In some cases, organizations can also use these tools to actively block these potentially dangerous activities.
Monitor Remote Employees the Ethical Way
As you can see, online employee monitoring is legally justified. However, as with any powerful tool, it can be used for abusing workers. Thankfully, there is a way to track your remote workers’ activity without dehumanizing them. You can use a time tracking app like Traqq. This free computer monitoring softwarehas been designed to ensure productivity while protecting the privacy of the user.
Traqq takes screenshots as proof of productivity during billable hours. However, the tool intentionally blurs the media files, reducing them to the extent that would prevent sensitive data (passwords, personal messages, etc.) from getting leaked.What’s more, it’s all about transparency. When your employee looks at the dashboard, they will see their activity levels and the screenshots taken by the tool. They are free to delete any data and its corresponding time. This way, they won’t wrack their brain all day, thinking if they’ve done anything they could be penalized for.