Workplace Success

Employee Time Tracking vs. Employee Monitoring: Which Approach is Better and Why?

July 1, 2022

The pandemic has brought a whirlwind of change to businesses around the world. It has redefined supply chains, influenced consumer behaviors, and revolutionized the way employees work. In this operating landscape, remote workplaces have become the new normal, and with the restructuring has come a greater focus on tracking or monitoring employee computer activity.

Of course, employee monitoring software has been available for over a decade now, but traditionally these tools have been associated with a desire to ensure employees aren’t idle and on the right side of device usage policies. However, as enterprises work to improve the management and alignment of dispersed teams, requirements for these solutions have grown from providing simple monitoring to additional performance assessment, productivity tracking, and project optimization features.

In this blog, we’ll look at the capabilities of current employee monitoring software and contrast them against the functionalities offered by more holistic employee time tracking tools.

What is Employee Time Tracking?

While monitoring is generally an aspect of employee time tracking software, the main objective of these solutions is to increase employee productivity by creating an efficient reporting framework. While various techniques have been used to record and analyze worker productivity metrics over the years, including time clocks and timesheet systems, employee time tracking solutions are the most prevalent.

5 Critical Features for Employee Time Tracking Software

The preferred option for modern workplaces, these automated solutions provide an accurate and continuous record of employee attendance, tasks completed, and overall productivity. With these statistics, managers can maintain a bird’s eye view of their workforce and projects. 

There are a few essential functionalities to look for in an effective time tracking tool:

  1. Customized Time Tracking - While some managers might be content with simple Excel-based timesheets with time-in and time-out information, others require a more in-depth overview of their workforce. An advanced solution should allow employers to track the tasks and activities that directly contribute to employee productivity.
  2. Project Management - Productivity measurements will differ from department to department and even within specific functions depending on the focus of each employee group. The best employee time tracking software allows users to group certain activities into larger projects assigned to particular individuals. Managers can thus gain a far more relevant view of their productivity by tracking employee output by the project.
  3. Analytics and Reporting - Employers aren’t just looking for data to optimize payroll and billing. They want advanced insights that can help them improve efficiency and outcomes across their functions. These requirements are fulfilled by reporting dashboards that provide a real-time view of employees with critical metrics tracking tasks completed, existing benchmarks, and overall hours worked.
  4. Invoicing and Payroll - The best time tracking apps provide built-in integrations for billing and invoicing tools, enabling managers to record billable hours and prepare invoices for clients based on time worked with ease. 
  5. Mobile Accessibility - In today’s remote workplaces, platform accessibility is a must for managers and employees alike. Whether they’re looking to record tasks performed or approve timesheets, each stakeholder group must be able to leverage the features they need immediately from any location. 

What is Employee Monitoring?

Employee monitoring is more closely associated with surveillance and security, although it shares some common features with employee tracking. In this case, the main focus is on collecting employee data on employee activity and ensuring their behavior is aligned with corporate objectives. 

Organizations can utilize a variety of methods to facilitate monitoring, including;

  • ID Cards
  • CCTV Cameras
  • Call Recording
  • GPS/Location Tracking
  • Onsite Security Teams
  • Employee Monitoring Software

When applied effectively, these resources can help ensure that. 

  • Employees maintain productivity
  • Employers can objectively evaluate worker performance
  • Assets and equipment are utilized only for professional purposes
  • Any malicious or negligent usage of business equipment is identified proactively
  • The workforce is adhering to any incumbent legal and regulatory requirements

In terms of features, the latest employee monitoring software does provide a host of surveillance capabilities for managers and supervisors, including:

  • Blocking access to websites
  • Real-time alerts for suspicious web/application activity
  • Remote disabling for off-site devices
  • Keystroke logging
  • Screen recording
  • Remote screen capture
  • Email/document capture and search

Time Tracking vs. Monitoring: Pros and Cons

When weighing up these two approaches, it’s essential to look at how each suite of tools is perceived and the overall improvements they can bring to the workplace.

The Employee Time Tracking Approach 

As discussed above, modern time tracking tools are seen as overall productivity management platforms that offer an in-depth view of workforce effectiveness. These software also require substantial buy-in from employees because they put a lot of the reporting capabilities in workers' hands rather than managers. 

Some of the best time tracking apps, such as timegram, allow workers to log tasks independently without constant manager intervention or surveillance. As a result, the time log only has the employee’s productive activities rather than the log of their entire day This saves the manager from filtering through the list and figuring out the worker’s actual productivity. 

By putting control in the hands of employees, such a platform avoids much of the distrust created by more intrusive tools. They also function as practical performance optimization tools from management and employee perspectives. 

Employees can take stock of the tasks performed for a particular project over a period of time and determine how much they contributed towards objectives and which activities can be minimized to ensure faster more efficient project delivery. 

Meanwhile, managers can use these best time tracking apps to observe team workflows and identify where bottlenecks or inefficiencies occur. They can then work to minimize these problems proactively. Additional analytics can provide support for in-depth performance assessments, allowing management to maximize resources within their teams and work to improve any non-performing employees. 

The Employee Monitoring Approach 

Of course, this egalitarian approach isn’t suited to every workplace. For example, in organizations with a more significant gap between management and employees, it may not be feasible to leave reporting in the latter’s hands. 

Additionally, some executive teams may be willing to put up with privacy issues created by more intrusive features such as real-time screen recording and keylogging in return for their increased control and surveillance. 

However, while the functionalities can provide excellent utility for certain managers, they can negatively affect employee-manager relations and thus harm productivity in the long term, especially if implemented less than transparently. 

For example, a recent report from the Washington Post details some of the newest employee monitoring software on the market and how different workforces deal with them. In the article, many employees talk about how the forced check-ins and constant supervision necessitated by more comprehensive monitoring suites can create an atmosphere of distrust between managers and their teams.

Another offshoot of intrusive employee surveillance is burnout. To stay on the right side of productivity metrics, many remote teams are now working more hours on average than pre-pandemic. Statistics from NordVPN show that average working time in the United States climbed from 8 hours to 11 after stay-at-home orders were implemented across the country. 

Which Approach is Better?

At the end of the day, both employee monitoring tools and employee time tracking software can benefit organizations. They both have the potential to improve productivity, reduce inefficiency, and optimize working practices across workforces. 

Your choice depends on whether your management team prioritizes control and discipline over collaboration and employee buy-in. If you’re more interested in the former, then the in-depth surveillance functionalities provided by employee monitoring are suitable for you. 

However, if you prefer a working culture built on trust and employee participation with productivity as a goal at every level, then the full suite of productivity management offerings available in employee time tracking software such as timegram would be the best choice. 

timegram: Employee Time Tracking with a Difference

With its user-friendly interface, project planning capabilities, performance management features, customizable time tracking modules, and dynamic dashboards, timegram offers a complete solution for assessing and improving workforce productivity. 

With its user-controlled logging options, the product also removes many privacy issues caused by more intrusive employee monitoring-focused alternatives.

To take timegram for a spin, sign up for a free trial today

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Moniba Mehboob

About the author

Moniba Mehboob is a published author of prose and poetry. She is currently interested in writing children's picture books and occasionally dabbles in watercolors too.

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