Working from home is becoming more popular, in part due to pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because employers are starting to realize the massive benefits of having a remote workforce.
And managers are wondering: What are the best ways to keep track of employee activity and productivity?
In this article, I’ll show you the best employee monitoring software tools to help you monitor employees working remotely.
Ready? Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
- The 3 Types of Employee Monitoring Software Tools
- Employee Monitoring Software: Activity Trackers
- Employee Monitoring Software: Time Tracking
- Employee Monitoring Software: Task & Project Management
- Reasons to Monitor Employees Working From Home
The 3 Types of Employee Monitoring Software Tools
Remote work monitoring software tools come in a few different categories:
Time tracking apps are designed to keep track of employee time. Typically, employees can start and stop a built-in timer whenever they begin or end a task, or it can be automated. They can also add or change time retroactively.
Within the platform, tasks can be categorized and organized, and administrators can track high-level trends. These employee monitoring software tools are useful for getting a high-level view of how much time an employee spends in various apps or performing various activities.
But they don’t give managers any insight into how that time is spent within each category.
Activity trackers attempt to give you more detail about how employees are spending their time in each app or activity.
For example, they may take regular screenshots of your employee’s screen, or track which websites they visit and apps they open. Email tracking is included in this category.
Project management / task trackers.
Project management platforms are designed to help managers organize information related to high-level projects and low-level tasks. They frequently involve task tracking, employee communication, and other features that revolve around getting projects done efficiently.
Most of the work from home monitoring tools we’ll be covering in the next section attempt to hybridize these features.
For example, many project management tools also have built-in time trackers. For this reason, many of the tools listed below could be listed in multiple categories, but I’ve listed them in their dominant category below for organizational purposes to help you find the right tool depending on your purpose.
Employee Monitoring Software: Activity Trackers
These are the best work from home monitoring software tools for tracking employee activity:
First up, there’s our own EmailAnalytics (#biased, I know, but hear me out 😃). It’s unique from all the other tools in this list because it offers email activity tracking, which isn’t available with any of the other tools.
And with email being the primary source of communication for remote workers, it’s a fantastic way to measure productivity.
EmailAnalytics visualizes your team’s email activity, like how many emails they’re sending and receiving, their average email response times, and even their busiest times and days of the week.
With this information, you can easily see how busy your employees truly are, and how quickly they’re communicating with clients, leads, customers, vendors, and each other.
ActivTrak is an employee monitoring software with a free version that supports monitoring up to three users. With it, you’ll be able to track activities like website visits and app usage, and apply content filters and other controls as well.
The paid version includes even more advanced features, like USB device detection and security audits.
There’s also Teramind, an employee monitoring software tool that offers time tracking and activity tracking. It also gives administrators the option to create and enforce specific policies, like limiting traffic to certain websites, and can alert you about problematic user behaviors.
Hubstaff is a remote employee monitoring software that combines screenshots, time tracking, and automated reporting to make working from home simpler (and with more accountability for employees).
It also measures activity related to keyboard and mouse usage, so you can tell whether your employees are truly working.
Workpuls is the new kid on the block, but does many of the same things as others on this list. The core features of Workpuls include employee monitoring, time tracking, productivity analytics and automatic time mapping.
With Workpuls, you can automatically track employees’ work hours and also access their daily productivity reports to get insights into how your team works best.
iDoneThis is a unique entry on this list, giving your team the ability to self-report on their daily progress.
With this employee monitoring tool, each individual on your team will participate in a daily check-in, where they’ll explain the tasks they’ve completed, their current projects, and any challenges standing in the way of their productivity.
Employee Monitoring Software: Time Tracking
In this category, I’ve listed the top time tracking tools for employee monitoring.
7. Time Doctor
Time Doctor is one of the top names in the field. With it, you can track time automatically or manually, generate automatic reports, and track things like website and app usage (while taking screenshots to see if your employees are on task).
Be sure to check out our in-depth comparison article featuring Time Doctor vs. RescueTime!
Harvest is a time tracking tool that’s designed to be as easy to use as possible. It works with a number of project management and other styles of app on the market, and it allows you to analyze your work with intuitive reporting. Don’t miss these Harvest alternatives if you’re looking for similar choices!
RescueTime is a productivity platform that functions somewhat like a time tracking tool.
It allows you to track website activity and tool usage throughout the day, and gives you the opportunity to block sites you find distracting. It also has built-in alarms and notifications to alert you of different events.
One of the downsides of traditional time trackers is their reliance on manual entry, but Timely attempts to automate things. With it, you’ll get a reliable digital record of how your team has spent their time throughout the day.
EmailAnalytics Visualizes Your Team's Email Activity
- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- Salespeople spend an average of 13 hours per week on email.
You can also use it to manage projects and tasks, as you would with a project management platform.
TopTracker is a great remote employee monitoring software tool if you’re interested in integrating your time tracking into billing and invoicing.
With this tool, you’ll be able to track the time you’re spending, take screenshots, then create, send, and process invoices—all within the same platform.
Hours is a simply named time tracking tool that allows you to keep running timers for multiple tasks at once, giving you the ability to switch between tasks easily throughout the day.
Like many of the tools on this list, it offers built-in reporting and the ability to transform your tracked time into invoices easily.
ClickTime offers easy online timesheets and time tracking functionality. It works like most other types of time tracking software, giving you transparency into how your employees are working—and whether your projects are going to be on time and/or in budget.
Designed for freelancers and people working from home, Timeneye is employee monitoring software that offers stress-free tracking.
With it, you can actively monitor your projects, track employee time, and ultimately, increase productivity.
Toggl is another popular option in the time tracking world, in part because it’s so simple to set up and use. Within a few minutes, you can start tracking your time as it relates to individual tasks and projects.
It also features more than 100 app integrations, so it can work with almost any other tool in your arsenal.
Created and offered by Quickbooks, TSheets is a tool designed with remote workers in mind—but it can also be used in traditional businesses. Use it to track attendance, time expenditure, and more.
You can also use it to connect to other platforms (like your payroll software) and generate reports so you can analyze big-picture trends.
Employee Monitoring Software: Task & Project Management
The following remote employee monitoring software solutions focus on task and project management tools.
The first project management tool on this list is Asana, which is ideal for creating and assigning tasks, as well as communicating and managing priorities. Divide your projects into tasks and subtasks, split your team into subgroups, and use reporting to track activity over different periods of time.
Be sure to check out our guide to Asana!
Next, there’s Trello. Trello is a project management platform that allows employees to collaborate on projects, track their time, and organize projects and tasks.
It utilizes boards, lists, and cards to keep things simply organized, and managers will appreciate Trello’s advanced reporting feature, so you can see exactly what your team has been up to.
HiveDesk allows you to automatically track time spent by your employees. It also has built-in timesheets (which are ideal if you’re hiring freelancers), a task management system, activity tracking, and the capability to capture screenshots.
Everhour works as both a time tracking tool and as a project management tool, so you have all the features you need to stay on top of your remote employees. With it, you can review a comprehensive dashboard that pulls tasks, projects, and other data from all your other platforms.
You can also use it to track individual and collective team time expenditure, assign tasks, and more.
Reasons to Monitor Employees Working From Home
If you trust your employees, you might be reluctant to monitor their activity. But remote work monitoring has a variety of positive effects—and they’re not all about managing distrust.
Keeping employees on task.
When employees know they’re being monitored, they tend to be more productive; this shouldn’t be surprising. The mere fact that you’re monitoring your remote employees will incentivize them to give their best performance.
There is a psychological component to this, as well – it’s called the Hawthorne Effect, which says that people modify their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed. In other words, simply knowing that you’re being monitored improves your performance!
Keeping employees accountable.
This is also a way to keep employees accountable for their actions. If they claim they didn’t have enough time to finish a project, you can see whether they were busy with other tasks.
Rewarding exceptional performances.
Employee monitoring isn’t just about punishing people for not doing their jobs efficiently or productively; it’s also about rewarding the employees who give you exceptional performances.
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, most teams end up with unbalanced workloads; some employees are overworked and overwhelmed, while others don’t have enough tasks to do. Employee monitoring helps you identify the sources of unbalance, and redistribute workloads appropriately.
Billing and accounting.
Some tools allow you to integrate employee tracking with payroll, billing, accounting, and other financial practices. For example, if you bill by the hour, you can track employee time expenditure and immediately convert that time spent into an invoice that you can send to your customers.
With the right tools, you can be confident that you know what your employees are doing at all times—even if they’re working fully remotely. This can give you more confidence in hiring people you might not otherwise consider, even if they’re going to work in an entirely different country.
ROI and strategic planning.
Performance monitoring is also good for calculating your return on investment (ROI) for various projects, and giving you insights for other modes of strategic planning. For example, you might be able to accurately calculate the true costs of a given project based on employee time spent on that project; was it worth it, or should you be charging more?
Enjoy this post? Don’t miss our big post covering the best small business apps!
Are you interested in getting more out of your remote workforce? Or are you looking for a better way to balance workloads between your team members. Start with a remote employee monitoring software tool like EmailAnalytics!
I covered the basics of the EmailAnalytics app, so I won’t repeat myself here, but it has the power to tell you everything you want to know about how your employees are working from home. Sign up for a free trial today, and see it in action!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.