How to Track Time Employees Spend Away From the Computer (Idle Time)

Idle Time Tracking - How active are your employees? CurrentWare

Hey everyone, this is Dale here. I am the Digital Marketing Manager for CurrentWare.

In today’s video, I’d like to show off the new user activity data dashboards that were introduced to BrowseReporter in version 6.0.2. 

With these dashboards, you can review the productivity levels, web browsing, application usage, and bandwidth consumption of your entire workforce from the convenience of a web browser. 

These dashboards work in tandem with BrowseReporter’s computer activity reports to provide valuable insights into how technology is used in your organization.

Today’s video is just a sneak peek of what BrowseReporter is capable of; as time goes on you can expect to see further enhancements and data points added to these dashboards.

How the Dashboards Work

To begin using the new dashboards simply select the groups or users you would like to review, then select the desired time period.

Here at the top of the Overview dashboard, you will see a comparison between the data from this period and the previous time period. This gives you a high-level glance into whether the given metrics have increased or decreased during this timeframe.

Below that, we have graphs showing the Top 5 most used websites and applications. This shows you what computer activities your users spend the most time on.

Next, you’ll see the top 5 most active and idle users or groups. 

BrowseReporter automatically switches from Active Time Tracking to Idle Time Tracking when the user stops using their keyboard or mouse for a set period of time; this threshold can be changed to fit your organization’s needs.

Dashboards for Specific Groups/Users

Let’s drill down even further by clicking on one of our groups.

In this group sub-dashboard, you can see the most productive and unproductive users in the group, along with a dedicated Activity Log. 

Likewise, if we started out looking at a specific user rather than a group we would be taken to a sub-dashboard with that specific user’s online status and computer activity data.

Activity Log For Raw User Activity Data

The activity log lets you review the raw data that is used to populate the dashboards. 

You can use the search function to find specific information, use the column men u to adjust what columns appear, and sort the data that is displayed.

What data points are available in the Activity Log will vary depending on the dashboard you’re viewing.

For example, here in the Overview dashboard, we have access to Group or usernames along with several active and idle time metrics.

In the productivity dashboard, we’d have access to the group or user name, the number of users, and various productivity metrics.

Likewise, the Activity Log of the Websites dashboard shows domain names, active time, web content categories, and the productivity categorization for the domain.

The Activity Log of the Applications dashboard shows the application name, process name, active time, and idle time.

If you’d like to use the Activity Log data in a business intelligence tool you can easily export your user activity data to an Excel spreadsheet. 

If you’d like to provide a visual copy of the Activity Log to someone else, you can use the Export to PDF function. The PDF will display the Activity Log, including hyperlinks to the sub-dashboards of the groups or users shown. 

So long as the viewer has access to an operator account with sufficient permissions they’ll be able to follow these hyperlinks to learn more about the selected user or group.

To finish things off, let’s take a look at the dashboards offered in version 6.0.2

Productivity Dashboard

Switching over to the Productivity dashboard you will see how much time was spent on productive, unproductive, and neutral web browsing. You’ll also see who the most productive and unproductive users or groups are, as well as the top 5 websites and categories. 

What is considered productive can be customized by going to BrowseReporter’s Productivity Grading window; a shortcut to this can be found in the dashboard settings. 

From here you’ll be able to specify whether a given website category or a specific domain should be labeled as productive, unproductive, or neutral.

Internet Browsing Dashboard

Moving on to the Websites dashboard you will find the total active and idle time for the selected groups or users, the top 5 websites and most active users, as well as the web browsing Activity Log.

Application Usage Dashboard

In the applications dashboard, you will find similar graphs showing how much time was spent using applications, the top 5 most used applications, the 5 users that spent the most time using applications, and the application usage Activity Log.

Bandwidth Consumption Dashboard

Finally, we have the bandwidth usage dashboard. Here you’ll be able to see who is using the most bandwidth and how much bandwidth was used each day.  

If you’d like to see what websites are responsible for anomalies in bandwidth usage you can run BrowseReporter’s Bandwidth Usage by URL report. 

This report will show you the exact websites that are consuming bandwidth; from there you can decide whether the bandwidth hogs need to be blocked with BrowseControl or if other corrective measures need to be taken.

Conclusion

Ready to boost operational efficiency, employee productivity, and endpoint security with advanced awareness and control over how your employees use technology in the workplace? 

Get started today with a FREE trial of any of our software solutions. 

Simply visit CurrentWare.com/Download to try our software for yourself or get in touch with us at CurrentWare.com/Contact.

Thank you!

The time that employees spend away from the computer is known as Idle Time or Passive Time.

With CurrentWare’s employee computer monitoring software solutions you can

  • Track employee idle time to see who is spending the most time away from their computer
  • Get alerts when employees stop using their computer during expected work hours
  • Monitor employee web browsing and application usage for unproductive habits
  • Track logins and logouts to see when employees start and stop using their computers
  • & More!

Want to learn more? In this article you will learn the difference between Active Time and Idle Time, how to track your employee’s Idle Time with CurrentWare’s system Idle Time tracker software, and the best practices for monitoring the Idle Time of employees.

The Difference Between Idle Time vs Active Time in Employee Monitoring

Two bar charts with employee computer usage data: top 5 active time and top 5 idle time

What is Active Time?

Active time refers to the time that an employee spends actively using their computer. This includes mouse/keyboard inputs, using applications, or browsing the internet. Employee computer monitoring software measures this time and generates computer activity reports to show how employees are actively spending their time at work.

What is Idle Time?

Idle Time is the opposite of Active Time. The exact definition of Idle Time is slightly different depending on the context that it is being used, though it generally refers to the time that a given asset is available but not being used.

As a traditional workplace productivity metric in fields such as manufacturing, Idle Time is defined as a period of time that an asset (such as a machine) is ready and available, but is not doing anything. In these environments Idle Time can be caused by workflow inefficiencies such as unexpected downtime. 

When monitoring employee computer usage Idle Time refers to the periods of time that the employee’s computer is not being actively used. This form of Idle Time happens when employees are on break, not actively working, or are working on job-adjacent tasks such as making phone calls, attending in-person meetings, or engaging in deep thinking. 

How is Idle Time Tracked?

Screenshot of BrowseReporter's employee idle time alerts setup window

Employee monitoring software will change from Active Time tracking to Idle Time tracking after a designated period of inactivity. For example, the default time before CurrentWare’s BrowseReporter switches from Active Time tracking to Idle Time tracking is after 20 minutes of inactivity. 

Activity levels are measured based on inputs from the employee such as mouse movement and keyboard inputs. This threshold can be customized to better fit what makes the most sense for each organization. 

Example 1: An employee browses Facebook.com for 5 minutes before walking away from their computer for 30 minutes.

  • The time tracking software captures the 5 minutes that the employee spent browsing Facebook before they walked away from their computer.
  • After the employee has been away from their computer for X minutes the software will switch from Active Time to Idle Time.
  • The employee’s computer activity report will show 5 + X minutes of Active Time and the remaining minutes will be recorded as Idle Time on Facebook.

In this example you will get a more accurate report by filtering out Idle Time from your employee’s computer usage reports.

If your employees rarely perform tasks that do not require computer input (watching videos, webinars, etc) you may also want to reduce the Idle Time threshold (X) to a lesser number.

Note: Adjusting the Idle Time threshold will not retroactively modify the existing computer usage data that has already been captured. 

Example 2: An employee watches a 1 hour webinar without using their mouse or keyboard

  • The time tracking software captures all of the activities leading up to the webinar (opening the URLs, etc)
  • After X minutes of inactivity the software will switch from tracking Active Time to tracking Idle Time.
  • The employee’s computer activity report will show the first X minutes as Active Time and the remaining minutes will be recorded as Idle Time.

The presence of Idle Time does not always mean that employees are away from their computers. They could also be watching training videos, webinars, or tutorials that do not require them to use their mouse and keyboard. 

In this example the accuracy of the computer activity data can be improved by including the employee’s Idle Time in the report. If your employees frequently watch videos, webinars, etc you may want to set the Idle Time threshold (X) to a greater number.

The Top 4 Benefits of Tracking Idle Time on Employee Computers

1) See If Your Employees Are Active When Working From Home

Idle Alert Email

Tracking the times that employees log in and out is one method of tracking employee computer usage, but it does not tell you how active they were during that time.

An employee could log in at the start of the work day, walk away from their computer, and log back out at the end of the work day. By monitoring the Idle Time of remote employees you can see whether or not they are using their computers during work hours.

TIP: How Employees Bypass Idle Time Tracking Software

Employees will find creative ways to prevent themselves from appearing idle during work hours. They might use dedicated tools such as hardware or software-based mouse jigglers that simulate mouse movements or keyboard inputs.

How to detect mouse jigglers:

2) Improve the Accuracy of Employee Productivity Reports

Having the option to include or exclude Idle Time as needed improves the accuracy and utility of computer activity reports. 

As shown in the previous examples Idle Time is usually filtered out to remove clutter from the reports, though there may be times that an employee registers as inactive even when they are working.

Generating reports with Idle Time included will also show you extended periods where the employee’s computer was on but not in use. These periods could be caused by employees forgetting to turn off their computers after work or from logging into their workstation without performing any tasks.

3) Get a Better Understanding of Employee Work Habits

Screenshot of BrowseReporter's employee idle time tracking dashboard

Tracking the Idle Time of your employees gives you a better understanding of:

  • When they are the most active on their computers.
  • When they usually start their breaks
  • How often they engage in tasks away from their computer, and
  • When they start and stop work each day

In the broader context of workforce analytics Idle Time tracking is one of many data points you can use to better understand how your workforce operates. 

Having an understanding of when your employees are most active on their computers is especially helpful when managing employees that work from home as you can see when they are the most involved in their tasks and when they are usually away from their computer.

TIP: Do Not Use Employee Idle Time as a Standalone Productivity Metric

The presence of Idle Time does not always mean that your employees are not working.

Your employee’s computers will be designated as idle after they have not touched their mouse or keyboard for a set time period. While inactivity does happen when an employee isn’t working this can also happen when they are in an in-person meeting, problem solving away from their computer, watching a training video/webinar, or making a work-related phone call.

4) Save Energy by Identifying Which Computers Are Being Left On Overnight

Screenshot from enPowerManager, CurrentWare’s remote power management software

Your employees may forget to shut down their computers before they leave work. Including Idle Time in reports will show you the time periods where their computers were left on without being actively used. If you would like to automatically shut down computers that are left idle you can use enPowerManager’s automatic PC shutoff features.

Tips for Computer Power Management:

  • Find out which of your computers are being left on by reviewing their Idle Time reports for excessive periods of inactivity (overnight, throughout the weekend, etc)
  • Track the login times of employees to see when they are most likely to start and stop using their computers then use a remote power management tool to schedule startup and shutdown times for when they’re typically inactive.

How to Track Idle Time on Employee Computers

BrowseReporter is a versatile computer user activity monitoring software that helps organizations enforce policies, meet compliance requirements, and understand how their users operate – no matter where they’re located.

BrowseReporter’s detailed user activity reports provide insights like…

  • Are our users following organizational policies? Are there any unwanted activities that need to be addressed?
  • How engaged are our users? Do they spend the majority of their time on-task? And…
  • Are our users making use of the software we’ve invested in? Should we reduce the number of licenses we pay for?

The computer activity data is collected by a software agent that is installed on your computers. The agent connects to a database on your organization’s network, allowing you to maintain complete control over the data.

BrowseReporter’s central console allows you to run reports on your user’s computer activities from the convenience of a web browser. 

There are dozens of reports to choose from, including…

  • User productivity reports with an overview of how much time was spent on websites that are productive, unproductive, or neutral. These classifications can be customized to match what is productive for your users.
  • There are also detailed internet activity reports that show you what websites your users have visited, how long they spent browsing each site, and the amount of bandwidth consumed.
  • And finally, the application usage reports show you what software is being used, how long it was used for, and who was using it.

BrowseReporter’s reports can be generated on-demand, on a set schedule, or automatically sent to your inbox to alert you of specific events.

Using the End-User Reports feature you can even provide your users with on-demand access to their own data. This lets them benefit from the insights that you have.

BrowseReporter can even be deployed with optional privacy-enhancing features.

You can…

  • Display a custom message to notify users that they are being monitored
  • Make the client visible in the system tray
  • Stop monitoring outside of standard operating hours, and…
  • Disable certain types of tracking altogether 

These optional features allow you to customize your BrowseReporter deployment to fit the needs of your organization.

BrowseReporter is best used in tandem with our web filtering software BrowseControl. Using both solutions provides you with the visibility and control you need to ensure that your organization’s computers are being used appropriately

Ready to make data-informed decisions? Get actionable insights into the activity of your users with a free trial of BrowseReporter.

Get started today by visiting CurrentWare.com/Download

If you have any questions during your evaluation our technical support team is available to help you over a phone call, live chat, or email.

Thank you!

1) Install Computer Monitoring Software on the Employee’s Computer

To track the Idle Time of your employees you will first need to install computer monitoring software such as CurrentWare’s BrowseReporter. 

BrowseReporter will track your employee’s computer activity such as application usage, websites visited, and bandwidth consumption. Once they’ve been inactive from their computers for a set period of time the activity log will change employee time tracking from Active Time to Idle Time.

If you’d like your employees to track their time manually as well you can combine employee monitoring software with time tracker software. This will allow your employees to manually report what their time was spent on and you can use the active/idle time reports to understand how much of their self-reported time was spent on the computer.

2) Configure the Idle Time Tracking Threshold

The next step is to set how long your employees should be inactive for before the system Idle Time tracker software switches from Active Time to Idle Time. The default inactivity period for BrowseReporter is 20 minutes.

How to Change the Idle Time Threshold in BrowseReporter:

  1. Launch the CurrentWare console
  2. Go to Settings > BrowseReporter
  3. The Idle Time Settings threshold can be found in the middle of this window (“Enable Idle Time Tracking after 20 minutes of inactive keyboard or mouse movements”.)
  4. To change the Idle Time Threshold you can use the up/down arrows or directly enter a number into the text box.
    BrowseReporter's idle time tracking limit setting

3) Monitor Employee Computer Activity

Thanks for checking out the latest CurrentWare how-to video. Today we will cover How to Monitor Internet Use. 

If you like this or other videos we’ve produced, hit the subscribe button below. Stay tuned to the end to learn how to get a free trial of the software I demo today.

In a previous video, we covered some of the benefits of monitoring employees including for productivity reasons, to avoid legal liability and to prevent cyber threats. In this video, we’re going to cover how to monitor internet use and some of the industry best practices.

We’re going to be using BrowseReporter, CurrentWare’s computer monitoring solution. 

This solution requires an agent to be installed on your employee’s computers. Once installed, their computer activity is streamed to your server where you can run reports and view their activity. 

To start off, we recommend you determine which browsers are being used by your company. This is a good time to look at your company’s policy and determine which default browser you recommend. You can also find out which browsers your employees are using with BrowseReporter’s application monitoring report. In addition, you can actually block the installation or use of other browsers by using CurrentWare’s BrowseControl solution.

The next step is to figure out what time period you want to look at. You can pull reports on demand at any desired time period including last 7 days, last month or a custom date range. 

For this example, we’ll look at yesterday’s results. Now you can actually schedule these reports to email automatically to the appropriate person on your team, but in this case we are going to use on-demand reports, pulling the reports up as needed.

So let’s jump in and start with a snapshot report on employee internet use based on productivity.

With the CurrentWare Employee Productivity Report, you get a simple snapshot into how much time was spent on websites that are deemed to be productive. The definition of productive is based on our proprietary system of ranking each website based on whether it’s productive, unproductive or neutral. You can even change the categorization of websites based on your business needs to make this report more helpful.

Looking at the CurrentWare console, we’ll pull up the employee productivity report for employee Conan. We will look at yesterday’s performance and see that Conan was only 24% productive. The majority of his time was spent on Social Media and Sports websites vs. work related tasks.

The next way to assess productivity is to see which sites someone has spent the most time on. For example, if you know the employee is on the sales team and should be spending the majority of time on salesforce.com, you can investigate and see which are the main sites they are really browsing. 

By pulling up the Top Domains visited report, we can see exactly which domains Conan browsed yesterday by Active Time and Total Time. Similar to the previous report, we see the majority of his time was spent on Facebook and ESPN.

One of the most interesting features of CurrentWare’s internet monitoring reports are related to tracking the actual activity of a user and not letting the data get convoluted with different tabs or windows that a user has open.

BrowseReporter has 3 different ways to determine how the internet and applications are being used:

  • Active Time
  • Total Time
  • Idle Time

Active Time measures how long the current window is in focus, giving you the most accurate report on where users spent their time on websites and applications. BrowseReporter has the capability to determine which website tab was active at the top of the screen so you get extremely accurate reporting on where they spent their time. 

Total Time measures the total duration the window is opened for, from the start time until the end time regardless of whether the window was in focus or not. Not every user acts the same. Some users switch between two monitors. Some like to stream content in the background. No matter what their behaviors are, BrowseReporter can track the total time they spent on the websites whether or not they were focused on the window.

Finally, Idle time measures how long the user is away from his computer after the mouse and keyboard stopped moving. By default, idle time is tracked after 20 minutes of inactivity. Time tracking should be fair. If your users are not in front of their computers, BrowseReporter will separate the time tracked into idle time so you can filter it out if you need to during report generation.

Now if you want to investigate the exact website pages that the employee visited, you can use the Sites visited report. This report breaks down each url in detail along with how much time was spent on each page.

This lets you distill down if they were looking at pages related to work on those domains or if it was something more personal. This is specifically helpful for domains like youtube.com which for certain industries or roles can provide value, but knowing which exact video was watched can help you understand the use case by the employee.

Finally, we recommend investigating productivity by looking at employee keyword searches.

This report allows you to Review the exact search keywords used by employees and Identify employees that are distracted or struggling with specific topics. In addition, you can also discover employee sentiment and monitor for high-risk search terms such as attempts to find adult-oriented websites.

In this keywords searched example we can see employee Greg has searched lots of personal items into google over the past working days. This helps you understand where they may be spending their time and what they are  browsing in google.

That’s it for this video on how to monitor internet use with BrowseReporter. If you have any thoughts on the reports or suggestions we’ve covered in this video, feel free to comment below.. 

If you’d like to give BrowseReporter or any of the other CurrentWare Solutions a try, please check our free trial at currentware.com/download or get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help!

NOTE: The above video contains a legacy user interface for BrowseReporter. To see the most up-to-date version, please visit the BrowseReporter product page.

As your employees use their computers their activity will be collected by the CurrentWare software agent. This data will be used by BrowseReporter to generate several different computer activity reports.

Below you can see three of the most popular Idle Time tracking features in BrowseReporter

Employee Productivity Tracking

  • Review employee productivity at a glance based on the website categories in their web browsing history
  • Category rankings can be customized based on what is considered productive for your employees
  • Identify the unproductive websites that are most commonly abused by employees

Monitor Web Browsing

  • View every website visited during any given time period
  • Sort data by date, active time, and total time
  • Filter data to show general domains or specific URLs

Track Application Usage

Top 5 applications bar graph
BrowseReporter's computer monitoring report gives you daily application usage by users
  • Gain insights into the software usage habits of your employees
  • Analyze app usage trends throughout the workday
  • Prioritize floating license availability by identifying peak app usage periods

4) Include Idle Time in Your Employee Computer Monitoring Reports

Now that you’ve learned how to monitor employee computer usage with BrowseReporter you can use the Idle Time Tracking feature to modify the data that is included in the reports. 

BrowseReporter run report window with "Enable idle time in this report" selected

By default Idle Time is excluded from BrowseReporter’s reports. To include Idle Time in the reports all you need to do is select the “Include Idle Time in this report” checkbox in the Report Options window.

Conclusion

Measuring the Idle Time of employees provides greater insights into their work habits. With this capability you can find out when your employees are actively using their computers, verify the causes of Idle Time, and address excessive periods of inactivity.

If you want to monitor employee computer activity including Idle Time, software usage, and web activity, you can use employee monitoring software such as CurrentWare’s BrowseReporter.

Sai Kit Chu
Sai Kit Chu
Sai Kit Chu is a Product Manager with CurrentWare. He enjoys helping businesses improve their employee productivity & data loss prevention efforts through the deployment of the CurrentWare solutions.