Internet Monitoring in the Workplace

 

What is Internet Monitoring?

Internet monitoring is the practice of collecting and analyzing the data of websites visited by users, departments, or individual devices. When monitoring employee internet use this data is gathered into reports for review by business owners, human resources, and management to address bandwidth usage, employee productivity, and inappropriate workplace Internet usage.

 

Internet Monitoring vs Internet Filtering

In the employee monitoring space, there are software tools for both Internet monitoring and Internet filtering. While each of these tools will likely coincide as part of enforcing an acceptable use policy within your workplace, they serve notably different functions.

 

 
 

The Goals of Employee Internet Monitoring Software

Software for monitoring internet activity has a variety of potential functions depending on the needs of your organization.

Improve Employee Productivity

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Monitoring internet activity allows you to see how much time an employee spends on the internet during the work day. The purpose behind tracking employee productivity is clear - you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Employee Internet monitoring reports provide a valuable data-informed baseline to manage employee productivity by measuring project progress and employee output alongside trends in their Internet browsing habits.

Productivity Coaching

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Employee Internet monitoring reports can act as an important tool in conjunction with other metrics when addressing employee productivity during coaching or performance reviews.

When there is a noticeable decline in engagement or productivity you can track employee web activity to identify trends in how their Internet browsing habits have changed and have an open discussion about their workplace satisfaction, productivity blocks, and job expectations.

Managing Your Employees Effectively

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One of the key benefits of implementing software-based employee monitoring is that you can collect the data you need to make informed decisions when managing your employees, giving you another avenue for staying in touch with trends in your workforce during moments where you cannot always be there in person.

Other Considerations

Do you know How your Employees are Spending Their Time?

Aside from understanding the non-work browsing habits of your workforce, tracking employee web activity with employee monitoring software can give you insights into how your employees interact with the devices on your networks with reports for not only Internet usage but software application usage as well.

If you typically expect that the majority of your customer service department’s workdays would be spent using your helpdesk software application, you may be surprised to see a sudden spike in their Internet usage or an unexpected drop in their helpdesk software usage - is the helpdesk down? Are your employees suddenly on strike or are they frantically searching the Internet for troubleshooting and customer support numbers? With employee monitoring software you can configure alerts when usage activity falls out expectations, giving you insights into these sort of unexpected changes in your workforce.

Balance their Workloads

If your software for employee monitoring allows for reports based on user or device groups, you can organize your monitoring data into departments or project teams to compare their Internet and application usage to that of your other teams/departments to determine if workloads need to be adjusted. If a given department is frequently an outlier for excessive non-work Internet usage it may indicate that that department is either blocked in their tasks or they are underworked in comparison to your other teams/departments.

Improve Visibility of Remote Workers

Remote workers can sometimes have a difficult time having their contributions noticed and demonstrating that they are working at a level that is expected of them. By monitoring both your in-house and remote workers you can readily compare your reports from both arms of your organization to ensure they are matching expectations.

For remote workers that use their personal computer as a workstation, employee monitoring software can be configured to only capture specific types of data or only capture data during working hours, allowing you to maintain your standard monitoring practices while respecting their privacy.

To block or not to block

With most employee monitoring software you have the option to either proactively prevent access to websites that are deemed inappropriate for your workplace or you can have website access reports generated for review, giving you the flexibility you need to monitor employee Internet usage in the way you see fit for your organization.

When potentially inappropriate websites are accessed by your employees, an employee monitoring software can generate reports and automatically send them to designated persons or departments that have a legitimate business need for that data such as data controllers/processors, managers, information technologists (IT), or human resources (HR) staff.

Whether a given website or website category is monitored or filtered depends on your reasons for monitoring Internet activities, your organization's needs and values, and the nature of the websites that are being accessed by your employees.

Websites that clearly have no legitimate business reason for being accessed at work in most workplaces (such as pornography or dating websites) are often proactively filtered to prevent access altogether in an effort to not only prevent distractions and increase productivity, but also to prevent the formation of a hostile work environment should employees be negatively affected by their coworker’s access to inappropriate websites.

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How to Prevent Excessive Usage of Distracting Websites with Internet Monitoring Software

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If you do not wish to explicitly block access to certain websites or website categories, you can approach your employee monitoring and productivity strategy by tracking employee web activity for excessive usage of non-work websites rather than blocking those websites entirely.

  • Set specified limits for how long a given website can be used per day
  • Use time-based filtering to prevent access to websites outside of designated hours (breaks, before their shift, before peak working hours)
  • Have your software for internet monitoring alert management of excessive non-work Internet usage only after your determined threshold is exceeded (time spent as a percentage or after a determined amount of hours/minutes

Learn More: How to Monitor Internet Usage

Website Categories That Are Often Monitored

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The websites that are monitored by your organization will likely fall into general categories. Many employee monitoring software solutions can be configured to generate reports when websites within this category are accessed, alerting you to employees that are using your organization's network inappropriately.

Common categories include: Adult-Oriented, Sexually Explicit/Pornographic Content, Vulgar Themes/Profanity, Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco, Gambling, Dating, Chats, Computer Games, Hate, Humor, Malicious Websites, Virus Infected Sites, Phishing Scams, Spam, Social Media, Warez Sites, Torrents, Software Cracks, Online Piracy, Illegal Video Streaming,
 
Internet Monitoring in the Workplace

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How to Address Objections To Employee Monitoring?

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The world of employee monitoring is a bit of a double-edged sword. As an employer you want to keep your data and systems secure and use the data you collect to better manage your workforce, but for your employees the feeling of having an all-seeing eye watching over them might make cause privacy concerns or the feeling that they aren’t trusted to manage their own workstyles.

The key to a successful employee monitoring strategy is to foster employee buy-in. Your employees need to know that their privacy is respected, that they are trusted, and that the data collected isn’t going to be used as the only context for validating their performance.

When you develop your employee monitoring policy, it helps to get feedback from your employees and really show them the benefits of your strategy. By giving your employees an element of input during the process they’ll feel less like employee monitoring is being forced on them and more like they had an opportunity to contribute to the development of a policy that is fair for both parties.

Be As Transparent As You Possibly Can

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For your employees, one of the scary things about being monitored is that they may not realize exactly what is being monitored and how their monitoring data is going to be used. By making the values, execution, and intent of your employee monitoring strategy perfectly clear to everyone who is going to be monitored you can reduce the feelings of anxiety that stem from uncertainty employees may feel about your intentions.

Here are some things your employees might want to know:

  • What data is being captured - screenshots, keystrokes, websites visited, etc.
  • How is their data being captured?
  • Why are you monitoring them?
  • How will you protect the data that you capture?
  • How will their data be used.

Learn More:5 Ways Transparency is Key When Monitoring Employees in the Workplace

Set Clear Goals For Your Employee Monitoring Strategy

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Employees need to have a clear understanding of the goals and benefits of your employee monitoring strategy. Let your employees know why employee monitoring is necessary for your organization - are you trying to ensure compliance with data privacy laws? Are you securing company data by mitigating and detecting insider threats? Are you concerned about inappropriate usage of company Internet and bandwidth?

Whatever your reason for employee monitoring, make it loud and clear so your employees can better understand how it plays a part in keeping the organization operating at its best.

Allow Employees to Access Their Personal Monitoring Data

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It’s one thing to tell your employees what data you collect on them, and it’s an entirely different thing to truly show them what is being collected. If your employee monitoring software allows you to share reports, you may wish to give employees the option to request to see the data collected on them so they can truly understand what is being collected.


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Monitor Everyone Equally (Including You!)

One of the best ways to increase employee buy-in for your monitoring strategy is to treat everyone fairly. Do not single out a specific employee or department for monitoring unless there is a legitimate business reason to do so as employees may feel resent towards you and the organization for singling them out.

If you really want to make an impact on the trustworthiness of how employee monitoring is used in your organization, set a good example for by monitoring your own devices first! When you demonstrate your confidence in the benefits of employee monitoring by including yourself, you give hesitant employees an opportunity to feel like everyone is on equal ground when it's their turn to be brought in to the monitoring ecosystem.

Only Monitor What is Needed

Employee monitoring is unique for every organization, and yours is no exception. While it may be tempting to purchase the most advanced, fully-featured software and gather as much data as possible just in case, is it truly necessary for your needs?

If you attempt to collect and analyze more data than you need, you are more likely to suffer from information overload or paralysis by analysis as you retroactively attempt to decide what is relevant to you. While employee monitoring software will typically allow you to filter the data you collect to better make sense of it all, the risks of getting too involved in irrelevant data is still present and you risk needlessly collecting the sorts of data that can make your employees feel uncomfortable.

Get Informed Consent From Monitored Employees

Depending on the legislation that governs your business, informed consent may be mandatory. For example, Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires employers that monitor employees to explicitly disclose the fact that they are being monitored and how the monitoring is being executed (security cameras, Internet monitoring software, etc).

Even if there are no laws that specifically require that you disclose to employees that they are being monitored, it is the best practice to do so anyway. When implementing an employee monitoring solution, get explicit and informed consent from your employees that they are going to be monitored. How in-depth you explain the process is up to the discretion and unique needs of your organization, however where possible it is best to be as open as possible and even go so far as to have employees read and sign an employee monitoring policy. If your employees are to trust in your employee monitoring strategy, they need to know that their data is being handled safely.


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Privileged Access Management (PAM)

In the context of employee monitoring, Privileged Access Management (PAM) can be as simple as configuring custom credentials for users that need to access your employee monitoring data and filtering the data that is available based on who is accessing it.

The data of employees or departments should be limited to access for only a select few people that would genuinely need access to that data to perform their work functions, such as the immediate manager of that department and human resources staff.

Should Employee Monitoring Data be Stored Locally or on the Cloud?

Depending on your chosen employee monitoring software, your provider will either allow you to store your captured data on a computer/server that remains on-premises, or they may have you store your data on their servers.

As you consider your options, it is important to be aware that there are inherent risks and benefits of both options and the option you choose will be heavily influenced by your budget, data privacy priorities, and quantity of data captured.

BrowseReporter - Employee Internet Monitoring Software

 

BrowseReporter provides an in-depth analysis for monitoring Internet activities and usage of your employees. It features extensive reports and charts on your employee’s web browsing activity.

The Report Manager offers the flexibility of analysing the data based on your employee’s Internet activity. Reports such as sites visited, duration of visit, time of visit and bandwidth consumption are presented at both the detail and summary levels.

BrowseReporter can track the Internet activity of a specific user. If an employee or a student uses multiple computers, BrowseReporter will track the browsing activity of this user on all the corresponding computers.

All monitoring and tracking on internet activity BrowseReporter does is always in stealth mode (unless configured otherwise) so that users in your network won't know their internet usage is being monitored unless they are told so.

A screenshot of a BrowseReporter report - Monitor Internet Usage
 


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Internet Activity Monitoring Sample Reports

Here are some samples of the 18 reports BrowseReporter can generate for Monitoring Internet Activity in your network



Employee Internet Monitoring Software vs Privacy

In today’s privacy-conscious world employers need to monitor employees in a way that is transparent, minimally invasive, and respectful of employee privacy.

When monitoring internet activities they need to carefully balance the demands of organizational productivity, employee privacy, and regulatory compliance requirements surrounding the storage, use, and protection of their employee’s data.

If you want to monitor the internet activities of your employees and gain actionable workforce insights you need to set yourself up for success by adopting a privacy-first employee monitoring strategy.


How to Monitor Internet Activities of Employees That Work From Home

With the rapid expansion of the global remote workforce employers are struggling to find ways to maintain accountability, security, and productivity when their employees work from home.

If you would like to use monitoring software with employees who work from home there are a few added considerations that you should factor into your employee monitoring strategy.

1) Confirm That It’s Legal to Monitor Remote Employees

Before monitoring internet activities of employees that work from home you should consult with your legal counsel regarding employee monitoring laws in your jurisdiction. This is particularly true for employees that are using personal devices.

2) Have Your Employees Sign a Work From Home Policy

Before you start you must disclose your intention to monitor employee internet activities within a formal work from home privacy policy or acceptable use policy. These policies are critical tools for explaining your company’s privacy expectations when employees work remotely.

3) Get Feedback From Your Employees

When your employees work from home they may have privacy concerns surrounding the use of employee internet monitoring software. Before implementing such a solution you should consult with your employees and gather any feedback they have.

This early consultation process allows employees to voice their concerns about monitoring their internet activities and provides you an opportunity to address them. As a bonus your employees are more likely to understand your intentions if they’ve had a chance to voice their opinions and speak with you during the early planning process.

General Employee Monitoring Guidelines

  • Transparency: Inform your employees which of their activities will be monitored, how they will be monitored, how their computer activity data will be used, and who will have access to their data.
  • Proportionality: Use the least invasive method available to accomplish your company’s goals. Avoid installing monitoring software on employee-owned devices, logging keystrokes, or capturing audio/video feeds unless absolutely necessary.
  • Privacy/Security: Ensure that the data you collect is secured and used exclusively for its intended purpose.

Features You Will Find In the Best Internet Monitoring Software

Website Tracking

Website tracking is the practice of monitoring the internet activities of users, departments, or individual devices. This data is often gathered into reports for review by business owners, human resources, and management to address bandwidth usage, employee productivity, and inappropriate workplace internet usage.

Administrative Permissions & Groupings

The best internet monitoring software will include support for user grouping features such as Organizational Units (OUs) within Active Directory that allow administrators to efficiently implement and adjust monitoring settings based on department, location, user, the types of data handled, and other important considerations.

Tracking of Both Users & Devices

Device monitoring will monitor internet activities on a specific device whereas user monitoring will track the internet activity of an individual user regardless of the device they use.

The best internet monitoring software will have both device-level and user-level monitoring. Having access to both features is excellent for tailoring the insights reported based on the unique needs of managers, human resources, and IT administrators.

Active Time vs Total Time Tracking

Monitoring the internet activities of employees can provide incredibly valuable insights, but only if the data is truly relevant.

The best internet monitoring software will allow you to track active time and idle time so you can understand how long websites are actively being used by your users. Solutions that only track total time will report a list of websites that were open on the computer without properly contextualizing whether the employee was actually using them.


Employee Internet Monitoring Software FAQ

1What is employee monitoring software and how is it used in business?
Employee monitoring software is a computer program that is used by employers to track employee web activity. This employee internet monitoring software collects data regarding their computer usage, web browsing, location, and productivity. This software is used to enforce acceptable use policies, gather business intelligence data, and protect sensitive data from insider threats.
2How can I monitor internet browsing?
You can monitor internet browsing using internet monitoring software such as CurrentWare’s BrowseReporter. These software solutions will monitor internet activities such as URLs visited, the categories of websites visited, and the amount of time spent on each website. By using internet monitoring software you can track internet browsing behaviors even when the end-user deletes their browsing history.
3How do you monitor the internet usage of employees working from home?
To monitor the internet usage of employees working from home you will need to install remote employee monitoring software on each device that they use. Before monitoring employees that work from home you should ensure that they have signed a work from home policy that demonstrates their consent to be monitored. You must also follow any relevant employee monitoring and privacy laws that your organization may be subject to.

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