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Monitoring Employee Internet Usage: Benefits and Methods

Learn how to monitor employee internet usage with this guide for remote employees and satellite teams to keep productivity high and teams connected.


By ActivTrak

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Remote employees and satellite teams are becoming the norm in the modern workforce with the internet serving as our core communications tool. In fact, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found that 43% of U.S. employees work off-site at least part of the time. While the internet has allowed companies to recruit talented people from around the world, it has also made it easier for employees to become distracted online and waste time, hurting companies with lost productivity. 

How can companies keep their employees productive online? One way is by monitoring employee internet usage. While it may raise concerns about privacy and potential misuse, there are undeniable benefits. Understanding the nuances of employee internet monitoring and navigating the legal aspects are important for employers looking to strike the right balance. 

The purpose of monitoring employee internet usage

The main reason you may want to monitor employee internet usage is to protect your company’s assets and ensure the smooth functioning of daily operations – not to infringe on employee privacy or create an environment that makes employees feel like they’re being watched.

Monitoring employee internet usage can give you data on how and when your employees are most productive. It also allows you to identify potential blockers to productivity, like excessive time spent on non-work-related websites or social media during work hours. Using this information, you can implement targeted training programs or policies to address these concerns and improve efficiency overall. 

It can also help you comply with legal and regulatory compliance requirements, especially in highly regulated industries like finance or healthcare. If employees know their work internet use is being monitored, they may be more likely to stick to company guidelines and less likely to engage in unethical behavior or misconduct. This can help foster a culture of accountability and integrity inside your organization. 

In the United States, it is completely legal for employers to monitor their employees’ internet activity on company-owned computers. In fact, there are few activities an employer can’t monitor on their employees’ devices that are owned by the business. Employees should always be aware that anything they do on a company-owned device is something their employer can see. 

Of course, employers have to be mindful of sensitive employee information and privacy laws like HIPAA. The information collected must be stored securely, or the organization could face legal repercussions. Some states, such as Connecticut, California, Louisiana, South Carolina and New York, have specific laws around informing employees they’re being monitored or maintaining employee privacy. It’s important to understand the laws in your region before implementing any employee monitoring system. 

Benefits of monitoring employee internet usage

The advantage of internet usage monitoring software is the ability to look at data across the entire organization. This allows you to better understand who your best-performing employees are and what behaviors make them so successful. 

Enhance productivity

Reports show excessive non-work-related web browsing during working hours can significantly impact productivity. By monitoring employee web usage and computer activities during working time, employers can identify and address any misuse or excessive distractions. According to one survey, when employers monitor internet usage, 81% see an increase in employee productivity.

Protect company information

One of the crucial concerns for employers is safeguarding proprietary information and intellectual property. Monitoring employee internet usage prevents the unauthorized sharing or leakage of valuable corporate data. According to a cybersecurity report, 60% of all cyber-attacks originate from within organizations, making it imperative to implement measures to mitigate potential risks. Managers will find internet productivity data especially helpful, as they evaluate how effective their company policies, motivation strategies and efforts are against the likelihood of insider threats.

Identify training needs

Monitoring employee internet usage offers insights into employees' skills and knowledge gaps. By identifying areas where employees spend excessive time or lack proficiency, organizations can provide targeted training programs to bridge these gaps. This can lead to an increase in employee competence and overall performance.

Challenges of monitoring employee internet usage

While there are many benefits to understanding how your employees use the internet during work hours, there are also many challenges. 

Privacy concerns

Privacy concerns are undoubtedly the biggest obstacle employers face when monitoring employee internet usage. To address these concerns, it’s crucial to establish clear policies and transparent communication channels. Employees should be aware of the purpose of employee monitoring software and understand it is not intended to invade their privacy but rather to ensure the smooth operation of the organization.

Potential for misuse

While monitoring employee internet usage can be beneficial, there is a potential for misuse. Employers should strictly adhere to policies and guidelines to prevent any unwarranted use of the collected data. It is essential to maintain transparency and use the gathered information solely for its intended purpose of improving productivity and safeguarding company assets. Companies that fail to do this open themselves up to lawsuits and other legal ramifications.

Technical difficulties and costs

Implementing employee internet monitoring solutions can pose technical challenges and incur costs. Employers need to invest in appropriate monitoring tools that can collect and analyze internet usage data effectively. Organizations must have the resources to address technical issues promptly and ensure the smooth functioning of the monitoring system.

4 ways to monitor employee internet usage

There are a number of ways to handle how the internet is used at your organization. The method or methods you use will depend on the level of security you need to maintain as well as your employees’ roles and responsibilities. Some employees in marketing, for instance, may need to access news sites or social media in order to properly do their jobs. Employers can use any of the following methods to monitor or moderate employee internet usage in various capacities.

  1. Restrict internet usage as a whole

If your company deals with highly sensitive information, it may be worthwhile to restrict web browsing to certain apps or websites that are necessary for employees to do their jobs. This is easier to implement when employees work on-site at a single location, but your organization can have control over an employee’s computer even when they work remotely.  

  1. Implement a BYOD policy

Some employees may enjoy browsing the internet on their own devices during breaks or other downtime. In some instances, this can help with productivity and employee morale, as long as they’re not letting it distract them from their work. Having a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy can allow employees some freedom in spending downtime to browse social media or do online shopping while still protecting company assets. 

  1. Ban specific websites

There are web filters and geofencing programs that can limit which sites anyone can access when using company Wi-Fi or computers. Many companies ban access to certain restricted sites, such as pornographic or adult sites, on their Wi-Fi or computers. If employee productivity is at stake, it’s not hard to ban access to social media sites or other time-wasters on company computers. 

  1. Use an employee monitoring tool

Employee monitoring software like ActivTrak is an increasingly popular tool for monitoring employee web browsing. Employers can get information in real time about how employees are spending their time and quickly fix blocks to productivity with real data. These tools also allow employees to see how their productivity is being affected by distractions, which can empower them to change their habits as well. 

Get insights about employee internet usage with ActivTrak

Internet usage monitoring software gives managers the information they need to better understand the online behaviors that make their teams successful. ActivTrak’s internet usage monitoring software helps companies measure and manage their employees’ internet usage. With the right tools, wasteful practices or ineffective policies can be found and corrected. Start your free trial of ActivTrak and help boost the productivity of your employees today.

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