Employee Email Monitoring: Your Guide to Tools & Software

  • Email Archiving
  • Employee Email Monitoring: Your Guide to Tools & Software

    Whether you work at a financial institution, a government agency, a healthcare organization or anything in between, odds are you handle sensitive information on a semi-regular — if not regular — basis. In order to protect both your organization and the people it serves, it’s paramount that this information not enter the wrong hands.

    Unfortunately, for all their merits, electronic forms of communication such as email introduce potential points of failure. Never mind the usual narrative of disgruntled employees disseminating customer data or company secrets — all it takes is one well-meaning employee accidentally sending information to the wrong person for there to be a problem. Given the risk, it’s easy to see why Gartner reports that 50% of large corporations monitor the contents of employee emails.

    When done well, employee email monitoring can be an unobtrusive, yet effective method of safeguarding company information and ensuring compliance with applicable regulations and legal requirements. In this article, we’ll review the pros and cons of employee email monitoring, look at some of the most popular employee email monitoring tools on the market today, and discuss how to implement them in a transparent way that respects your employees’ privacy.

    Making the Business Case for Employee Email Monitoring

    Preventing employees from sharing confidential information — whether intentionally or unintentionally — is only one reason why a company might choose to invest in employee email monitoring software.

    Other justifications include:

    • According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, business email compromises are the second-most common form of social engineering — that is, “psychological compromise of a person, which alters their behavior into taking an action or breaching confidentiality” — with web-based email being a favorite target. Employee email monitoring enables organizations to proactively monitor for, detect and eliminate email-based cybersecurity threats, such as malware, spoofing emails and phishing attacks.
    • Workplace bullying is a serious issue, one that impacts 79.3 million workers in the U.S. alone and can take many forms, including sexual harassment, intimidation tactics, intentional humiliation and malicious gossip. Although workplace bullying is most prevalent in virtual meetings, email abuse can and does happen. In addition to implementing comprehensive email policies, companies can also use employee email monitoring tools to surface harassment and other workplace issues and put an end to email abuse.
    • With remote work well on its way to becoming the standard, the number of organizations looking to invest in productivity tools is on the rise. Employee email monitoring software is one such tool, ensuring that employees are making effective use of company time and not engaging in inappropriate side conversations.
    • Employee email monitoring can also provide organizations with valuable insight into workplace conditions and the efficacy of different company policies by reviewing employee communications.

    Should I Monitor My Employees’ Emails? [Pros & Cons]

    The decision whether to invest in employee email monitoring tools is not one to be made lightly. In order to make an informed choice about whether employee email monitoring will help or hurt your organization, it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons.

    Here’s a quick breakdown:

    PROS

    Employee email monitoring can …

    • Prevent employees from sharing sensitive or confidential company information with unauthorized parties
    • Enable employers to proactively monitor for email-based cybersecurity threats, thereby reducing risk
    • Support compliance initiatives by ensuring that email communications meet relevant regulatory and legislative requirements
    • Ensure that company email addresses are used only for business communications
    • Increase productivity by making sure that employees are not engaging in inappropriate side conversations during business hours
    • Help employers identify and address workplace issues as they arise, such as workplace bullying and harassment
    • Provide valuable insight into the efficacy of company policies and procedures
    • Help employers verify that external communications consistently meet company standards
    CONS

    Employee email monitoring can also …

    • Create a sense of distrust amongst employees and negatively impact morale
    • Reduce job satisfaction, increasing the risk of employee turnover
    • Affect company hiring and retention efforts
    • Increase the risk of breaching employees’ personal data
    • Result in legal action if deemed invasive
    • Be expensive to implement and challenging to scale over time to accommodate company growth

    If you’re committed to the idea of engaging in email monitoring, keep in mind that the past few years have been challenging for employees and employers alike. As the Harvard Business Review advises:

    “Accept that very good workers will not always be able to do very good work all the time — especially under present circumstances. These are unique times and it would be wrong — both ethically and factually — to make decisions about who is and who is not a good employee or a hard worker based on performance under these conditions [… ] Ensure that your supervisors take the time to talk to their supervisees when the numbers aren’t what you want them to be. And again, that conversation should reflect an understanding of the employee’s situation and focus on creative solutions, not threats.”

    How to Monitor Employees’ Emails in a Transparent Way

    According to a Gartner survey, only 30% of employees said they were comfortable with their employer monitoring their emails; however, this number jumped up to over 50% when their employers explained their reason for monitoring.

    The key takeaway here? Transparency matters — and there are a few ways to achieve it:

    • Define metrics with the support of key stakeholders to ensure that you track only what is relevant and necessary.
    • Create an email monitoring policy that clearly spells out company expectations and consequences for policy violations.
    • Take the time to explain to employees what you’ll be monitoring and why, preferably in a face-to-face meeting.
    • Hold policy training and FAQ sessions to ensure that employees fully understand the new policy and are compliant.
    • Share the results of your employee email monitoring initiative throughout the organization.
    • Encourage employees to provide honest feedback on your email monitoring policy — and then actually listen to it.
    • Reward employees for compliance to prevent low morale.
    • Revisit your employee email monitoring policy on a routine basis and revise as needed.

    Being transparent about your company’s employee email monitoring practices is not only an effective means of increasing employee acceptance rates — it’s also critical from a legal perspective.

    Although employees should have no expectation of privacy on an employer’s email system and workplace emails are considered the property of an employer, it’s still in your organization’s best interest to understand email privacy laws and consult an attorney before implementing employee email monitoring software. Creating an email monitoring policy that not only sets expectations but also explains to employees what rights they have — and which ones they don’t — can help protect your company from negative repercussions.

    As a final note on legality, be sure to thoroughly train supervisors as well as supervisees on your company’s employee email monitoring policy to ensure that it is applied fairly and consistently to all employees to prevent discrimination.

    6 Employee Email Monitoring Tools to Consider [+ 2 Honorable Mentions]

    Now that we’ve thoroughly covered reasons to implement email monitoring, potential benefits and drawbacks, and how to introduce it while securing employee buy-in, let’s talk about the actual software.

    Here are some of the most popular employee email monitoring tools on the market today:

    Teramind

    A key component of its employee monitoring platform — which also includes keystroke logging, application monitoring and remote desktop control — Teramind’s email monitoring application not only monitors employee emails in real time, but also records and indexes all information relating to a given action, helping companies create detailed audit trails.

    Key features include:

    • Real-time recording of all events associated with incoming and outgoing emails
    • Compatibility with all email platforms, including Outlook (web and desktop), Gmail, Yahoo and Yandex
    • Monitoring and optional saving for all email attachments
    • Customizable alerts based on email content, recipient, subject and more
    • Real-time network and collaboration email monitoring on outreach campaigns
    • Automatic alerts for emails sent to non-corporate accounts or suspicious hosts

    Pricing: Prices start at $10 per user, per month

    The reviews are in:

    “Teramind’s comprehensive tracking functionality can capture any user activity. These can range from screen recordings, live views of employee PCs, tracking emails, and keystrokes all the way to Zoom sessions, all of which earns it our Editors’ Choice pick for employee monitoring.”

    — Gadjo Sevilla, PC Magazine

    Veriato

    Veriato Vision, a comprehensive employee activity recording and time tracking solution, includes email and webmail monitoring capabilities for remote and in-office staff. Additional Veriato Vision capabilities include website interaction, network access, file movement and web search tracking.

    Key features include:

    • Powerful screenshotting functionality, including alert word screenshots, continuous screenshots and smart camera screenshots
    • Unusual behavior monitoring for real-time detection of deviations from established patterns
    • Keylogging tool for the protection of sensitive data
    • Instant and automatic alerts when custom, predefined activities take place

    Pricing: $150 per user, per year

    The reviews are in:

    “Veriato is a veteran employee monitoring tool that offers comprehensive data gathering, great reporting, automated incident response, and powerful screen capture. It’s an easy-to-use tool for enterprise-grade organizational oversight but its lack of a cloud-based option is a major knock against it.”

    — Rob Marvin, PC Magazine

    Controlio

    Controlio’s computer and internet monitoring software includes a built-in employee email monitoring function that gives employers a live view of correspondence productivity across individual contributors and entire teams and generates detailed activity reports for specific periods of time. In addition to real-time reporting for email, keystrokes, searches, printing and more, Controlio also offers a user-friendly dashboard summarizing your team’s daily work efficiencies.

    Key features include:

    • Ability to view reports for individual contributors or entire teams, and to limit reporting window to a specific time period
    • Downloadable email reports in either CSV or PDF format
    • Compatibility with major email platforms, including Outlook (web and desktop), Gmail and Yahoo
    • Live video recording with automatic attachment to email records

    Pricing: $7.99 per user, per month / $79.90 per user, per year

    The reviews are in:

    “All in all, Controlio is an excellent piece of employee desktop monitoring software. It’s not that expensive, it’s easy to use, and isn’t too invasive. The software comes with admirable reporting and alerting modules and does a great job at monitoring your employees without violating their privacy. Still, there are some minor bugs, and the lack of agents for mobile devices and Macs can be a deal-breaker for some companies.”

    — Deyan G., TechJury

    Workpuls

    Workpuls’ comprehensive employee monitoring platform covers application and website usage, computer activity, attendance monitoring, time tracking and email monitoring. Workpuls captures employee activity automatically and in real time, sending every byte of data to an intuitive dashboard for trend and productivity analysis.

    Key features include:

    • Automatically generated activity reports on a daily, weekly or monthly basis
    • Manager logins with built-in access controls that enable managers to see only their team’s activity
    • Employee logins that enable employees to access their own data for greater transparency and accountability
    • Automatic alerts based on productivity levels or suspicious activity

    Pricing: Prices start at $8 per user, per month

    The reviews are in:

    “Affordable, versatile, and aimed to empower employees as well as managers, Workpuls provides [small-to-medium-sized businesses] with a variety of productivity and time tracking tools as well as basic reporting.”

    — Gadjo Sevilla, PC Magazine

    InterGuard

    Unlike other vendors on this list, InterGuard offers its own standalone cloud-based employee email monitoring solution, with real-time capture, tamper-proof evidence, anomaly detection and flexible email monitoring settings. InterGuard captures and analyzes all aspects of email communications, including subject lines, senders and recipients, body content and attachments for enhanced security and detailed productivity reporting.

    Key features include:

    • Compatibility with Outlook, MS Exchange, Gmail, Hotmail, Office 365 and LinkedIn Mail
    • Email activity log sorting by date, user, group, email type, device, send or received, subject line, flag, sender, recipient, attachment or alert words
    • Ability to set custom keywords and receive automatic alerts and screenshot captures any time a prohibited keyword is viewed or typed in an email
    • Built-in search functionality with customizable search parameters
    • Reports wizard for faster report generation
    • Centralized dashboard with overview of all email activities across your organization
    • User behavior anomaly detection

    Pricing: $9.99 per user, per month

    The reviews are in:

    “InterGuard is a powerful employee monitoring tool that’s extremely customizable. It has strong keyword tracking and can generate a wealth of reports on your employees’ activities. That said, its interface is somewhat clunky, and its stealth employee monitoring agent takes time to set up, particularly if you run antivirus software.”

    — Richard Sutherland, TechRadar

    StaffCop

    StaffCop’s email monitoring functionality — part of its larger employee surveillance suite — tracks all incoming and outgoing employee emails in real time, providing employers with a comprehensive view of all email activity. StaffCop offers advanced capabilities, including the ability to generate relational graphs of email correspondence, email quantity heat mapping and an IMAP grabber, which automatically collects all email communications that pass through your corporate mail server.

    Key features include:

    • Automatic records of all events associated with incoming and outgoing emails, from typing and attaching content when sending to reading and accessing attachments for the purpose of playback
    • Compatible with Outlook (web and desktop), Gmail, Yahoo and Yandex
    • Networking and collaboration email monitoring for outreach campaigns
    • Automatic alerts for emails sent to non-corporate accounts or suspicious hosts
    • Customizable alerts based on email properties including content, recipient and subject

    Pricing: Prices start at $35 for five to 25 employees for a three-month period

    The reviews are in:

    “StaffCop Enterprise does absolutely everything you’d want an employee surveillance software to do, from monitoring screen time usage to recording audio and presenting all employee-generated data in easy-to-interpret graphs. The personalization capability of the software is excellent, and you can easily establish alerts or keywords specific to the unique security threats that your organization faces.”

    — Annie Beverly, TechRadar

    Though their websites don’t make any specific reference to employee email monitoring, HubStaff and ActivTrak’s employee monitoring solutions each deserve an honorable mention and could still be worth considering if your organization wants to increase employee productivity and accountability.

    Email Monitoring vs. Email Archiving: What’s the Difference?

    If you’re not entirely sold on the idea of employee email monitoring but still want to increase accountability, enhance data security and ensure regulatory compliance, email archiving could be the answer.

    Email archiving refers to the process by which an organization captures, stores and makes searchable all incoming and outgoing emails, thereby creating a tamper-proof record of all email communications. Email archiving not only supports compliance initiatives by helping organizations meet the data retention requirements of most regulations, it is also a powerful tool for eDiscovery and litigation because it enables legal teams to quickly search for and reproduce email content.

    Although an archiving solution may not offer all of the same capabilities as dedicated employee email monitoring software — such as screen recording, keystroke logging or employee activity reports — by creating a record of all email content and detailed audit trails, it does provide employers the visibility they need to ensure appropriate workplace communications.

    Furthermore, an email archiving solution can help your organization protect sensitive or confidential data by setting access controls and custom user permissions and redacting private, protected and privileged information. As a final note, most email archiving software offers additional security measures to protect both archived emails and emails in transit, such as two-factor authentication and encryption.

    Intradyn is the leading provider of email, social media and text message archiving software for the modern workplace. To learn more about our products, watch our free, on-demand demo or contact us to speak directly with one of our specialists.

    Azam is the president, chief technology officer and co-founder of Intradyn. He oversees global sales and marketing, new business development and is responsible for leading all aspects of the company’s product vision and technology department.

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