How to Create an Electronic Signature Using Free Software

How to create an electronic signature

Having the ability to sign electronic documents digitally is helpful when you cannot be physically present or need to speed up the sign-off of paperwork by email. Indeed, in today’s more socially distanced world, an electronic signature can be even more beneficial because it means that people can remain safe. 

For businesses, knowing how to create an electronic signature is essential in an increasingly digitised world—and obtaining an electronic signature for free is entirely possible through digital signature software.

How to create an electronic signature

Read on to find out everything you need to know about how to create an electronic signature for yourself.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is a digital form of your actual signature. You can use it to sign documents and prove who you are in just the same way as you might using a pen on a particular piece of paperwork. 

The difference with an electronic version is that you can use it on documents which may only come to you in a digital format. Rather than printing them out, signing them and then scanning them back into a digitised format again to send, an electronic signature allows you to put your name to a digital document directly. It is quicker and more environmentally sustainable. 

In most jurisdictions around the world today, including Australia, most legal documents will stand up whether they have been signed in-person or digitally. The problem most people have is knowing how to create an electronic signature in the first place.

What is the best way to create a digital signature?

The best way to create a digital signature is to use software that is dedicated to this purpose. An electronic signature free from scanning errors will always be preferable if the document you sign needs to be looked at again in the future. 

Of course, you could use some straightforward art software to replicate your signature using a mouse or a stylus, but these tend to be pale imitations of how you would normally sign with a pen. Therefore, specialist software is always preferable, especially when it is freely available

Not only will it mean that your digital signature looks better than what you might produce in standard software, but you will also often be able to take advantage of other features. For example, applying digital audit trails and multiple signatories to the same document.

How to create an electronic signature

To create an electronic signature is easy with the right software at your disposal. Most will work in a similar fashion to the extent that you will need to use a touchscreen to produce a close representation of your usual signature. You can also use a mouse to form a digital version of your signature if you don’t have access to a touchscreen, of course.

With a stylus or by simply writing with your finger, draw your signature onto the screen as you normally would using pen and paper. If you go wrong at any point, then the software will usually allow you to delete what you have produced and start again. It is worth persevering to get your signature looking right. 

Once you are satisfied that your digital signature looks like a fair representation of your real one, you can then save it—usually, as an image file within the software platform that you are using. It will then be available to insert into any digital documents that require an electronic signature. This way, you can use it again and again without having to generate a new signature every time you need one.

How can I create a digital signature online for free?

You can create a digital signature online for free by using any of the free digital software versions available. Simply pick one of the software solutions and give it a go, or look at the reviews to see how useful other users have found each of them before making your choice. 

Alternatively, if you are looking for specific features in the software, then you can refine your search by clicking on the functions that are most important to you. For example, you may require a platform that offers mobile electronic signature services or multi-party signing. It really is that easy to find the digital signature for free in a way that will suit your requirements down to the ground.

Looking for digital signature software? Check out our catalogue.

Top 3 Best Property Management Software That Offer A Free Trial

Property management software free trial

Managing properties is no easy task, and it’s important to stay on top of all facets of property ownership. Whether you’re dealing with property maintenance, finding tenants or collecting payments, rental property management software can be an invaluable tool.

Property management software free trial

A property management software free trial is the best way to decide which features suit you best. To find out how you can keep track of all your property management needs in one convenient location, read on.

What does property management software do?

Property management software is used to help make managing property simpler. Whether you have one property or several, staying on top of rental payments, keeping up with property maintenance, advertising property availability and managing lease agreements are all important for the smooth running of a property portfolio. 

Property management software in Australia can make life easier for landlords, property managers and tenants alike. Functions include the ability to pay and collect rent online, keep track of maintenance requests and ensure any issues are dealt with in a timely fashion.

Free online rental property management software

Rental property management software needs to be capable and scalable. Property management software free trials are a good way to compare the various tool suites on offer.

Below is some of the best free online rental property management software available. We’ve filtered this selection based on a range of criteria, including having a high overall user rating (with a minimum of 100 user reviews), a high search volume, a free trial version and is available for the Australian market.

1. Avail

Avail rent management

 

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4.3/5

Customer service: 4.5/5

Avail was founded in 2013 and is suitable for first-time landlords, or those with less than ten total properties. Avail allows users to set up online recurring billing to collect rent from their tenants. It includes an autopay feature so that both the landlord and your tenants can set and forget rent payments. Avail also includes features that help landlords find tenants, including advertising rental properties and running credit reports.

Price to upgrade: Avail offers a free version and a free trial. It also offers a premium version, starting at $5 USD per unit per month.

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2. Zoho Creator

Zoho creator property manager

Overall rating: 4.3/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Customer service: 4/5

Zoho Creator is a platform that enables property managers to build and run their own custom business apps. The app development process is intended to be simple, so writing code is not necessary. Instead, a drag-and-drop interface helps make tasks, such as building forms, intuitive. Business workflows can be consolidated into a single centralised location and integration with other apps and services (such as Paypal, Twilio, Quickbooks and CRM platforms) is available.

Price to upgrade: Zoho Creator offers a free version and a free trial. A paid version starts at $10 USD per month.

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3. SimplifyEm

Simplifyem overview of tenants

Overall rating: 4.2/5

Ease of use: 4.2/5

Customer service: 4.4/5

SimplifyEm was founded in 2007 and features a web-based property management tool suite, aimed at making life less complicated for property managers. Online rental applications, tenant and lease information, rent collection, late notifications and plenty of other useful features are all included. Reporting functionality also makes it easy to track and visualise important figures and values, helping landlords to stay on top of their portfolio activities.

Price to upgrade: SimplifyEm offers a free version and a free trial. A paid version starts at $20 USD per month.

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Landlords vs property managers: Which software is best?

Property owners and property managers have significant overlap in the kind of features that they want, which is why a property management software free trial is useful. Landlords may be more interested in the maintenance aspects of free online rental property management software, while property managers may need a feature suite geared towards finding tenants and collecting rent payments.

Some of the most important features to consider are how many properties you wish to manage and the type of properties you own. Software geared towards residential properties will include useful tenant management tools that are less suitable for property managers and landlords with commercial rental properties, for example. Using a property management software free trial is a great way to help choose the right software before making a financial commitment.

How to choose property management software

When choosing property management software in Australia, it’s a good idea to highlight the key features of the software you are looking at. For example, making sure it’s cloud-based so that you and your tenants all have access to the same tools, no matter where you are in the world. This is particularly useful during the coronavirus pandemic when many people are staying home and working remotely.

Take the time to read real-user reviews of software. Seeing what people think and where its key strengths lie can help you determine whether it’s suitable for your needs. Always be sure to read a mixture of reviews where possible, and try to average out the user scores to arrive at a fair estimation.

Be sure to make use of property management software free trials before buying any tool. Free trials are very useful as they allow you to get a feel for a piece of software and to get an idea of how you would integrate it into your workflow. Many free rental property management software versions will contain most of the features you will need, giving you a good indication of the benefits of that software, as well as what you would gain from upgrading to a paid model.

Streamline property management through software

Property management can be time-consuming and complicated, but using the right property management software can smooth things considerably. Cloud-based property management software not only makes your life easier but also that of your tenants and maintenance personnel. 

Rather than trying to keep track of everything in your head or in files that only you have access to, having everything available in a virtual location can make massive savings in time as well as cost.

Looking for free rental property management software? Check out our catalogue.

 


Tool selection methodology:

Capterra chose tools for scheduling software based on the following criteria:

  • At least 100 real-user reviews on the Capterra website
  • A high search volume (using SEO tools) in Australia
  • At least an overview rating of 4 / 5 stars
  • Offers a free trial
  • Cloud-based
  • An Australian market.

Best Free Scheduling Software Tools For Small Businesses In 2021

free scheduling software

Scheduling software helps businesses keep control of client meetings, shared company resources and employee schedules. Organisation is the key to staying on top of everything, so we’ve picked out the best free scheduling software to use in 2021. Read on to learn why scheduling software is so useful, and for five examples of great free scheduling software available for the Australian market.

free scheduling software

What is scheduling software?

Scheduling software is used to manage events, meeting rooms, employees and other resources. Clients can use scheduling software to book and pay for appointments, while businesses can use it to keep track of client bookings and employee schedules. Scheduling software also provides calendars and other graphs that help visualise bookings and events on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

Why use scheduling software?

Scheduling software is particularly useful for small businesses that rely on client bookings and meetings. Typical examples of scheduling software users include hairdressers, pet groomers, salon owners and private tutors, but there are plenty more. Very often, businesses like these are not big enough to develop their own scheduling software. Free scheduling software, therefore, allows small businesses to stay on top of their client bookings and employee schedules while keeping their costs down.

How to choose scheduling appointment software

It can be difficult to choose the right scheduling software for your business. Questions to ask include:

  1. Do you need scheduling appointment software?
  2. Want to take payments online?
  3. Want to include this function on your website?

There are plenty of free scheduling appointment software available, and some offer paid upgrades for additional features. 

We’ve looked at a number of options and have chosen the best free scheduling software based on a range of criteria. To understand this more, skip to the bottom of this article to read the full tool selection methodology.

5 Best Free Scheduling Software Tools For 2021

Choosing the right scheduling software is an important decision because it will become an integral part of managing your business. Rather than searching and using trial-and-error, save some time and take a look at our list of the best free scheduling software tools.

1. Acuity Scheduling

Actuity scheduling software

Overall rating: 4.8/5

Ease of use: 4.6/5

Customer service: 4.7/5

About Acuity Scheduling:

Acuity Scheduling was founded in 2007 and enables small businesses and individual traders to create forms that clients can use to book and pay for their appointments. These forms are customisable, so they can be modified to fit business branding. The forms can be embedded on external websites, so clients never have to leave your company’s website while making a booking. The forms offer a range of additional features, such as being able to create add-on options for additional services per appointment.

Price to upgrade: Acuity Scheduling offers a free version and a free trial. A paid version starts at $15 USD per month.

Read more

2. Calendly

Calendly booking page

Overall rating: 4.6/5

Ease of use: 4.7/5

Customer service: 4.5/5

About Calendly:

Calendly was founded in 2013 with the goal of automating the scheduling process. Calendly simplifies the procedure by allowing businesses to create a link to give to clients. These links lead to scheduling forms with predefined time slots available, giving clients a choice of times from a set you create. Once clients book a time, this is automatically added to both their calendar and yours (with support for most common calendar apps). It can also be linked to CRM and videoconferencing software for further scheduling automation.

Price to upgrade: Calendly has a free version and a free trial. Paid versions are split into two tiers, with the premium version starting at $10 USD per month.

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3. Upkeep

Upkeep booking system

Overall rating: 4.7/5

Ease of use: 4.6/5

Customer service: 4.8/5

About Upkeep:

Upkeep was founded in 2014 with the aim of helping keep track of maintenance tasks and maintenance teams. Its feature suite is built around supporting project maintenance tasks. Technicians can be assigned tasks, receive notifications when tasks are added and stay informed with real-time updates. Work orders can be augmented with photographs, and messaging features allow for a back-and-forth discussion of tasks.

Price to upgrade: Upkeep offers a free version and a free trial. Paid versions start at $35 USD per month.

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4. Setmore

Setmore booking page
Setmore booking page [Source: Setmore]
Overall rating: 4.7/5

Ease of use: 4.6/5

Customer service: 4.8/5

About Setmore:

Setmore was founded in 2012 in order to provide both small and large businesses with professional, customisable scheduling software. It is available on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS apps, in addition to web-based scheduling and payment. Clients can leave reviews that can be showcased on your website, and Setmore supports taking bookings directly through Facebook and Instagram pages.

Price to upgrade: Setmore does not offer a free trial, but does offer a free version. A paid version starts at $5 USD per month.

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5. When I work

When I work

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Customer service: 4.5/5

About When I work:

When I work was founded in 2010 and offers free scheduling software for companies of up to 75 employees. Its calendar-centric display makes it possible to see dates and schedules for employees at a glance. Entire weekly or monthly shifts can be planned out using a timeline or calendar view, and once completed, all employees can be easily notified and sent a copy of the schedule at the same time. 

Employees can also optionally trade shifts with other qualified employees, pending manager approval. 

Price to upgrade: When I Work offers a free version and a free trial, with an upgraded version starting from $1.50 USD per month.

Read more

Automating the scheduling process

The options above represent a wide selection of free scheduling appointment software for different use cases – from shift managers to maintenance trackers – and online appointment booking software. Each of these represents one of the best examples of its kind, so you’re sure to find something that will fit your business scheduling needs.

Looking for free scheduling software? Check out our catalogue.

Capterra chose tools for scheduling software based on the following criteria:

  • At least 830 real-user reviews on the Capterra website
  • A high search volume (using SEO tools) in Australia
  • At least an overall rating of 4 / 5 stars
  • A free version (either a free-forever account option or a free trial)
  • Appointment scheduling functionality
  • An Australian market.

Shopping Trends: Kiwis Are Keen To Try New Online Shops This Christmas

retail in singapore

Research from GetApp reveals the effects of the pandemic have resulted in 33% shoppers in New Zealand making more eCommerce purchases and fewer instore. However, it appears this shift is not only driven by COVID-19, as 43% of Kiwi shoppers confirm they are happy to do more of their Christmas shopping online this festive season, due to the added convenience it provides. 

ecommerce trends new zealand

To give brands a greater understanding of the trends currently driving online sales, GetApp surveyed 1,013 shoppers. The survey highlights new insight into how the pandemic is altering the way Kiwis will shop this Christmas season—a full methodology is available at the bottom of the article.

Fashion, apparels and accessories are the most popular online sales

For retailersit helps to understand which product categories are in highest demand. To find this out, we asked consumers what they have been buying online since the pandemic began.  

most popular shopping products

While it is important to know what inventory to stock to satisfy demand, it is also handy to have insight into how your customers like to interact with brands, particularly their preferred online shopping platforms. The survey shows a diverse range of shopper preferences across both desktop and mobile.

New Zealand top devices used for online shopping

Avoiding large in-store crowds is the most pressing reason for the transition to eCommerce

Meeting customer expectations is an important step in retaining loyalty and making sales. Offering multiple fulfilment options to suit customers’ needs can be an incentive for them to invest in your brand as a regular customer.  

Shoppers like to have the option to choose from click-and-collect, pick-up point delivery or home delivery. Since the start of the pandemic, over half of Kiwi shoppers (53%) are using online delivery services one to two times a week. And the research suggests COVID-19 has been a major reason for doing so, as more than half (51%) say the main incentive has been to avoid large crowds in-store. 

reasons using online delivery since covid

In-store and pick-up point delivery are also seeing frequent use since COVID-19, with 48% relying on these services as often as one to two times a week. When shoppers were asked if they would still be using in-store or pick-up point delivery after the COVID crisis is resolved, the majority confirmed that they would.

The convenience and flexibility of choosing a pick-up time was the biggest selling point for Kiwi shoppers using these services, with 57% of customers ranking it amongst their top reasons for doing so.

High delivery cost in New Zealand is the biggest challenge for online shoppers

Though many Kiwis are happy about the shift from brick-and-mortar to online shopping, the transition hasn’t been free of challenges. Shoppers reported a range of hurdles to a seamless online shopping experience, the most common being high delivery costs, cited by 65% of those surveyed.

top challenges online shopping new zealand

It is likely these high delivery costs have influenced more shoppers to select click and collect over home delivery. Nearly 45% of respondents relied moderately on in-store pick-ups during the pandemic, and 17% used these services exclusively. It is important to note that a steady 39% of shoppers surveyed revealed no change to their shopping habits: They are still visiting the same retailers as prior to COVID-19, without relying on in-store, pick-up point delivery or online delivery.

Optimising your eCommerce strategy to meet consumer expectations

Kiwi customers want to see a greater focus on the basics that enable seamless shopping experiences online. This includes faster webpage load speeds, real-time stock checking and a smoother checkout process. These changes would have a positive effect according to almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents. This reflects a desire for change in current eCommerce infrastructure, and focus on finding smart solutions to this customer need. 

A significant number (31%) also believe that next-generation functionality, such as virtual changing rooms, would be an improvement. Investment in this kind of innovation could be a differentiating factor to beat the competition in a saturated market.  

Ethical considerations driving shopper behaviour

Another important factor to note about Kiwi customers is their levels of consciousness regarding responsible shopping and sustainability. 52% of customers are happy to wait longer for their online orders if it is guaranteed products are both sourced and delivered sustainably. This is a significant concession given that delays in delivery time are also highlighted as a major pain point by 61% of respondents. 

New ethical brand directory, fair&good, confirms this shift toward more conscious consumerism in New Zealand, revealing that 57% of Kiwis believe a company’s ethics are important when deciding where to spend their money. Moving forward, these trends suggest there will be an advantage for brands investing in ethical and sustainable operations.

From technical tweaks to ethical enhancements, it is increasingly important brands get the optimisation of their platform right. As GetApp’s research shows, consumers are more open to purchasing from new outlets than they were pre-COVID-19. Nearly half of Kiwis surveyed (45%) said that they have purchased products from one or two online stores that they previously had not used before the onset of the pandemic. 

Looking for eCommerce software? Check out our catalogue.

Shopping Trends Survey Methodology 

*Data for the GetApp Customer Experience Survey was collected in October 2020 from an online survey of 1,013 respondents from New Zealand. The survey data used for this article comes from all of the above participants who qualified to answer.  The information in this article corresponds to the average of all surveyed participants. The criteria for participants are consumers who have made an online purchase in the last 6 – 12 months. 

47% of Aussie Shoppers Pick Sustainably Sourced Products Over Shopping Convenience 

retail in singapore

Earlier this year, Ipsos Australia reported that environmental issues now rank as the number one concern for Australians—particularly those in millennial and generation Z age groups. Today, it seems this concern is increasingly influencing Aussie purchasing decisions.

New research from GetApp reveals 47% of online shoppers are happy to wait longer for their eCommerce deliveries so long as their orders are sourced and delivered sustainably. 

ecommerce trends australia

To help brands understand the other key trends influencing online shopper behaviour, GetApp surveyed 1,000 Australian consumers. The survey explores the key issues driving brand preference and sales since the onset of COVID-19. The full survey methodology is available at the bottom of this article. 

Fashion apparels and accessories are the biggest drivers of online sales

To optimise their eCommerce platforms, it is critical brands understand which products and services are most attractive to online shoppers. 

top products bought online australia

The least popular choice for online shopping were rentals and consignments.

While it is important to know what shoppers choose to buy online, it is also key to have a sense of how they prefer to place orders and make payments. It can enable retailers to proactively reach out to their potential and existing customers at their preferred shopping destinations in a way that resonates personally.

most used devices online shopping

Shoppers prefer eCommerce to avoid in-store crowds

COVID-19 is having an impact on how Australians approach their Christmas shopping this year. 41% of shoppers surveyed estimate they will use online stores more and in-store less to do their seasonal shopping.  

A new period of normalised social distancing appears to have influenced this decision, with nearly half (48%) citing a desire to avoid large in-store crowds. Convenience was another key motive, with Aussie consumers wanting to reduce time spent driving, as well as the time and stress associated with in-store shopping. 

reasons using online delivery covid-19

COVID-19 may have been a major factor in moving shoppers to online channels, however, the data suggests most will continue to shop online even after the pandemic is over (49%.)

When it comes to preferred shopping destinations, Aussies showed greater affinity toward established online marketplaces, like eBay or Etsy. Their favoured online shopping platforms are as follows:

  1. Established online marketplaces (31%) 
  2. Retailer/brand websites (23%) 
  3. Amazon (18%) 
  4. Independent online stores (17%) 
  5. Social media platforms (10%) 
  6. Niche commerce apps (2%) 

Interestingly, Aussie shoppers’ commitment to their favourite shopping sites through subscription services is not all that strong—even though they might represent a better deal. When asked if respondents were likely to take up a subscription service in the next six months, 42% were unlikely to do so. Only 22% thought it was likely they would purchase a subscription in this timeframe. 

A side effect of increased shopping online is a rise in purchases from new stores. The research shows that 62% of Aussie shoppers have bought from new online outlets since the start of the COVID crisis. The majority discovered these via search engines (44%), followed by social media platforms (28%), and web advertising (23%.)

High delivery costs in Australia is a particular pain point

While shopping online is increasingly popular with Australian consumers since COVID-19, it is not without its challenges, with the high cost of delivery a particular pain point. 

top challenges online shopping

Studies show Australia has some of the highest delivery fees in the world due to expensive logistics services across the country. And GetApp’s survey suggests these high delivery costs have an impact on customer preferences relating to order fulfilment:

  • 43% of respondents said they have relied moderately on in-store pick-ups during the pandemic
  • 18% said they relied exclusively on in-store pick-ups
  • 49% believe they will continue to use in-store or pick-up point delivery post-COVID-19 

There are several routes retailers can take to arrive at a shipping solution that will satisfy the expectations of Australian shoppers. Online marketplaces and individual retailers can balance the post-purchase component of a sale by keeping customers engaged—whether it be through social channels or access to exclusive discount codes. These incentives should keep customers focused on the brand, instead of the courier. 

Of course, some issues are outside of the merchant’s control, such as the 66% of shoppers who report the inability to touch, feel or test products being a major issue for them. Other factors can be addressed proactively. The implementation of more effective returns and refunds process, for example, can be highly effective in addressing a number of other customer concerns.

Consumers prioritise a seamless shopping experience over innovative new features

The research revealed a key insight for Australian retailers: a robust technology infrastructure capable of delivering a seamless shopping experience is central to customer satisfaction. 64% of respondents stated that greater focus on factors like faster webpage load speeds, real-time stock checking and a smoother checkout experience would have a positive effect on their online shopping experience (32% were neutral on this issue).

Keeping these insights in mind, in the short term it would seem merchant business performance would benefit from improving the core features and functionality that shoppers expect. With online retail sales on the up, now is the ideal time. In year-on-year terms, the growth in the NAB Online Retail Sales Index (62.7% y/y), is amongst the strongest growth recorded in the series history. 

In the longer term, brands will need to move beyond core services toward more innovative offerings—especially as the eCommerce space becomes increasingly crowded and competitive. That is when investment in next-generation technologies may prove to be an effective differentiating strategy for gaining a much needed competitive edge.

Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to bring the customers much closer to the shopping experience they’re used to in-store. Today, 12% of Aussie shoppers are already using VR technology. And the industry could see this number rise in the near future, as 44% say they’re more willing to use it now as a result of the pandemic. 

This could even provide the perfect answer for many Aussie shoppers (34%) who are feel they are missing the festive spirit due to COVID-19 forcing them to do much of their Christmas shopping online this year. 

Looking for eCommerce software? Check out our catalogue

Christmas Shopping Trends: GetApp Australia eCommerce Survey methodology* 

This survey ran in October 2020 from an online survey of 1,000 respondents from Australia. The criteria for participants were consumers who have made an online purchase in the last six to 12 months.

5 Best Free VPN Software 2021 That Are Ideal For Small Businesses

Best Free VPN Australia

The Internet is a great tool for small businesses to connect with customers from all over the world. However, that also increases your level of exposure. From snoopers to hackers, there are plenty of bad actors online that are looking to rip off small businesses. VPN software can help provide security and privacy. To find the best free VPN in Australia, read on.

Best Free VPN Australia

What is VPN software?

VPN software is a popular way to maintain privacy and security whenever you connect to the internet. It masks the connection between a client device and server by routing it through a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which hides information from both the connecting server and any snoopers. It allows businesses to have more control over their network when external devices try to connect and it can help maintain data privacy, which is important for both your business and your clients.

Why use VPN software?

When accessing a website or external server without using a VPN, your device makes a direct connection to the server. That connection exposes certain information about your device, which may include your location and IP address. This can be used as part of other malicious behaviours to gain access to private data. In the wake of COVID, cybercrime has soared and small businesses are a popular target because they often have fewer resources to reduce exposure and respond to malicious attacks.

The best free VPN in Australia

A free VPN is an easy way to help mitigate your small business’ digital exposure and vulnerability. Below, we have put together a selection of the best free VPN in Australia for small businesses. All of the listed VPNs have been selected based on a range of factors, including having a high overview rating, showing at least 30 real-user reviews, and specifically targeting the Australian market.

1. TunnelBear

TunnelBear VPN
TunnelBear’s VPN offers over 32 locations [Source: Capterra]
Overall rating: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4.7/5

Customer service: 4.4/5

About TunnelBear

TunnelBear for Teams is a VPN service built specifically for small to medium-sized businesses. It works across desktops, tablets, and mobile phones, including Windows, Mac and Android devices and uses AES 256-bit encryption as standard. TunnelBear has some unique features, such as proactive warnings when attempting to connect to unsafe networks.

Price to upgrade: TunnelBear offers both a free version and a free trial, with the ability to upgrade to a paid version with a starting price of $5.75 USD a month.

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2. OpenVPN Access Server

OpenVPN
OpenVPN screenshot for user permissions [Source: OpenVPN]
Overall rating: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4.1/5

Customer service: 4.1/5

About OpenVPN Access Server

OpenVPN Access Server is a private network solution built for small and medium-sized businesses by OpenVPN. It provides the same VPN services with features added specifically for businesses, such as enterprise network management capabilities and private cloud storage and self-hosted software options. OpenVPN supports the following operating systems:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Linux
  • iOS
  • Android

Price to upgrade: OpenVPN is free to use for business users, but with restrictions, such as a maximum of 2 simultaneous connections. A minimum plan of 10 simultaneous connections starts at $75 AUD per month.

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3. Windscribe

Windscribe
The Windscribe extension [Source: Windscribe]
Overall rating: 4.6/5

Ease of use: 4.8/5

Customer service: 4.4/5

About Windscribe

Windscribe was founded in 2015 as a desktop application and browser extension that is built to make VPN as easy to use as a single click. It is built for individual users and professional teams and comes with a unique feature they’ve called R.O.B.E.R.T. This is a customisation feature that automatically blocks ads and trackers, as well as prevents access to websites identified as infected with malware. Categories of websites, such as pornography, gambling and social media can be filtered at a button press. 

Additionally, completely custom blocklists and whitelists can be configured. Windscribe supports major desktop operating systems (Mac, Windows, Linux) and iPhone, but does not offer an Android version.

Price to upgrade: Windscribe offers a free version and a free trial. Small businesses may upgrade to access all locations, unlimited data and advanced configuration options. It offers Team Accounts for $3 USD per user per month.

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4. HideMyAss

HMA VPN
HideMyAss setup [Source: PCMag]
Overall rating: 4.3/5

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Customer service: 4.2/5

About HideMyAss

HideMyAss is a VPN provider that was founded in 2005. It supports both private and business users and comes with a range of other privacy-based tools built up over its relatively long time in the market. Features, such as a kill switch for your entire system and a smart kill switch, automatically turn on VPN for apps that present a privacy risk. HideMyAss works across devices and operating systems, including Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android.

Price to upgrade: HideMyAss does not offer a free version, but it does offer a free trial. Business pricing plans start from $14.99 AUD for up to 10 simultaneous connections.

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5. VyprVPN

VyprVPN
VyprVPN connection [Source: PC Mag]
Overall rating: 4.3/5

Ease of use: 4.6/5

Customer service: 4.5/5

About VyprVPN

VyprVPN is run by Golden Frog, a software development company founded in 2009 to help businesses increase internet performance and protect the privacy of their connection. VyprVPN for Business provides an easy-to-use cloud VPN for employees to connect to. Its unique selling point is the diversity and variety of platforms that it supports, which includes:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • iOS
  • Android
  • TV
  • Routers
  • Blackphone
  • QNAP
  • Anonabox

Price to upgrade: VyprVPN offers a free version and a free trial. It also offers plans tailored for business customers, starting from $299 USD per year.

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VPN software is crucial for defending against cybercrime

No matter whether you use a free VPN or a paid service, having one is crucial for defending your small business from cybercriminals. Having a VPN provides an extra layer of privacy and security to you and your employees when you use the internet. In addition to that, many VPN providers offer additional VPN storage and networking facilities, so that your employees can safely and securely access company resources from anywhere in the world, without compromising the security of your company’s data.

Looking for free VPN software? Check out our catalogue

 


Best free VPN in Australia: Tool list selection methodology:

Capterra chose tools for scheduling software based on the following criteria:

  • At least 30 real-user reviews on the Capterra website
  • A high search volume (using SEO tools) in Australia
  • At least an overview rating of 3 / 5 stars
  • Offers a free trial or free version.
  • An Australian market.

5 Remote Working Statistics To Consider For 2021 Remote Work Policies

Remote working statistics from 2020 in australia

Despite COVID-19 bringing a year of immense disruption, technology like digital workplace software has meant many office-based businesses were able to survive. But as 2020 begins to wrap up, and a vaccine could be on the horizon, business leaders may be reconsidering their remote working policies.

To make this decision, it’s important to look at 2020 as a case study and ask: Is remote working effective? Are employees more productive under the watchful eye of managers?

Remote working statistics from 2020 in australia

To explore this topic, Capterra surveyed 1,400 Australian employees (from junior staff through to leadership teams and business owners) to ask how they would rate their productivity throughout the year.

Respondents were from a mixture of remote and non-remote-settings to allow us to explore differences in answersa full methodology is available at the bottom of this article. Read on to discover the five most important statistics for businesses to consider when building their flexible remote working policies for 2021.

5 remote working statistics from 2020

  1. Around two-thirds of Australian employees are working remotely

As of November (2021), 64% of employees working for a small or medium-sized business in Australia are working remotely full-time or part-time. This statistic is up from 57% since March 2020 (when the country originally went into a lockdown and Capterra first surveyed Australian employees about remote working circumstances).

remote employees 2020 in australia
Infographic 1: Remote working statistics in Australia for 2020.

While 21% of respondents said they have always been a remote worker, 43% were new to the concept this year.

How to apply this into a flexible work policy?

This year has proven that working with a distributed workforce is possible. As a result, it makes sense that many companies will be looking to relax their viewpoints toward remote working.

From a talent attraction and retainment perspective, a flexible work policy provides companies with a competitive edge. Capterra’s remote working survey found that 87% of employees would like to continue working remotely after the lockdown ends.

2. 78% of staff say they’re just as (or more) productive at home

At the beginning of the lockdown, employers were understandably nervous about transitioning to a remote working environment. Their biggest concerns and immediate priorities at the time included retaining staff and ensuring they could remain productive while working from home.

Fortunately, the majority of staff said they’ve been able to work well in a home-office environment. Just 4% of employees surveyed said they’re less productive since working from home, and only 1% said they’re struggling.

productivity levels Australia remote working
Infographic 2: Productivity levels of Australian employees since COVID-19

Taking aside the disruptions and distractions of the pandemic, Capterra was keen to understand which environment sets employees up for greater productivity. 38% of employees surveyed said they’re just as productive at home while 44% said they’re more productive at home. Combined, these figures indicate that working outside of the office has its benefits.

productivity levels remote vs home office
Infographic 3: Staff productivity levels at home vs the office

How to apply this to a flexible work policy

With the correct resources in place, staff can be productive in a digital environmentas proven this year. However, it’s important to note that around one in five staff members (18%) said they are less productive at home. The office may not be as critical to a business’s productivity levels as it was viewed at the start of this year, but it still has a place.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to remote working, consider a more flexible arrangement that allows staff to flourish in all environments, at any given time. For example, by offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home for a certain amount of days per week.

3. 31% of remote staff say they feel they could be less managed

Capterra asked remote and non-remote staff to put themselves on a scale with regards to how well they feel they’re managed. There was only a small minority of respondents feeling extremely unsupported or extremely micromanaged. The rest (88%) sat somewhere in the middle.

However, there were some key differences between the answers of remote vs non-remote respondents.

Management styles Australia
Infographic 4: Management styles in Australia

More than half (56%) of employees who are working in the office say they’re managed just right. This is slightly less for remote employees at 43%.

Remote employees are also more likely to feel their manager could loosen the reins. Around a third (31%) of them said they believe they could be ‘left more to their own devices,’ compared to just 20% of non-remote employees.

How to apply this to your remote work policy

As a manager, it’s your duty to ensure your team can work at peak productivity, but in a remote setting, it can be tricky to provide the right amount of support without interfering.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one, set formula for getting this rightprimarily because every employee is different. However, if managers are worried about staff slipping into bad habits when out of the office, set some ground rules. Here are five examples:

  1. Get dressed before starting work
  2. Work from a desk or table (where possible)
  3. Remove distractions (where possible)
  4. Respond to messages within an hour
  5. Let your team know when you’re going on breaks.

Remote working policies provide an ideal opportunity for companies to establish how they expect staff to operate while working from home. By including these ground-rules, it instantly puts everyone on the same page.

4. 27% of remote staff feel very comfortable taking entitled breaks

Just over a quarter (27%) of remote staff said they’re very comfortable to take their entitled breaks; compared to more than a third (35%) of non-remote staff.

work life balance for staff in australia
Infographic 5: Work-life balance for remote vs non-remote staff in Australia

Additionally, there is a 10% decrease in remote staff feeling very comfortable to finish work at the end of their workday. This suggests that remote workers haven’t settled into a healthy work-life balance yet.

How to apply this to your remote work policy

Employers must keep an eye on how many hours their staff members are working to prevent issues, such as burnout. One way to monitor this is through time-tracking software. However, businesses should use their remote working policy to explain the reasons why they’ve chosen to use monitoring tools. Not doing so can negatively impact trust and lead to employees feeling policed rather than supported.

5. Use of employee monitoring tools increased by 15% during COVID-19

Since COVID-19 restrictions came in, 15% more business leaders within small and mid-sized businesses are using employee monitoring software. However, 44% said they were already using it.

Capterra asked business leaders and employees to give their stance on whether they believed employee monitoring software is generally positive or negative for businesses: 73% said it was positive. However, this number changes depending on whether the respondent is operating in the office or at home.

78% of remote leaders think employee monitoring tools are positive, compared to 51% of non-remote leaders.

employee monitoring tools impact on business
Infographic 6: Employee monitoring tools impact on business (business leaders)

Those in the office are also more likely to say the software has no impact on the business. This indicates that business leaders see less of a need for the software when operating in an office structure.

The employee perspective

In general, employees are significantly less enthusiastic about tracking tools in comparison to their leaders. However, similar to above, remote employees tended to see more value in employee monitoring tools than those who are office-based.

staff opinion employee monitoring tools impact on business
Infographic 7: Employee monitoring tools impact on business (employee perspective)

How to apply this to your remote work policy

The majority of employees said they feel employee monitoring could negatively impact the businesswhile the remaining few didn’t believe it would have any impact at all. With this in mind, business leaders should work to win the buy-in of employees to justify the use of tracking software. Otherwise, they risk amplifying anxiety and concerns.

Find the right balance when creating remote work policies

A large amount of successful remote working arrangements is founded on trust. However, establishing a remote working policy puts everyone on the same pagewhich should save you some headaches later on from discovering people have a different perception of what ‘flexible’ means.

If this your first flexible remote working policy, you may want to consider involving your staff in the conversation. Start by defining the type of arrangement that will enable your employees to thrive. For example, what tools do they need to be successful? With their perspective, you’re more likely to create a policy that keeps employees happy.

Looking for remote work software? Check out our catalogue.

Remote Working Statistics: Survey methodology:

Capterra ran a survey to highlight the most important remote work statistics from 2020, to allow companies to make better-informed decisions around remote working policies.

The survey ran during October 2020 and had 1,400 respondents take part. To qualify for this survey, respondents had to be employees of an Australian small or medium-sized business.

A Guide To Launching A Click And Collect Model: Tips, Tricks & Tools

Click and collect model australia

The modern consumer expects to receive instantaneous customer service and prompt deliveries. Retail chains must function according to those demands or watch their competitors capture their market share. The pandemic has transformed that trend into a titanic version of its former self, and one logistics system is helping to drive the change: The click and collect model.

Click and collect model australia

Today, many software and automation tools are suitable for the needs of small to medium-sized businesses, including, inventory management software—a tool that allows retailers or wholesalers to monitor inventory levels for optimal production and distribution of their goods. Retail management software (RMS) broadens that functionality by incorporating your larger point of sale and customer relationship management tools.

In this article, GetApp runs through the basics of how to successfully launch a click and collect model. But first, what exactly is a click and collect model?

What is the click & collect model?

The click & collect business model is a system in which buyers shop online but fetch their products in-store. Look past the skin of it, however, and you uncover a profound strategic process that touches the roots of your value proposition. 

The click & collect model not only allows consumers to save on delivery costs, but it also creates another layer of convenience for those who would prefer to pick up their products in person. For some, it can remove the headache of delivery drivers not being able to find a tricky address, or purchases getting lost in the post. 

How to drive a successful ‘buy online, pick up in-store’ strategy

To drive a successful ‘buy online, pick up in-store’ strategy, you’ll need to begin with an online shop. If you haven’t already set this up, you’ll want to make use of eCommerce software. Once you have your website, you can focus on the first steps to click and collect success.

Below, we’ve listed a few key aspects to consider when launching a ‘buy online, pickup in-store strategy:

1. Communication

Without communication, your click and collect system will disintegrate. A transparent process tells your customers when to collect their orders and what paperwork to produce when they do. 

Purchase order confirmations need automated triggering and comprehensive data on pickup requirements. Update tracking adds transparency, and that translates into happy buyers.  

2. Cross-selling

The click and collect model integrates your brick-and-mortar and eCommerce operations, and your customers will thank you by letting you upsell when they arrive to collect their products. 

According to Supply Chain Game Changer, 49% of buyers are likely to buy a new product when they pick up their online order. That’s not a number to sniff at, and you can drive it even higher by merchandising for impulse sales right at your collection counter.

3. Convenience

In the same report by Supply Chain Game Changer, 60% of shoppers who have a poor click and collect experience move to a new store. If your store is especially busy, and in-store pickup customers are forced to wait in long queues with other paying customers, you may lose their patience. Collections need to be convenient, so create a dedicated pickup point with pre-sorted orders and knowledgeable service staff.

4. Commercial holiday opportunities

Click and collect allows retailers to collect customer information and contact details. When the holiday season arrives, turn that data into a marketing opportunity by distributing targeted email campaigns and loyalty programmes.

Best software for implementing a click and collect strategy

Standard on-premises inventory management solutions organise your barcoding, costs, orders and count sheets. However, if you’re looking to have one system to also process sales, schedule staff, and even create actionable real-time data, retail management software is a suitable solution. 

Whichever platform you opt for, choose a comprehensive system that keeps a beady eye on your stock so that you can avoid stock-outs where desired. Your software also needs to interface with your daily website management.

It’s worth sourcing a platform that provides data insights. When you understand the supply and demand of your company and have access to your metrics, your understanding of your business grows. The more you learn, the more capable your business is at being profitable. 

Looking for retail management software? Check out our catalogue

Christmas Shopping Trends: COVID-19 Drives Seasonal Shopping Online

Christmas shopping trends

COVID-19 is forcing a major and imminent transformation in the retail sector. While Australia took an aggressive approach towards fighting the virus early on, ongoing clusters in Melbourne and Sydney have kept much of the country closed down from each other.

For those states that are open, ongoing social distancing restrictions will be in effect for the foreseeable future. This strategy has led to many Aussie shoppers turning to eCommerce merchants. In this article, GetApp highlights new Christmas shopping trends bought about by these changes.

Christmas shopping trends

GetApp surveyed 1,000 consumers from Australia to identify changes in their shopping behaviour. The full survey methodology is available at the bottom of this article.

Aussie shoppers have changed their spending habits to explore more online options

As a result of the pandemic, and the restrictions that came with it, the way people are shopping in Australia has shifted. More than half (54%) are spending more or less than they were before COVID-19.

shopping behaviour impact

Consumer shopping platform preferences are also changing:

Impact COVID had on consumer shopping mix

However, coronavirus isn’t the only contributing factor to changing consumer shopping behaviour. For example, the Australian bushfires have had an impact because they reduced disposable income for the vast population affected. The lack of international tourists, due to border closures, is also causing a sharp decline in foot traffic for the already struggling Australian high street.

eCommerce is emerging as the popular choice for shoppers this Christmas

The lead-up to Christmas is a critical moment for many brick-and-mortar retail businesses. However, this year, 40% of shoppers say they’ll explore online stores to do their seasonal shopping.

Opinions are split around the transition toward online shopping. While 33% see it as a good thing due to convenience, 34% see shopping in-store as a big part of getting into the Christmas spirit. About one third are indifferent.

Similarly, while Aussies have been in lockdown, there has been an increase in how many hours people are spending shopping on the internet.

Considering these results, it’s unsurprising that more people are therefore relying on delivery services. 57% of consumers in the survey say they’re now using online delivery services once or twice a week since COVID-19.

The preferred eCommerce brands in Australia

Respondents were asked where they typically shop online, and while 31% of them selected established online marketplaces (such as eBay and Etsy) as their go-to for online shopping, 23% opted to shop directly from a retailer or brand websites. 18% said they shop from Amazon.

40% of Australian respondents said they have purchased from one or two new online stores. However, 38% also said they have not discovered and purchased from new online stores—sticking to shops they know.

Ways to improve brand visibility for Aussie businesses

Search engine optimisation (SEO) ranks as the most impactful way for businesses to get their name and goods in front of consumers, with 44% of respondents claiming they found new websites via a search engine. Social media platforms are the second most impactful channel, with 28% of responses. Website ads (23%) came in third place and word of mouth (19%) was listed as the fourth.

There is an opportunity for eCommerce vendors to grow their business in the current economic environment. However, with relatively few established brands dominating the space, it is vital they understand the trends driving consumer behaviour and adopt a strategy that reflects this.

Looking for eCommerce software? Check out our catalogue.

Christmas Shopping Trends: GetApp Australia eCommerce Survey methodology*

This survey ran in October 2020 from an online survey of 1,000 respondents from Australia. The criteria for participants were consumers who have made an online purchase in the last 6 – 12 months.

59% Of Aussie SME Business Leaders use Employee Monitoring Software

employee monitoring statistics

When Australia first went into a lockdown in March 2020, it was unclear how businesses would cope. To many, working from home full-time was a brand new concept. One key area of concern was how administrators and supervisors would manage their staff without being under the same roof.

employee monitoring statistics

In this article, we explore how using tracking and surveillance software plays an important role in the relationships between employers and their managers. 

But first, let’s go over some of the basics of what employee monitoring is, and the rules around what businesses can and can’t track. 

What is employee monitoring? 

Employee monitoring is the process by which a business tracks its staff’s work activities. Through software, companies can measure elements such as productivity, efficiency, and security. This data gives them a greater understanding of areas where they’re thriving as well as the ones which require attention.

An employee monitoring system also looks at how staff engage with individual and corporate goals. On top of that, it covers some basic HR (human resource) aspects, like tracking attendance and sick days.

Is employee monitoring legal in Australia?

Yes, employee monitoring is legal in Australia. However, the law permits that employers can’t do so without informing their staff. There are some exceptions to the rule—but this is rare and to do so would require a “covert surveillance authority” from a Magistrate

In most cases, however, employers must inform staff members that tracking or surveillance software has been installed or activated on their work devices within 14 days of doing so. This includes the tracking of:

  • User activity: Computer monitoring, internet access, time-tracking, web browsing. 
  • Active vs idle time: Mouse movements, keystroke logging (the action of recording the keys struck on a keyboard), login/log out time.
  • Attendance: Login/log out time, active/idle time, attendance, sick days.
  • Workspaces: Using webcams & video surveillance to take time-lapse photos or screenshots.
  • Audio conversations: Phone use.
  • Digital communications: Emails, instant chat, video conference.
  • Social media: Personal account use.
  • Location: Vehicle & GPS tracking.
  • Time management: Total time spent on individual tasks, time spent on projects, work calendar.
  • Workload management: Action lists, work schedule, goal metrics & KPIs (key performance indicators.)
  • Health & fitness: Wearable technologies to track physical wellbeing.

It’s important that employers explain exactly what they’re monitoring, and in a way that is easy to understand. For some areas, such as tracking staff’s internet and social media activities, employers should create clear policies to help increase awareness.

The current state of employee tracking in Australian SMEs

Many small and medium-sized businesses in Australia leapt forward in terms of digital transformation in 2020. Part of this was learning how to operate digitally with a distributed workforce and remote working software.

Capterra wanted to understand how the transition to remote work had impacted work relationships within Australian SMEs. We surveyed 1,400 Australian professionals about managerial relationships within their business; 20% of responses came from business and department leaders. *To see a detailed methodology of the survey, skip to the bottom of this article. 

Key employee monitoring statistics

1. 59% of business leaders surveyed use tools to monitor their employees

While the majority (59%) of business leaders said they use an employee monitoring software, only 15% said they introduced the software after COVID-19 restrictions came in. This suggests that businesses saw employee monitoring software as a valuable business asset before companies began operating remotely full-time. 

Tracking computer activity is the most common forms of surveillance

Monitoring staff’s computer activity, such as internet access, time-tracking and web browsing, is the most common employee monitoring solution. 

employee monitoring purposes
Infographic 1: Most common forms of employee monitoring

In recent years, wearable technologies (such as smartwatches and fitness-tracking bands) have made their way into the workplace. The idea is to promote healthier lifestyle choices and improve health. In turn, this should improve employee productivity, because according to Corporate Wellness Magazine, ‘a healthy employee is more likely to be productive than an unhealthy one.’ 

Despite this, only 14% of business leaders are following this trend, with health & fitness tracking proving to be the least popular form of surveillance. 

2. 73% of leaders believe tracking software has a positive impact on their business

Almost three quarters (73%) of business leaders from the survey said that they had seen some positive impacts of using employee monitoring software. 

employyee monitoring benefits
Infographic 2: Ways business leaders say tracking tools benefit their business

Around a quarter (24%) of business leaders also referenced the benefit of having greater visibility over HR issues, like workplace bullying or harassment.

Increased business security was another benefit noted by 28% of leaders surveyed. Given the potential threats of cybercrime (of which SMEs are the biggest target), there is a genuine need for businesses to keep a close eye on whether staff are following security measures. Activity monitoring also enables companies to protect themselves against insider threats (like data breaches) and track how employees store sensitive data.

More than three quarters (79%) of business owners who use employee tracking software say they plan to continue investing in it. 

3. 54% of employees believe tracking software can have a negative impact

Staff aren’t as enthusiastic as their leaders and management team are about tracking software. Just 28% of employees surveyed said it has a positive impact while 54% said the opposite. 

Employees are mostly indifferent or comfortable with tracking software

In general, 18% of the employees surveyed are indifferent about being monitored via software. This trend was evident across almost all areas of employee monitoring.

comfortability employee monitoring
Infographic 3: Employees rate their comfortability levels towards monitoring software

4. Deflated morale, increased stress, and work-life balance is a concern

Even though employees weren’t objecting to the use of their manager using software to track them, they did flag some concerns:

Employee morale

46% of respondents said knowing they’re being monitored (actually or hypothetically) would have no impact on how hard they work. In terms of motivation, 39% said it had or would have no impact. However, despite this, 42% of respondents expressed a concern around employee monitoring hurting trust levels within the business. Similarly, 44% of respondents said the software deflates morale.

Increased stress

There were also some important differences in behaviour from the respondents who said they are tracked versus those that aren’t:

  • 37% of employees who aren’t monitored through software say they feel very comfortable to take their entitled breaks 
  • 26% of employees who are tracked said the same. 

Overall, 46% of respondents said they feel concerned about the software contributing to increased stress from staff.

Prolonged pressure to work outside of contract hours

Employees who are monitored are also less comfortable ending their workday—28% of employees who are tracked said they’re very comfortable with leaving at the end of the day. However, this is less than unmonitored employees, 38% of respondents from this demographic said the same.

This feeling of being watched may put undue pressure on staff and create a culture of poor work-life balance. To avoid this, employers must actively keep an eye on their staff’s working hours to prevent further issues, like staff burnout. 

Ironically, using monitoring tools (such as time tracking software) is one way to learn how much work employees can achieve within their contracted hours. However, it’s important that managers explain the purpose behind the software usage.

How employers can get staff on board with tracking tools

The survey highlights that business leaders may be using employee monitoring software with good intentions, but there is a clear elephant in the room: Employees don’t like it.

While the survey demonstrated that most employees aren’t putting up any form of resistance towards being tracked via software—they don’t necessarily see the value in it. This is where employers could do more to get their staff’s buy-in. Providing greater insight into how software is beneficial to employees may relieve some anxiety and lead to greater acceptance. 

Looking for employee monitoring software? Check out our catalogue.

Survey methodology: Employee Monitoring Survey 2020 Australia, 09/11/2020.

Capterra conducted this survey in October 2020 of 1,400 respondents to learn more about how employee monitoring software affects the relationships between managers and employees. To qualify for this survey, respondents had to be employees of an Australian small or medium-sized business.