GPS in the workplace

GPS tracking in the workplace can be used for a number of purposes such as mileage, auditing and of course safety monitoring. But when it comes to implementing GPS tracking, there are some common concerns. The most common being privacy, but also worries over data and battery usage. Businesses may even choose to avoid introducing GPS tracking apps and technologies for fear that they will be met with resistance from their workforce.

However, recent research by TSheets has found that employees are increasingly more open to adopting GPS tracking at work and the key to adoption is understanding and experience.

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it

A recent study* found that opinions on using GPS location tracking at work were considerably more negative amongst groups who had no experience than those who had. In fact, 38% of employees who have never been tracked at work had a negative opinion compared to only 5% of those who had used a GPS tracker to monitor them.

Similarly, employees who had no experience of GPS tracking in the workplace rated its benefits at 15% lower than those who had used a device in the past and expressed 10-20% more concern over its use.

This suggests that much of the negative views surrounding GPS are simply perceived concerns due to lack of knowledge on how GPS tracking can be used. With education and experience, negative views are quickly negated, and users can recognise the benefits that can be achieved through tracking technologies.

Debunking GPS concerns

Understanding employees’ concerns before bringing GPS tracking into the workplace will help employees to embrace GPS tracking and ease any concerns they had beforehand. Creating a conversation with staff is important in bringing them on board with changes and creating reassurance around any perceived issues.

So what are the top 3 concerns employees have when it comes to GPS monitoring?

The study, which surveyed 1,000 employees in the US, found that the top concerns employees expressed were;

  • Privacy and out of hours tracking

Despite 7 out of 10 employees being happy with their employer knowing their location, there is often a perception that if an employer tracks employee location during work, they may also be tracking them after work hours or during breaks. 45% of employees who had been tracked with GPS at work were concerned they were able also to be tracked out of hours.

To eliminate these types ofconcerns, apps such as StaySafe, require the user to initiate tracking themselves. This means that privacy is entirely in their control as they can begin tracking when they start work and turn it off during breaks or at the end of the day.

Educating employees on the app’s trustworthiness will also help to eliminate fears. When asked why users would choose to let an app track their location, the top answer was trust. 60-65% were comfortable allowing personal apps such as Facebook and Google to use their location, compared to just 16% who would feel comfortable being tracked on the clock (of those with no experience of GPS tracking in the workplace).

  • Data usage

The amount of data used by GPS tracking apps was the number 1 concern amongst those who had never used GPS tracking at work.

However, GPS uses very little mobile data and can actually work without an internet connection. It is the app itself that consumes data by downloading and using the information gathered by GPS. This can be very minimal and GPS apps are often not the biggest culprits for data usage. In fact, some of the most popular mobile apps such as YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook use the most mobile data. Yet only 9% of respondents indicated that they care about how much data a personal app uses.

  • Battery usage

In order to gather GPS data, mobile devices need to communicate with several satellites at one time. This prevents the device from entering sleep mode which does, unfortunately, prevent the phone or tablet from saving energy. If, however, location is already turned on for personal apps, the data can be shared between apps, and there will be no significant drop in battery.

Some apps like StaySafe will allow you to choose how often the app gathers location data in order to save battery. If working on a single site with little movement, this could be a useful option to preserve battery life.

Battery use is also becoming less and less of an issue with the availability and increasingly lower cost of products such as portable chargers and battery packs. It is becoming commonplace for such products to be carried around by individuals, allowing them to quickly recharge their device between meetings or during travel.

What are the benefits or GPS tracking in the workplace?

GPS tracking can be used by businesses for a range of reasons such as mileage and work schedule. Tracking can benefit both the business and workforce by planning efficient schedules, tracking delivery times and monitoring employee safety.

49% of non-users recognise benefits of GPS if used for safety purposes

Both employees who were experienced with workplace tracking and those who were not, recognised that there were benefits to GPS tracking. Despite 66% of employees expressing a concern with workplace tracking, 49% felt that it could be beneficial from a safety perspective.

Safety monitoring apps often utilise location tracking as a way to send help to an employee if they suffer from an accident or incident and require support. Without having access to an accurate location, an employee could be left alone for a prolonged period of time and the situation on injury could worsen.

While diaries or buddy systems are often used by employees who work away from a fixed base or colleagues, such systems are not always reliable as schedules change, colleagues can be unreachable and accidents can occur during travel.  If working on a large site, finding an employee’s exact location can also be difficult and time-consuming without a GPS location.

Health and Safety Legislation Compliance

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure, as so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and wellbeing of anyone under their employment. This obligation does not end when an employee works away from a fixed base. In fact, controlling risk may be even more difficult in such environments and procedures need to be put in place to ensure every employee can communicate with a colleague or supervisor and receive support if they find themselves in trouble.

In New Zealand, the Health and Safety at Work Act requires an employer to have channels of communication in place. Location monitoring as part of a safety tool is a great solution for legislation compliance as it provides an effective alternative to direct supervision. Supervisors can still monitor employee location and safety from a remote location and respond quickly and efficiently should something go wrong.

Getting employees on board

As the study seems to demonstrate, the key to getting employees on board with workplace location tracking is simply education and reassurance;

  • Provide as much information as you can on why they are being tracked and when.
  • Focus on the benefits tracking will have for them but also make it explicitly clear that you will not be tracking employees out of working hours and it is illegal for you to do so
  • If you can provide any information on data and battery usage this will certainly provide peace of mind as there is a perception, particularly with data, that more is being used than is actually the case.
  • If your employees use work phones provided by the company, you could also consider low-cost data packages and choose a device with long battery life

If you want to know more about implementing a successful lone worker safety system, including navigating the issues around GPS tracking, please get in touch with us using the form below, or using our contact information at the bottom of the page.

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