GPS time clock apps might seem like a great idea, but are they? Explore some of the surprising drawbacks to using a GPS time clock for your business and decide for yourself if it’s the right choice for you.
What is a GPS Time Clock App?
A GPS time clock app, simply put, is a way to track employee time on the job along with a pinpoint location as to where they’re working. For mobile businesses, like plumbers or taxi drivers, it seems like a pretty good idea. It can help prevent time theft and keep employees accountable. For businesses that need to factor in mileage and fuel costs, this can seem like a great tool. But at what cost?
The basic idea behind the GPS clock is a sound one, but the execution leaves something to be desired. For many employees, it feels too much like the managers don’t trust them or that their privacy is being invaded. For managers, it can be challenging to deal with employee complaints and concerns while still handling the copious amounts of data and paperwork that go along with real-time GPS tracking of their employees. And that’s not even touching on the legality issue.
With all the positive press you can find online about GPS time tracking apps, here’s our take on the negative aspects those glowing reviews try to gloss over. There are good points and bad points to a GPS time clock app, of course, but we’ll leave the final judgment up to you, dear reader.
1. Intrusive, Offensive, and a Little Bit Creepy
We’ve read feedback from workers who have been forced to switch to a GPS time clock app that tracks their every move, and they’re not happy. Some workers have complained that the GPS time clock makes them feel like their employers don’t trust them or that their managers think they’re liars, and that’s a huge blow to their empowerment. Nobody wants to be watched, tracked, and their every move logged while they do their job, and that’s exactly what a GPS tracker does. Certainly, some employees can see why the app might be a good idea, but the overall impression is not so great.
What’s the problem? Using GPS to track your employees can be seen as intrusive, offensive, and creepy for the simple fact it feels too much like a manager walking behind the employees all day, looking over their shoulders. You wouldn’t do that if your employees were all in the same building as you, so they feel that you shouldn’t be doing it while they’re out in the field either. The big problem comes with employees feeling invalidated, untrusted, and like their privacy is being invaded. This all spells less empowerment and less desire to be engaged with the company. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what any manager should be aiming for.
2. Micromanaging Employees is Time-Consuming and Frustrating
If you think employees are the only ones complaining about the GPS time clock, think again. Managers in all kinds of industries have their beef with the little stalker apps, and they’re more than happy to speak up. GPS time clocks give a detailed play-by-play of every employee’s location and how long they’ve worked. On the surface, that sounds pretty great when you have to account for every penny your business spends. But imagine if you have twenty employees, all moving around town for eight or more hours a day. Or thirty employees. Or even a hundred people. Who do you think has to comb through all that data? Managers already have their plates full with keeping the business running, and adding another duty to that long, tiresome list is frustrating. Not to mention, it’s a whole new system to learn, and that learning curve comes with its own set of issues.
What’s the problem? Most mangers that have complained about the GPS time clock app have mentioned that they feel strange “watching” their employees all day. Like peeping Toms that also keep log books, and then pay the people they’re watching. Put like that; it’s unsettling. Micromanagement is no fun for employees, and managers don’t like it either. It undermines employees and, much like issue number one, it sends a message that management doesn’t trust them, which makes management feel bad, too. Added workload, added stress, and that shared feeling of distrust makes GPS time clocks more of a hindrance to team cohesiveness than a help.
3. Questionable Legality
There’s a fine line between legally tracking employees on the job, and then “forgetting” to stop tracking while your employees are off the clock. Unfortunately, the current GPS time clock technology is prone to “forget” an awful lot. Whether that’s a tracker that switches itself on accidentally (or not so accidentally, depending on who you ask) or one that doesn’t truly stop tracking even though the screen says it stopped, it’s a big problem for you. Tracking employees off the clock is most certainly illegal in every state. Even if it’s the employee’s fault that the tracker is still going after officially logging off for the day, it’s still in your hands as the manager. Remember: these time and GPS tracking apps don’t usually come with alerts to remind employees to clock off!
What’s the problem? If you can’t guarantee that your GPS time clock app will, indeed, 100% stop tracking when the employee logs off, you could be setting your business up for some hefty fines… or worse.
4. The Fairness of Chewing Up Employees' Data
We’re talking about the data on an employee’s phone, not the data you collect and compile into reports. Many companies require their employees to carry a cell phone, but won’t pay for the phone itself. That alone is pretty nasty, but when those employees are also required to download and run a GPS time clock app all day, data usage is a genuine concern.
What’s the problem? Hopefully, the issue here is pretty clear. Requiring employees to pay for the data that a working app uses isn’t fair. Not only is that costly to employees just trying to make a living, but it doesn’t reflect well on the company.
There's a Better Way
The benefits of using a GPS time clock app exists, but there are plenty of articles covering those points. Our article wasn’t meant to trash talk the devices or the apps, but to present some other viewpoints, opinions, feedback, and facts to help you decide if GPS tracking of your employees is the right decision. With the drawbacks listed here—and the others we didn’t cover—it’s clear that the GPS time clock technology would benefit from some changes. Alerts would be helpful, some way to ensure that the GPS tracking has stopped once an employee logs out, and a way to reduce or eliminate data usage costs for the employees are just a few things to start with. There isn’t much that can be done about the creepy “Big Brother” aspect of GPS time clock apps, unfortunately, but maybe if app developers take care of the other issues, the creepy factor might not be so bad.
We hope this article hasn’t turned you off to other apps that could help your business. There are plenty of powerful, intuitive, and affordable productivity apps that don’t have the same problems GPS time clock apps do.