GPS Time Clock: Why You Should Use Geofence Time Tracking

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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

Updated February 7, 2023

When a business has employees working remotely or at various job sites, time tracking can become a challenge, particularly if the company relies on physical clocks for punching in and out. But offering a mobile app or web-based tracking solution can cause some concerns. You might wonder whether employees are clocking in and out before they arrive at their worksite, earning extra pay for hours they weren’t yet working. One solution is GPS time tracking, also known as geofencing. Explore GPS-based time clocks and how they work, plus some of the pitfalls to avoid when establishing geofencing for time tracking.

What Is a GPS or Geofence Time Clock?

A GPS time clock is an employee timekeeping system that includes geofencing capability. A geofence is a pre-set virtual boundary that represents an actual physical location. To create a geofence, a manager defines a radius on a map. When a worker punches in using the GPS time clock app, the manager can see their location relative to the geofence. In addition, you can set alerts for out-of-bounds punches and schedule deviations. Some tracking solutions restrict employees from punching in or out if they’re not within the defined boundary.

How Does Geofencing Improve Employee Time Tracking?

Let’s discuss the benefits to using a GPS time clock. For employers, such a clock:

  • Helps prevent time theft by tracking location with GPS
  • Provides real-time oversight of employees, work sites and shifts
  • Enables supervisors to manage employees from their own remote work location
  • Creates an accurate record of work hours for efficient payroll processing
  • Improves operational efficiency across teams, projects and work locations
  • Alerts employers to potential time and attendance problems before they become chronic

A geofencing time tracking app also benefits members of the workforce because it:

  • Is fast and easy for employees to use
  • Allows employees to easily demonstrate proof of work
  • Doesn’t require paper documentation

How Does a Geofence Time Clock Work?

A GPS time clock requires GPS, RFID (radio-frequency identification), Wi-Fi or cellular data to track the location of a mobile device or RFID tag. Managers create fences in the mobile timekeeping app and employees punch in and out using their mobile devices. In addition, employees can see their shift schedule, timecard, accruals and open shifts in the GPS time clock app.

GPS Employee Attendance Tracking

To use geofence time tracking, you simply draw a radius around a site on a map. Most apps let you identify multiple geofences and assign employees to work sites as needed. When an employee punches in and out for shifts, the app shows their GPS location and whether it’s inside or outside of the geofence.

When Is It Best to Use a GPS Time Clock?

Companies with mobile hourly employees use geofence time clocks to track work time. These include field service, outside sales, construction, home health, event catering, food trucks, and delivery businesses. GPS time clocks are especially helpful for businesses with multiple work sites and employees who travel between them.

What Are Common Pitfalls of Geofence Time Tracking?

While a GPS time clock has many advantages, as with any powerful tool, it can experience issues if not used carefully. Avoid these five common pitfalls when using a geofence time clock.

Pitfall #1: Lack of Formal Policies

First and foremost, you should have a formal attendance and device policy. Employees can’t be successful unless they have clear expectations.

The policy should address the following issues for employees:

  • How do I punch in/out?
  • What if I forget to punch in/out?
  • Where do I see my schedule?
  • Where do I see my timecard?
  • What if I get to work a few minutes early—can I clock in?
  • Can I clock out after my shift end time?
  • Am I supposed to clock out for breaks and meals?
  • What if I need to trade a shift?
  • What if I don’t want to use the GPS time clock?
  • What device should I use to clock in? (Personal vs. business-issued)

Geofencing apps are used on mobile devices. Some companies issue devices to their employees, while others implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. When determining which policy is best for your business, consider compliance, cost, and data security. Additionally, some states have regulations in place that require employers to pay for at least a portion of an employee’s personal cell phone cost when requiring it for business use.

In addition, employees may wonder if they can turn off the tracking app when they end their shift. Where is data stored? Who has access to it? If you provide devices to your employees, can they use them for personal activities?

Avoid this Pitfall: Include the Policy in Onboarding

Time and attendance instruction should begin during the onboarding process. If you use an HR portal, include a link to the policy. It should also be in your employee handbook.

During onboarding, explain the policy in detail and require new hires to sign a document agreeing to GPS tracking. You want to create accountability and set expectations. Plus, doing so will help protect you in the unfortunate event that an employee initiates a labor dispute.

Pitfall #2: Inconsistent Policy Enforcement

Consistency is key in all aspect of time tracking, including when using a GPS-based employee time clock. If managers play favorites, morale will plummet. Penalizing employees for not punching in within the geofence requires consistency across all levels and departments.

Remember that the goal of geofencing is to simplify employee timekeeping. Employees avoid the hassle of punching in at a physical clock.  With a GPS time clock, managers only need to check up on those who are out of bounds. And by using it, employees working remotely can rest assured that their time is recorded accurately.

For all these reasons, it just makes sense to establish a clear policy and enforce it consistently.

Pitfall #3: Lack of Training

Of course, don’t assume your employees will immediately know how to use your timesheet app out on the job site. Most mobile systems are fairly intuitive for today’s user, but you should still provide formal training to each new hire. Your vendor might have training resources available to those using the app.

GPS time tracking allows management by exception if everyone uses it properly. Make it easy and accurate from the start by providing basic instruction and making it easy for employees to get answers to questions that come up.

Avoid this Pitfall: Help Your Managers Get the Most Out of Your Software

Similarly, train your managers on the supervisor or admin functions of the time tracking app. GPS time clocks have great manager tools that include notifications for out-of bounds punches, hour threshold alerts, bulk timecard approval, moderated shift swapping and job code management. If supervisors have a firm grasp on how to use the system, they can help employees with questions.

Pitfall #4: Breaking Workplace Laws

It’s important to understand that employee location-based tracking has legal implications. Therefore, make sure you know the laws in your state and city. Some of the most common questions that come up among companies include:

  • Do I need consent from my employees to track them?
  • What are the rules around time tracking on personal vs. business-issued devices?
  • Am I tracking workers on public or private property?
  • Are my employees using personal or company vehicles?
  • Am I tracking them outside of normal work hours?
  • Where will the information be stored?
  • Who has access to location data?

Pitfall #5: Employee Misconceptions

According to Pew Research Center, nine out of smartphone users in the United States have location services turned on. This makes it easier for you to explain geofencing and get buy in.

Still, there will be individuals concerned that their every move is being watched. Reassure them about how your geofencing works and address any privacy concerns.

Before rolling it out, explain the reasons behind the policy to your employees:

  • Their manager will know they arrived at the job site safely
  • They will get paid for all time worked
  • The app will confirm that they are at the correct work location
  • They will be recognized for punctuality and staying late when needed
  • A GPS time clock improves client billing and project management
  • It prevents time theft and wage theft
    • Time theft reduces revenue and wage theft underpays employees
    • Excessive time theft can put the company out of business
    • Inflated labor costs prevent wage increases
  • They will have greater flexibility for remote working, schedules and direct commute to job sites

Consider the WorkforceHub GPS Time Clock Solution

The WorkforceHub time and labor platform includes a GPS time clock. Managers can quickly and easily create multiple geofences and assign employees or teams to the necessary fence. The system records employee punches and maintains virtual timecards. Regardless of punch location, WorkforceHub will track work hours in real time for quick and accurate payroll processing.

Features include:

  • Visually mapped pin
  • Real-time exception alerts
  • Quick identification of out-of-bounds employees

The geofencing time clock in WorkforceHub improves job costing, schedule enforcement, employee safety, compliance recordkeeping, and overall workforce management. There is no better timekeeping tool for organizations with hourly mobile workers. Start a free trial of WorkforceHub and implement more effective time tracking today.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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