Avoid 5 Geofencing Pitfalls Common with Mobile Timekeeping [updated for 2022]

geofencing pitfalls to avoid

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Thinking about using geofencing in your small business? Perhaps you have multiple locations like an office building and a factory. Or maybe your employees are assigned to job sites that change over time. You may have some staff that now work from home.

Geofencing provides a great way to easily keep track of where your employees clock in and out each day. It can even help when they take breaks and move between sites. But watch out for mobile geofencing pitfalls as you work to ensure accurate timekeeping.

How Does Geofencing Improve Employee Timekeeping?

Before we jump to potential pitfalls, it is good to review what geofencing is and how it can help you track employee time.

Geofencing is a type of GPS tracking tied to a targeted location. For example, if you signed up for alerts from your local grocery store, you might get coupons sent to your phone while you are shopping.

You can use this same concept to verify where your field service employees punch in for shifts. Employees use their mobile phone to clock in and out, which can reduce your need for a physical time clock on site. By the way, you can still use a hardware time clock if you need it–there are many options available.

Geofencing can save time for managers and employees. Both will spend less time tracking and verifying timecard data.

What is a Geofence and How Does It Work?

There are only a few steps to get started. First, you identify where your employees will do their work. For example, you may have a central office, a manufacturing facility and job sites that change over time. You might also have some remote employees working from home.

Next, for each location you create a geofence. This is a virtual area that surrounds the location. The geofence is usually drawn as a radius around an address on a map. Then you assign employees to a geofence, either one by one or (more efficiently) by groups.

Geofencing technology works with time tracking software on mobile devices. Of course, the employee must authorize location services in order for location information to get recorded.

geofencing for employee time tracking

GPS Employee Attendance Tracking

When employees access the online time clock with their mobile device, their location is recorded. If the employee clocks in outside of an approved geofence, their punch may be flagged as out of bounds. They can even be locked out of the clock if they are in an unapproved location.

The mobile time clock is a huge time saver. Rather than stand in line to punch in at a physical clock, employees simply use an app on their phone. They can also use the app to request PTO, take a break, check their schedule and get notifications.

What are Common Pitfalls?

Now that we know a little bit more about geofencing for employee time tracking, let’s review some common problems. Geofencing provides benefits when implemented carefully. Learn from other employers’ mistakes. Avoid these 5 common pitfalls when using geofencing to track employees.

Pitfall #1 – Lack of Formal Policies

First and foremost, you should have a formal attendance and BYOD (Bring Your Own 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 alternative is there if I don’t want to use the timekeeping app?

Geofencing apps are used on mobile devices. Thus, you’ll need a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy or provide devices to your workforce. Consider compliance, cost, and data security.

In addition, employees will 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?

geofencing for employee time tracking

Include the Policy in Onboarding

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

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

Pitfall #2 – Not Enforcing the Policy Consistently

Furthermore, if managers play favorites, morale will plummet. If you penalize employees for not punching in within the geofence, you must apply the discipline consistently.

Remember that the goal of geofencing is to simplify employee timekeeping. With a GPS time app, managers only need to check up on those who are out of bounds. And by using the mobile clock app, employees avoid the hassle of punching in at a physical clock. People 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. Everyone benefits.

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 intuitive, but you should still provide formal training to each new hire. Your vendor might have training resources, so check with them.

GPS time tracking allows management by exception if everyone uses it properly. Make it easy and accurate from the get go by providing basic instruction.

Help Your Managers Get the Most Out of Your Software

Similarly, train your managers on the supervisor or admin functions. Time tracking apps have great manager tools. These include notifications and employee hour threshold alerts.

If your geofencing app is synced to your timekeeping system, your managers can approve timecards, PTO requests, and shift changes in the app.

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. For example, here are the most common issues:

  • Do I need consent from my employees to track them?
  • Are my employees using personal or company-provided mobile 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 it?

Pitfall #5 – Employee Misconceptions

According to Pew Research Center, nine out of ten U.S. smartphone users have location services turned on. This makes it easier for you to explain geofencing and get buy in on its value to everyone.

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 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
  • You can track staff allocation for client billing and better 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 work at home and direct commute to job sites

Geofencing opens up many possibilities for you and your organization. For example, it supports social distancing by letting employees avoid a shared physical clock. It supports remote work by letting managers see where employees are at clock in, without having to be in the same room.

In addition, you can sync it to employee scheduling software for better shift planning.

Furthermore, it saves time for everyone by eliminating lines for clock in and prompting managers only when employees are out of bounds. Employees and their managers can review all punches 24/7 from anywhere, preventing payroll processing errors.

To learn more about mobile workforce management, read about it in our guide: Skillfully Master Your Distributed Workforce Using Geofencing and Mobile Location Management

Updated February 20, 2022

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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