JavaScript isn't enabled in your browser. Please enable and reload.

The complete guide to workplace GPS tracking and location-aware tech 2019

GPS tracking is as common in our everyday lives as streaming and social media. Many of the insecurities folks once had about GPS tracking have been quelled over time by the practicality of the technology in so many different areas of daily life, including transportation, communication, and the workplace.

When it comes to implementing GPS on the job site — for project coordination or for real-time insights into where employees are stationed — it’s important to understand employee perceptions of GPS tracking at work. To get some insight, TSheets commissioned an independent survey of 1,585 employees over the age of 18 throughout the US to learn more about their experiences with workplace GPS tracking.*

Of the 1,585 people we surveyed, around two-thirds have not used GPS tracking at work, while 32 percent have used GPS tracking at work. Of these, the majority say they use GPS tracking on an app on their phone.

We then surveyed the 500 employees who’ve used GPS tracking on the job to discover trends and find out how people really feel about having their location tracked while on the clock.

Seven things employers should understand about GPS on the job

1. Don’t assume employees will react negatively to GPS tracking

Whether or not you plan on bringing GPS to your business, it’s helpful to note that the majority of employees have positive attitudes about the technology and rarely report negative experiences with it. Our survey discovered that 65 percent of employees who use GPS at work reported a positive experience, and only about 4 percent said the opposite.

2. GPS tracking isn’t about spying on people — it’s about safety

What are the main reasons employers track their employees’ locations on the job? According to our respondents, the No. 1 reason employers implement GPS tracking is for safety. This information points to the types of businesses that like to use GPS tracking and that it’s now easier for businesses to have employees in many locations, working simultaneously on many different projects. And if you happen to have employees in the field, at multiple job sites, or working through the night, knowing where they’re located at any given time is crucial to their safety.

Other common reasons for using the technology include employee accountability, efficiency, and mileage tracking. Knowing your teams are at the right place at the right time and efficiently working can be a game-changer. And if you have vehicles, GPS tracking can save you money on gas for unnecessary or unapproved trips. Equipment seems to be another important factor in the decision whether to use GPS in the workplace. About a quarter of our respondents listed equipment tracking as one use for the tech.

Top reasons employers use GPS tracking

3. Getting employees on board may not be as difficult as you think

If you’re an employer who is interested in implementing GPS to improve safety, accountability, or efficiency among your employees, you might be wary about tracking employee locations.

We’ll talk about increasingly positive perceptions of location tracking later, but it’s important to note that implementing the tech is more about communicating its value to your team. Indeed, GPS is more commonplace in the lives of most employees than you might assume. Nearly three-quarters of employees surveyed say they have a strong or very strong understanding of the technology.

There’s certainly a correlation between an employee’s understanding of GPS and their comfort level with the tech. The better employees understand GPS tracking, the more comfortable they are with it. Some 43 percent of those who say they have little to no understanding of how the technology works say their lack of understanding makes them less comfortable.

Although we found a small percentage of employees (7 percent) are uncomfortable with GPS tracking, a significant 78 percent said they are comfortable with it. This could indicate that discussing GPS tracking with your employees will be easier than you think, and the technology is well received upon its introduction.

4. Make a good case for location tracking in the workplace

Empathy is the key whenever you’re introducing a new system or tool to your workforce. By putting yourself in your employee’s shoes, you can better understand the cost and benefit to them and how to ensure it’s worth the investment. When it comes to GPS, talking to your team in advance about the reasons and benefits behind your decision to implement the technology is the most impactful way to ensure comfort and buy-in.

It’s also important to make sure your employees can tell when GPS tracking is turned off or on. Some 89 percent of respondents attributed one of these two factors to making them feel more comfortable using the technology.

Employees are more comfortable using GPS tracking on a work phone over their personal phone, but having access to what data you collect about their location can help. Employees will also rest assured knowing their location isn’t tracked when they’re off the clock.

Do the following make you feel more or less comfortable with GPS tracking at work?

5. Keep unaddressed concerns in mind

Addressing the issue of GPS tracking with your employees before they begin to develop any concerns is the best way to ensure their comfort with the technology from the get-go. The majority of employees surveyed (57 percent) said they have concerns about GPS, but only 37 percent raised their concerns with their employer. Of the 37 percent who did raise their concerns, only 41 percent said their employer fully addressed their concerns. This leaves nearly 60 percent with concerns that were never addressed.

Furthermore, getting buy-in from your employees can significantly increase the chance that they’ll be on board with GPS technology. Nearly 1 in 10 employees did not give consent for GPS tracking at work, but the majority (85 percent) said they gave some form of written or verbal consent. And employee permission should not be undervalued. The majority of respondents said GPS tracking is not an invasion of privacy if their employer gets consent or if it is only used during working hours.

Word of advice: Don’t assume an employee doesn’t have concerns because they haven’t voiced them. Even if your employees don’t seem to have questions about location technology at work, educate them on how and when they’ll be tracked, address common concerns, and gather consent before any seeds of discontent are sewn.

6. Know the common concerns and experiences

Most people use GPS on their phones, but the issue of battery or data drain might not come up as much as it does when using an app that’s meant for work. If employees are using their personal smart devices enabled with GPS, they might be most concerned about cell phone battery drain and data usage.

Despite challenges, many employees have noted benefits of using the technology at work, namely peace of mind that they’ll be paid for their hours and increased accountability for themselves and their employers.

Top benefits of GPS tracking at work

7. Consider the risks associated with GPS tracking after work hours

While tracking employees off the clock isn’t legal or ethical, it can happen. When asked how employees would respond to such an event, 42 percent said they would have a conversation about it with their boss. Not all employees are so forgiving. One in 4 employees said if they were tracked off the clock, they would take legal action. This is why quality GPS apps will automatically disable location tracking when employees clock out.

Positive experiences increased 10 percent from 2017

Although concerns still exist, the data suggests that GPS tracking at work is becoming more commonplace and more accepted by employees. Employees are even reporting better experiences with GPS tracking at work than last year. We saw a 10 percent increase in employees saying their experience with GPS was positive. This could be because the technology is getting better or they are more comfortable using it.

Read the full 2017 GPS report.

How would you describe your experience using GPS tracking?

Additional survey results

*Methodology: In July 2018, TSheets surveyed 1,585 employees in the US to learn more about their experience with GPS tracking in the workplace.