Small businesses with employees working at offsite locations can use the latest time tracking and scheduling technologies to better manage their mobile workforce. These latest virtual time clock innovations use global positioning satellite (GPS) and geofencing technology through smartphone applications.
A Mobile GPS Time Clock
Bob Drainville is the president at Timesheet Mobile. His company’s application creates a virtual perimeter around a physical location using GPS technology for employees working in the field. The technology helps employers keep an accurate accounting of remote hours booked by reminding offsite workers when they need to clock in and out on their phones.
Drainville says these tools work best within specific industries and certain sizes.
“These small business owners usually have between 15 and 25 employees,” he said. “They are usually owner/operators in the trades.”
Drainville goes on to say these business people are generally very capable in their field but might lack some general business acumen. They generally include small business owners in the trades and construction but others like security and cleaning companies as well as those in healthcare can find benefits too . This innovation is especially helpful for smaller enterprises with people working on different sites for a few hours at a time. It helps to capture labor hours for each site so actual hours can be compared to estimates.
“It’s generally eye opening to these folks,” he says. “They get validation that any employee is on a site through a GPS stamp.”
Prompted To Sign In
The workers aren’t tracked continually. They are prompted to sign in before and after they’ve left the site. However, if they don’t show up at a scheduled location, this type of application sends an alert to the business owner.
Another time and cost saving feature is the ability to import the automated timesheets created to third party solutions like QuickBooks and FreshBooks. This allows for a seamless integration between the worker in the field and a permanent record.
It’s clear there’s a need for this tool. Drainville cites two studies pointing to time theft as a major issue for small businesses.
“A few years back, a Harris interactive poll found that 33 percent of employees admitted to cheating on their shifts. Another study by The American Payroll Association finds that 7 percent of annual gross payrolls are lost to time theft.”
This kind of automated timekeeping has some challenges. Employee compliance is at the top of the list. Many workers punching a time clock for 40 hours a week can resist using an app that captures their locations and timestamps them.
Drainville suggests business owners get over any initial mistrust by focusing on cost savings.
“We tell our customers that by automating the collection of hours, they can accurately track the costs on jobs and be more profitable.” He also says employees who refuse to use the system are often the ones cheating.
“That issue takes care of itself,” Drainville says. “They generally leave on their own or get dismissed.”
Other technologies like Geofence Punch Prompt nudge workers who forget they need to punch in electronically when they reach a job site. This electronic fence that comes with Timesheet Mobile reminds workers who forget to activate the system.
“Likewise when they leave a site, it reminds them to punch out,” Drainville says. “If they forget to do that, it leaves a note on the timesheets so the manager can see the time they arrive, when they left and convert that into a punch.”
It’s also a good idea to let employees know they aren’t being tracked through GPS continually.
Businesses That Might Pass
This technology is a great way for small businesses with offsite workers to keep costs down and time theft to a minimum. However, there are a few enterprises that might not get the top ROI from an investment on this technology.
For example, if a large portion of your workforce works under one roof and doesn’t venture out much this type of investment might not be worth your while. Workplaces like that often have time clocks right inside the building. These businesses can have web-based methods for punching in and out instead.
GPS Tracking Photo via Shutterstock
I had talked with someone working for a small business before and her boss is checking her constantly on the GPS. It was not a good feeling. She felt as if she was held in the neck and couldn’t do what she wanted to do.
Bob Drainville told me his product, Timesheet Mobile, only tracks people when they’re at the job site. While there are some privacy concerns with the technology generally, it’s designed to cut the costs associated with time sheet cheating. Not that your friend was doing that!
I see. That’s great to hear Rob. The GPS is installed in her car so that her boss can know where she is going. She is in a managerial position though and her boss wants to be able to know where she is when there is an emergency.