In today’s era of remote work, employers are turning to different technologies to monitor employee activities to ensure work productivity and to safeguard company property. One prominent technology is location tracking, which can help an employer in gauging employee whereabouts especially when working remotely; it is becoming common practice for companies to use geolocation data to know where their employees are when they are working in the field or simply working remotely from their own homes.
One of the most common methods of tracking employee location is through the use of GPS technology in mobile devices, laptops, and other company-issued devices. This technology can help employers to know when and where their employees are working, and can be used to plan shifts and schedules.
However, the implementation of geolocation trackers brings up several challenging questions about privacy, liberty, and security, which begs to be addressed in this article. Therefore, this blog post will examine how location tracking works, the pros and cons of using such technology at the workplace, and the possible privacy considerations that both employers and employees should keep in mind.
What is Location Tracking?
Location tracking is the process of using global positioning system (GPS) or other tracking technologies to determine a person’s geographic location. This technology has been around since the early 2000s, where people used GPS technology map apps to navigate unfamiliar territories. Today, location tracking has become a widely used technology that improves the accuracy of location-dependent software and services, such as location-based advertising, online shopping, and weather applications.
In the workplace, location tracking usually involves the use of GPS technology that is installed on employee devices, which relay real-time location data back to the company’s central system. The technology usually works by triangulating signals between satellites to identify the position of the device using GPS coordinates.
Pros and Cons of Location Tracking
Employers have various reasons for implementing location tracking technology in their organizations. The advantages of using location tracking technology include:
- Improving Security with Asset Management: Employers can use geolocation data to monitor company-owned assets, such as vehicles, equipment, and devices. This data can track the location of the company’s assets, and this information can help managers to keep their equipment secure and available when needed.
- Purposeful Time Management: Employers might want to know whether their employees are spending time in productive activities, such as meeting with clients, conducting inspections, or visiting job sites. This time management benefit serves as a measure to keep employees on task and cut down on time wastage.
- Enhanced Safety at Work: Employers can use geolocation data to ensure that their employees are working in safe and secure environments, in compliance with legal, and organizational guidelines. Managers can use this data to ensure that employees are not exposed to hazardous environments that can harm them inadvertently.
Despite the benefits of location tracking, there are also a few drawbacks that small business owners should consider before adopting this technology, such as:
- Invasiveness: Location tracking can present issues around worker privacy. As much as employers have the best intentions when implementing location tracking tools, employees might view it as an invasion of their privacy, an issue, which could result in mistrust, demotivation or resignations.
- Employee Monitoring: Some employees might feel anxious, and their work performance might suffer if they know their employer is monitoring their every move, even while performing non-work-related activities during their break periods.
- Distrust Between Employers and Employees: Constant monitoring can foster an untrusting culture, with employees feeling like they are being spied on, thus creating an internal conflict between workers and management. As a result, workers might feel that their employers are trapping them or making accusations grounded on location data when they file in claims of completing their work for the day.
While adopting employee location tracking technologies nudges towards the question of privacy, it’s essential to mention that data protection laws around data privacy mandate stringent adherence to privacy guidelines. It is, therefore, critical that employers inform their employees about the company’s data handling policies and the kind of information being collected, which includes location data. While informing employees about data privacy records falls under the responsibility of the company, employees must also be encouraged to safeguard their devices by implementing basic security measures. This includes keeping their login credentials and security software up to date.
Building trust through transparent communication is essential in maintaining privacy, and this transparency should extend across all privacy-sensitive technologies employed by the organization. Employers should consider involving their employees when developing and reviewing such policies, in a bid to generate input, feedback and develop a shared understanding and ownership around such policies.
Employers also need to differentiate location data handling practices between personal and professional devices. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires employers to obtain consent before collecting personal data, such as the location data of an employee’s personal device. Employers with remote work policies must seek consent explicitly from their employees regarding the collection of personal data on their location-based services.
The future of remote work is here, and employers must adapt to the changing work dynamic that involves managing remote employees. Remote workers strive for independence and freedom to work from wherever they choose has gradually created an intricate network that is complex to govern, such as time management and asset protection. However, location tracking can help employers keep track of their assets, employees and data, while at the same time protecting privacy rights. Building a culture of trust, transparency and data protection policies will not only keep businesses compliant but also increase employee satisfaction and foster healthy working relationships across the board.