Should GPS Tracking Technology Be Used to Monitor Remote Employees?

Don Tennant

It’s a warm, sunny, summer day, and as you toil in your uncomfortably over-air-conditioned office, you’d much rather be lounging at the beach, picnicking in a park, or doing any of the innumerable other summer activities you wait so much of the year to be able to do. You know a lot of the employees in the office who work for you are thinking the same thing. That’s OK, because you’re there to help them stay productive. But what about those remote employees who work for you? What’s preventing them from yielding to temptation and taking a little summer hiatus?

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Employers routinely use GPS tracking devices to monitor the whereabouts of employees whose work takes them from place to place in vehicles. Would it make sense to use the same technology to monitor the whereabouts of employees who work from home to help ensure their engagement and productivity?

I recently spoke with George Karonis, CEO of LiveViewGPS, which supplies GPS tracking technology to employers. As I noted in an earlier post, LiveViewGPS is the provider of Mobile Phone Locate, an unobtrusive service that monitors an employee’s whereabouts by tracking the location of his cell phone. I asked Karonis if he’s aware of any clients who use the service to monitor their employees who work from home. His response:

Not offhand. If someone’s working from home, that’s different from a salesperson who’s out and about. So I wouldn’t see a use for our app for somebody who was working at home, unless there were trust issues between the employer and the employee, and the employee agreed, saying, “OK, you can monitor my movements when I’m on the clock.”

I also raised the issue when I spoke recently with Nobscot Corp. CEO Beth N. Carvin, who specializes in remote-employee engagement and retention. I asked her for her thoughts on using this type of tracking service to monitor the locations of remote employees. Like Karonis, she cited the trust element:

Just talking about the idea in general, I don’t favor that strategy for managing employees, because the perception that you’re giving to your employees about the lack of trust creates a tension and a stress, where otherwise good employees might feel that they can’t work under those conditions for long. My area of focus is employee turnover and employee retention, and I would be concerned—though I don’t have data to back this up, since it’s so new—about why it’s being implemented and making sure that you’re not doing this in a way that’s going to create an employee turnover problem.

Carvin also talked about the psychology involved:

I would compare it to something that’s done by companies all the time—the best practice of when you pay for employees’ relocation expenses, the employees have to stay for at least one year or they have to pay back those expenses. It does a weird psychological thing to people—for that first year, because they are forced to be there in a way, for that whole year they want to leave. The second the year is over and that’s lifted, they’re fine. So there’s a lot of psychology that goes on with employees. And today, with job-hopping no longer being a dirty word, that has created a potential nightmare for organizations, along with the fact that jobs, even if not yet plentiful, are much easier to find. So you don’t want to pander to your employees, but you want to be aware of things you put into place and how they’re going to be perceived.

Carvin said that even if the technology isn’t being used for this purpose now, eventually it will be:

I don’t know if anybody is really pushing that, but they certainly will at some point. But that’s not the way to manage your remote employees. You might be tempted to, because it is challenging to manage remote employees. But you have to hire people who have the right mentality for working remotely, who are self-starters and who take initiative, and who have the right work values.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 28, 2013 8:48 PM IT Headhunters Dallas IT Headhunters Dallas  says:
A Stanford University study sought to compare a group of employees allowed to work from home with a control group of people who wanted to telework but were required to stay in the office. The study clearly showed that the telework group outperformed the in-office group by a wide margin -- about 15% -- and not just in aggregate work performed, but also in the overall quality of the output. Not only were workers more productive per unit time, but they worker longer hours, suffered fewer sick days, and even had less overall attrition. Reply
Jun 30, 2013 1:53 PM Abdullah Abdullah  says:
Well For me its a very inhumane behavior if Some Company opt to Have GPS Surveillance of their Emplyees... Apart from the benefits these Technology i Hope dont make our Life miserable... Reply
Jul 1, 2013 3:15 PM GeoTel GeoTel  says:
It really seems to defeat the purpose of remote employees if you are going to start to control their behavior/location. If they deliver their work and are readily accessible as agreed upon in their contract, it seems counter intuitive to track them. And just a waste of resources. Reply
Jul 2, 2013 1:39 PM Margo Margo  says:
As a business owner (and my small business delivers our products) the ability to improve our productivity by having a GPS for tracking our deliveries sounds like a great plan! Reply
Jul 2, 2013 6:27 PM Steve Steve  says:
My kids have always been wanderers and always try and get themselves lost. Since I got this great tracking by GPS system they've never been lost. I really recommend it t parents who are on the go with their kids all the time. Thanks for posting. Reply
Jul 5, 2013 8:28 AM gps tracking gps tracking  says:
Should GPS Tracking Technology Be Used to Monitor Remote Employees? Yes GPS Tracking Technology is used to monitor Remote Employees....by using fleet tracking... Reply
Jul 10, 2013 11:14 PM Darin Darin  says:
Also worth considering is the way in which low cost GPS solutions are helping enterprise with tracking and reporting of vehicle and staff movements, products like TrackAss www.trackass.com are becoming an inexpensive way to incorporate GPS telematics into the smallest business for productivity gains. Reply
Jul 18, 2013 1:07 PM Sarah Sarah  says:
When employees are aware that they will be tracked, a sense of trust and transparency is developed between the employee and the employer. This increases productivity and ultimately makes like easier for both employee and employer. Using a mobile phone tracker suck as MapME GPS (http://mapme.net), employees can track workers only while they're on the clock and only on devices provided by the company. This way, the employees know that they will be tracked by the company for safety and productivity purposes. It is also the right of the company to be able to keep track of their property should their phones be lost or stolen while in the care of an employee. Reply
Jul 25, 2013 1:28 PM Track What Matters Track What Matters  says:
YES! I have to agree with what Sarah has said above. Telling your employees that you’re going to start tracking them can trigger their inner big brother alarms; however, this doesn’t have to be the case. - See more at: http://www.trackwhatmatters.com/gps-tracking-responsibly-while-increasing-efficiency#sthash.PN2wmSoy.dpuf Reply
Sep 25, 2013 7:20 AM EdwardByron EdwardByron  says:
I also agree with Sarah. Reply
Jun 24, 2015 9:08 AM jacky1000 jacky1000  says:
Oh yes! GPS tracker has both the boon and bane. In office it should be used for tracking at employees but not in all places it should be in certain places. Reply
Jan 6, 2018 5:57 AM Yasir Yasir  says:
Yes in India we use GT300 Personal GPS Tracker to track both Employee and Kids. Reply

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