Watch out for geofencing pitfalls as you work to ensure accurate timekeeping.

There are a lot of reasons why you might need geofencing in your small business. For example, perhaps you have multiple locations like an office building and a factory. Or maybe your employees are assigned to work sites or job sites that change over time. Or you have a group of dental offices or medical clinics. Or like many companies 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.

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 in tracking employee time.

Geofencing provides a way to track activity within a targeted location. For example, if you signed up online for alerts from your local grocery store, you might get coupons sent to your phone while you are shopping.

You can use this same geofencing concept to verify where your employees clock in and out. 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. They both spend less time verifying timecard data.

What is Geofence and How Does It Work?

There are only a few steps to get started using geofencing. 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.

The geofence works in conjunction with timekeeping software on mobile devices. Of course, the employee must authorize the location services in order for location information to get recorded.

How Geofencing Works for Employee Timekeeping

When employees clock in 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 common 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 Geofencing Pitfalls?

Now that we know a little bit more about geofencing, 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.

Geofencing Pitfall #1 Lack of Formal Policies

You should have a formal attendance 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. Consider compliance, cost, and data security.

Can employees 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?

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 geofenced timekeeping. They also pledge to follow the rules. You want to create accountability and set expectations from the beginning. Plus, it will help protect you if they ever initiate a labor dispute.

Geofencing Pitfall #2 Not Enforcing the Policy Consistently

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 geofencing, managers only need to check up on those who are out of bounds when they use their mobile clock app. 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.

Geofencing Pitfall #3 Lack of Training

Don’t assume your employees will immediately know how to use your timekeeping app. Most mobile systems are intuitive, but you should still provide formal training to each new hire. Check your vendor training resources.

Geofencing saves time and 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

Train your managers on the supervisor or admin functions. Time tracking apps have numerous manager tools. These include notifications and 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.

Geofencing Pitfall #4 Breaking Workplace Laws

Location based employee tracking has legal implications. Know the laws in your state and city. Here are the most common issues:

  • Do I need consent from my employees to track them?
  • Am I tracking workers on public or private property?
  • Are my employees using personal or company vehicles?
  • Are my employees using personal or company-provided mobile devices?
  • Am I tracking them outside of normal work hours?
  • Where will the information be stored?
  • Who has access to it?

Geofencing Pitfall #5 Employee Misconceptions

According to Pew Research Center, nine out of ten US 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 out geofencing, explain the reasons to your employees

  • You will know they arrived at the job site safely
  • You can track work time for payroll accuracy
  • They will know they are at the correct work location
  • They will be recognized for punctuality
  • They will be recognized for staying late when needed
  • You can track staff allocation for client billing
  • Geofencing 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. It supports social distancing by letting employees avoid a shared physical clock multiple times a day. It supports remote work by letting managers see where employees are at clock in, without having to be in the same room with them. 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.

Began writing at age seven and never stopped. Devoted decades to content strategy, communications and digital media. Dabbler in all things, including cycling, piano, ukulele, and art.
Kari Johnson