GPS Mileage Apps: Helpful Business Tools or Invasions of Privacy?
A mileage log is just a mileage log, right? It’s simply a list of trips and mileage amounts, adding up to a total amount for reimbursement purposes. At least, that’s how most businesses and their employees look at it. But a mileage log doesn’t have to be just a mileage log. It can also be treasure trove of data that can enhance the way you do business while saving you time and money.
Most businesses completely overlook the potential of mileage tracking to provide valuable data about sales and employee behavior, reduce the time employees spend on administrative tasks, and, perhaps most importantly, save businesses a lot of money. All this can be achieved if mileage logs are automated using an appropriate tool. GPS mileage tracking apps are now on the market that can automate mileage tracking while integrating with existing CRM software and expense management systems.
The Many Benefits of GPS
There are many business benefits to using GPS location services for mobile employees:
- Logging and calculating business mileage
- Measuring and monitoring overtime for labor law compliance
- Verifying time records
- Supporting personal use chargeback policies for company cars
- Leveraging trip data to coach and develop underperforming reps
However, with such a powerful tool comes also increased access to an employee’s private life.
GPS Privacy Concerns
GPS technology in the workplace is synonymous with mistrust. Employees don’t want to feel as if they are being watched by “Big Brother” while on the job. Nor do managers want to support a tool that virtually puts them in the position of looking over each employee’s shoulder. Imagine hiring a person and informing them that they are going to be monitored with the same technology UPS uses to track packages. That’s not going to make them feel trusted as an adult to do their job well.
At the same time, most employees already receive a GPS-enabled company cell phone that their employers use could track them if they wanted to. But how many organizations have the personnel and interest to spend time (and money) tracking employees? At the end of the day that practice would probably cost more than it would save, and so organizations choose to trust their employees to do their job right. Similarly, even though a GPS mileage app could theoretically allow management to intrude on an employee’s privacy, the reality is that this use of management’s time would be cost-prohibitive and yield few benefits.
But the fact remains that GPS does grant increased access to an employee’s behavior and private life, whether or not the employer abuses this access. And this will fuel perceptions among some employees that privacy is being invaded.
Privacy Perceptions vs. Business Benefits
At some point organizations have to weigh perceived employee privacy versus business benefits. There is a big opportunity for savings in time and expenses by automatically logging and calculating mileage. The fact is, you have to use a mileage log to substantiate business use if you are providing a:
- Mileage reimbursement
- Car allowance with mileage substantiation
- Fuel card (non-taxed) or a fuel reimbursement
- Company car with personal use chargeback policy
Automating the mileage capture process can be a win for the employee because it cuts out a time-consuming administrative task. And it can be a win for the company because it increases accuracy of reporting (saving you money) and gives you access to data from which to discern best practices among mobile employees. But is it truly a win-win situation when employees still feel vulnerable to privacy concerns?
Using GPS while Preserving Employee Trust
With the proliferation of business tools in the form of mobile apps, employers have much more access to their employees than ever before. Stewarding this access appropriately should be a high priority. When employers begin using GPS to monitor employees, they should implement best practices for complying with the law and ensuring that employee trust is not violated. Because there is not as much clarity in the law when it comes to tracking employee’s locations through smartphones as there is with monitoring employee vehicles, developing protective policies and procedures is highly important.
The mBurse solution, however, can preserve this trust without lots of complicated rules and procedures. We offer a GPS mileage tracking app that DOES NOT violate employee privacy. It is reasonable for a business to have the ability to track and record business mileage. However, it is unreasonable, unethical, and in certain instances illegal to track employees 24/7 or even 24/5. You have to draw the line between work and personal time and provide the employee the option of distinguishing between the two. Contact mBurse for a demo today.