cloud-based time tracking and how it helps with safety in the workplace

The issue of employee surveillance can be a controversial one. On one hand, employers need to make sure their staff are in the right place at the right time, and doing what they are supposed to, as well as ensure their safety. But, on the other hand, employees can see this surveillance as a lack of trust, violation of privacy, or just an excuse to “spy” on them.

We reached out to Quentin Miller, co-founder of time tracking software Vericlock, to address these issues related to surveillance and explain the benefits of cloud-based time tracking solutions.

Why are traditional time-tracking methods no longer up to scratch and how can cloud-based timekeeping help to solve these issues?

Web-based timekeeping completely eliminates the inefficiency and inaccuracy inherent in paper-based systems. Gone is the need for employees and managers to manually fill in time cards, sheets and reports. These activities are rarely done on a timely basis, but usually well after the fact, so an employer relies on people’s’ memory and estimation. Naturally it’s prone to error.

Keeping track of all these pieces of paper, making sure they’re submitted on time, and trying to decipher them adds another layer of inefficiency to the system, which all comes to a head at payroll processing time. This takes an unnecessary amount of time and effort – hours or even days depending on the size of the company.

With web-based timekeeping systems such as VeriClock, regardless of company size or complexity, all of this time data can be ready for payroll within minutes, with corresponding verification and approvals. This speeds up payroll processing, accuracy is down to the minute, and payroll admin costs and headaches are greatly reduced.

You say that your system can monitor and verify employee presence at a remote location in real time. How is this possible?

Firstly, when an employee is using a web browser on a computer, tablet or smartphone, the system is able to locate the employee using the GPS location data recorded by the device. There are three types of location tracking possible:

  1. Clock in and out location – location recorded only when an employee clocks in and out.
  2. Instant location – location requested (pinged) as needed during the workday.
  3. Continuous location – location verified automatically at predetermined times in the workday.

Then when an employee is using text/SMS (as with an older phone), the administrator can configure the system to obtain location data from the wireless carrier. This carries an extra cost of $3 per user/per month when activated. As smartphones are rapidly replacing dumb phones, fewer and fewer customers use this feature.

Finally, when an employee is using a fixed computer or phone, the administrator can determine the location from the computer’s IP address or the phone’s known physical location. This isn’t as accurate as the previous two, but is sufficient for employees clocking in/out at known locations such as an office or warehouse.

Safety is a major concern, both within the walls of a company and when employees are operating at remote locations. What safety issues does VeriClock address?

There are a number of VeriClock features that can be used to enhance employee safety, as well as reduce the employer and employee’s exposure to risk and liability.

The first of these is time tracking. Even basic real-time workplace time tracking can improve safety. Automatic alerts and notifications can be set up to let managers know when employees are not on the job, have failed to clock out, or complete certain tasks. A very common scenario might be a safety-critical employee not showing up on the job site on time. With this information, a manager can take the appropriate actions to ensure that person’s responsibilities are covered.

Knowing where an employee is during the workday is potentially the greatest addition to employee safety offered by the system, especially in high-risk industries or employment in remote locations. Knowing the ‘last known’ location of an employee can be critical in emergency situations. Of the three types of location tracking mentioned previously, instant location and continuous location offer the most in the way of safety benefits.

An employer can also set up various types of mandatory reporting to be completed by employees when they record a timed event. These can take the form of text messages, a voice message/response, and a drop down menu selection. Safety related reports might include recording vehicle mileage, reporting equipment hours, confirmation a safety check was completed, and confirmation that a safety memo was received and read.

Another feature, that takes on-site reporting to another level, is photo and video reporting. With this feature, an employee can easily attach photos and videos to their reports so that managers are seeing the same thing that they are. Safety related observations are time-stamped, recorded and archived. This might be used in the recording of safety protocols on a job site (safety harnesses, railings, etc.), as well as the state of equipment and if it’s of concern to an employee (for example tires, indicators, and gauge readings)

How does your system eliminate “cheating” on the part of employee recording of time on the job?

Since clock in and out activity is recorded by each employee’s specific device, it becomes very difficult for an employee to circumvent the system. The practice of “buddy punching”, clocking in for someone else, is a common problem with other systems, but this is eliminated with VeriClock.”

Location tracking in conjunction with time tracking can let managers verify that employees are actually where they’re supposed to be when they clock in/out.

There must be times when employees feel that your system is set up by their employer just to spy on them. How can an employer justify the use of web based time tracking systems, assuage employee concerns, and keep morale high?

Firstly, the VeriClock system only records time and location data when an employee is clocked in and working (on the clock). Data is never collected during an employee’s personal time. Second, for the most part, the data collected is identical to that collected by any time and attendance system, just more efficiently and accurately. This can benefit the employee as much as it does the employer because they’ll be paid for actual time on the job. Naturally it’s an even bigger benefit for employees that receive any type of overtime compensation.

It really comes down to questions of trust vs. operational necessity. Management must have good reasons to support their use of location tracking. Personal safety, mitigating employee and company risk and liability, improving customer service, are all reasons that can benefit employer and employee alike. We’ve found that when employees understand the reasons, they are by-and-large supportive.

Employees need to be made aware of what the system does and doesn’t do. This relies on good workplace communication and training practices, which VeriClock promotes as part of an effective implementation process.

Why is your cloud-based time tracking system an improvement over traditional digital clocking hardware?

VeriClock’s cloud-based system will work with the computers and phones a company already has. There’s no need to buy or maintain hardware, or install and update software. These all represent huge savings in cost and administrative effort.