battery drain

Employee GPS Tracking and Battery Life: Tips and Best Practices

You're not alone if you think you spend too much time checking on your crew. The latest State of Construction Industry report found that 56% of managers spend an average of 11 hours each week traveling between job sites and checking on employees.

That’s a whopping 564 hours per year that you could use to grow your business.

Keeping track of the physical location and hours worked by a field team is challenging. Many construction, landscaping, and other mobile team managers are turning to location-based automated solutions such as geofencing to do it for them.

employee location tracking solutionBut, if you think your crew has reservations about a geofenced time clock or GPS location tracking app, you’re not alone.

Employees and contractors are concerned about using apps that enable you to monitor their location throughout the day.

But they may not be the concerns you expect.

Complaints tend to be more about the GPS battery life implications than the feeling that someone is always watching you.

After all, crews are used to managers checking in throughout the day. GPS location tracking apps just automate this process.

Should your team be concerned about the effects GPS tracking has on a device’s battery life? Will there be issues with phones running out of juice due to geofencing and GPS, leaving your team with no communication methods or a way to track their work?

We’ll be explaining all of this. Let’s get started.

Does keeping your location on drain battery?

Keeping your location on can contribute to battery drain on your device. However, with new technology with Android devices and iPhones, that impact is much less. 

When your location data is enabled, your device uses a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi, and mobile networks to determine and update your precise location. Accessing these services requires additional power, impacting your device's battery life. 

You likely have this feature whether you have an iPhone or Android phone. Location services make it easy to look up things near you and to send your location to trusted friends. Many worry that this drains the battery quickly, but it doesn’t have much more impact than other energy-consuming activities like watching videos. 

You can disable location services or adjust your app settings when your phone gets below 5%, but how much battery is on your phone depends on how much you currently have running. Using your Google Maps app or keeping other location services turned on, like Hubstaff, won’t be the only reason your phone slowly loses more battery power.

Why are GPS and geofencing apps so important for a business?

Before explaining phone batteries and GPS, let’s first cover the basics of using geofencing apps for distributed teams and mobile workforces.

A geofencing app uses GPS technology to create a virtual barrier around a geographical location. This barrier triggers specific actions anytime a person (and their phone) leaves or enters that location. You may have experienced this already when a company’s app sends you a marketing coupon when you’re near one of their physical stores.

The benefits of this technology are powerful for mobile workforces. From more innovative time tracking (automatically clocking employees in and out) to more complex calculations (based on a contractor’s time and hourly rate), implementing geofences for your field team brings impressive management and business benefits.

Some of the benefits that GPS tracking can bring to your business include:

Naturally, you expect employees and contractors to be wary of this technology, with words such as big brother and micro-management springing to mind. However, most crew members welcome this GPS technology because of its dual benefits.

Some of the benefits that geofencing and automatic location and time tracking bring to your employees include:

  • Ease of use: Not having to remember to clock in, clock out, or having to keep track of everything worked on that day.

  • Pay: Get paid accurately for the exact hours worked on different jobs.

  • Building trust: Being able to show that they were where they say they were builds trust with new employees.

  • Expenses: An easy way to calculate the time and money spent traveling between sites.

Even with these benefits, your crew might still be concerned that your app is draining their battery. After all, they may need that device to get home after their shift or communicate with their loved ones during lunch.

It’s understandable, but is it avoidable?

How do GPS and geofencing apps affect battery life?

Their concern isn’t wholly unfounded. It has been shown that GPS and geofencing apps consume battery power throughout the day.

In a recent study, a GPS app depleted battery life by 13% in an area with good signal strength and 38% in an area with weak signal strength.

The two main reasons for this additional battery drain are that the apps must determine your location and then periodically refresh it.

1. Determining location

GPS tracking technology uses satellites to determine a contractor’s location, which is slow compared to fiber optics. In an area with a good network signal, this usually takes an average of 12-30 seconds. However, this can take up to 12 minutes in an area with poor signal.

During this time, your employee’s phone is active, consuming battery power, even if their screen is off. That means the longer it takes to find and upload a current location, the more battery the app will drain trying to complete its function.

2. Refreshing location

Geofencing apps regularly refresh employees' location to determine when they enter or exit defined areas. This constant refreshing can prevent a phone from entering a prolonged sleep period, making it unable to conserve battery life.

However, the app must do this periodically to ensure accurate data. So, there must be a balance between overworking the processing systems and risking slow or inaccurate tracking data.

Add in any screen time checking the app, weak signal, regular changes in location, and an old battery, and you could have a battery-sapping location-tracking app. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Will the Hubstaff app drain your battery?

A well-designed app makes all the difference in preserving your battery life, even when tracking GPS and enabling geofencing.

Hubstaff is well-suited to the task without killing battery life because it’s designed to:

  • Spend as little time as possible determining an employee’s location

  • Refresh this location as little as possible to be helpful while still conserving battery life.

How does the app do this while still providing accurate data for timesheets and invoices?

At Hubstaff, we’ve reduced all-day battery usage of our geofencing app to 20% (iOS) and 1.5% (Android) by using OS location points. We use location points provided by your employee’s phone OS and create a new location pin only when an employee moves more than 500m.

By using the OS’ location points, the app spends less time determining an employee’s location and, therefore, less time-consuming battery power. And, by using 500m GPS points frequency, the app isn’t needlessly refreshing the employee’s location, allowing that phone to spend more time sleeping and conserving battery power.

While our geofencing app still needs battery power to run, it operates most efficiently to minimize the amount of energy used throughout the day. This gives your employees more reassurance that their phone battery will survive.

Tips to save battery life with a time and location tracking app

Of course, even with a geofencing app that drains minimal battery life, there are always things your crew can do to save battery life.

These include running the app in the background instead of having it open all the time, ensuring a healthy battery in the first place, checking and limiting other apps running, and enabling battery-saving mode.

Let’s look at each one a little closer.

Tip 1. Run the app in the background

Good geofencing and GPS tracking apps should allow you to run the app in the background without needing it pulled up to work.

Look for a tool that does this to avoid draining battery life and ensure your GPS tracking stays accurate throughout the time you need it to run.

Hubstaff mobile app battery usage

How to run Hubstaff in the background

  • Step 1: Open your Hubstaff app

  • Step 2: Begin tracking your time

  • Step 3: Go back to the home screen

  • Step 4: Your Hubstaff app is now running in the background

To help ensure seamless tracking, ensure that the user’s app is set to track location passively in Hubstaff. This will trigger time tracking when that person enters a job site, or a location update is sent to the app.

Tip: Do not manually close the app by swiping up.

Tip 2. Check battery health

A phone’s battery life reduces with time and use. In fact, an average battery loses 20% of its capacity after only 500 charge cycles.

Anyone suffering from a noticeably short battery cycle should ask their phone provider to check the battery's health and replace it if necessary.

You can check your battery health and performance in iOS in the Settings menu.

Tip 3. Check other apps

Many other apps run in the background of your employees’ phones.

These apps download information, track location, and drain battery life without them realizing it. Employees can check and amend which apps run in the background of their phone via their user settings.

Tip 4. Limit app installations on a business phone

If your employees and contractors have work phones, you should restrict the number of non-work-related apps they can download. Social media and news-based apps drain significant battery life, especially when push notifications are enabled.

Set up all work devices with only the critical apps needed for work and communication, and make it clear in a written agreement they are not allowed to install other apps (like games or social media) to prolong battery life.

Locking in the apps on these phones will also reduce your liability if an employee downloads something like their banking app and the phone gets hacked.

restrict the number of non work related apps
Tip 5. Reduce screen drain

Mobile phone screens use a high volume of power when switched on. The light and intentionally eye-catching UX means there’s always something happening.

Your crew members can reduce the effects of screen drain by:

Turning down the screen brightness

Turning off alerts and push notifications that cause the screen to light up

Turning on auto-lock to power off the screen after one minute of inactivity

As a bonus for turning off push notifications, you’ll get distraction-free work time, which is crucial to productive days.

Tip 6. Enable battery-saving mode

Most phones have a battery-saving mode that is manually or automatically switched on to conserve battery life. This is achieved by shutting down unused background apps, turning off notifications, and reducing screen brightness.

battery saving mode

How to get employee buy-in for using these apps

Employee buy-in is crucial for successfully implementing geofenced time tracking into your business, which means you must reassure your team about a significant concern: battery life.

Provide assurance about how GPS tracking affects battery life by sharing information and making it accessible, setting up demos and trials, and encouraging feedback.

Share information and make it accessible

Explain how GPS tracking works, including the benefits for the business and the considerations you’ve researched and considered.

For example, tell them you sourced a geofencing app that uses minimal battery power compared to similar solutions.

Set up demos with your team

Book a demo and walkthrough of the app with your team so they can learn about the technology, see how it works, and ask any questions they have.

Getting a personal walkthrough gives everyone the chance to ask questions.

Allow team members to test it

Give employees and contractors time to try your geofencing app themselves. This lets them get comfortable with the app, experiment with battery settings, understand their phone’s new charge cycle, and trust what you say.

Prioritize education

Education is vital for getting employee buy-in. Provide employees with information on how to use the app and improve their phone’s battery life and performance.

You can even send them this list of tips for extending battery life.

Top tip: your employees can check their battery’s health and what apps consume the most power via their phone settings:

  • iOS: Settings > Battery

  • Android: Settings > General > Battery

tips for saving battery life

Provide safeguards

Whether it’s your geofencing app draining an employee’s battery or the lunchtime scroll through Instagram, there's always someone whose phone dies before clocking out for the day.

Overcome this issue by providing your crew with safeguards, such as a rechargeable portable charger or a place to recharge devices during breaks.

Battery life is getting better with each generation of smartphones

Finally, remember that it’s only going to get better.

Finally, remember that it’s only going to get better. As the years go on, when you check battery usage, you will notice that turning on your location services makes almost no difference in your battery power.

Apple and Android constantly update their operating systems and hardware to improve battery life, and scientists are working hard to create bigger, better, and lighter batteries. The better phone batteries become, the less power geofencing apps will consume and the fewer concerns your team will have about GPS battery life.

Until we get there, try to pick a geofencing app with the least battery power possible to generate the most accurate employee tracking data possible. Your employees (and business) will thank you.

Geofenced time tracking with optimal battery usage

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