When we were preparing this issue's cover story on global positioning systems and their use by HVAC contractors, the chorus of "Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell kept running through my head.
My penchant for obscure one-hit wonders of the 1980s aside, for some contractors, installing GPS represents a real dilemma, since it does allow the kind of monitoring that probably would have made Rockwell nervous.
Some GPS equipment can record everything from the speed a van is traveling to the route technicians take on their way back to the shop. Supervisors could know if employees are using the company's trucks to run personal errands or stop by the local watering hole.
That probably sounds great to some company owners, especially if they've experienced the kind of employee abuses that Gary Still of Estes Heating and Air Conditioning complained about to SNIPS' James J. Siegel. It seems Estes workers were hunting deer and panning for gold on company time.
But the fact GPS allows supervisors to know where company vehicles and workers are at all times does bother some people, including those who would likely be doing the monitoring. Some owners say they don't see the need to invest in GPS until it's proven that their technicians are goofing off on the job. A few say the technology is a heavy-handed invasion of privacy.
There are plenty of pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to purchase a global positioning system, but I don't think loss of privacy is among them. Installing GPS is not about taking away the rights of employees. Employers have a right to know where their vehicles are, unless workers are permitted to use them in their off time.
An acquaintance of mine was fired from his job as a cable TV installer after he "borrowed" one of the company's trucks on the weekend and got into an accident. He may disagree, but the cable company was completely within its rights to let him go. And if the company's trucks had been installed with GPS, it would have likely prevented such shenanigans.
If you believe GPS isn't right for your company, that's fine. But don't let the belief that you're meddling in employees' private business factor into your decision. You're not.
New online business toolOn another subject, I'd like to announce that SNIPS' parent company, BNP Media, has launched its own Internet search engine, called Linx. This Google-powered, easy-to-use Web service will allow visitors to read current and past issues of SNIPS and the more than 40 other BNP trade publications, search classified ads, look for products and more.
To check it out, visit www.bnpmedialinx.com.