Bring Your Own Device. These are words that are becoming more and more common for employers these days. They’ve even spawned their own acronym: BYOD. In general, BYOD is a policy in which an employer is allowing or even requiring employees to use their previously personal electronics for work use.
BYOD policies have benefits and risks—for both the employee and employer.
BYOD pros for the employer:
- Lower up-front costs when bringing a new employee on board. By removing the cost of a new phone and computer, the initial costs of bringing on a new employee are reduced. Some employers even opt to require employees to pay for the monthly service charges for the use of the devices, saving more money over time.
- Better technology, faster. With rapidly-changing technologies, employees often already have personal devices (such as smartphones and laptops) that are of a higher standard than the average employer-provided gadget.
- Satisfied employees. Despite the costs, employees are often happy to be able to keep their own choice of electronics. They are free to use devices that suit their preferences and do not have to use separate devices for home and work. (See “BYOD pros or the employee” below for more reasons employees may like a BYOD policy).
- Less training time. Employers won’t need to train employees on how to use their new devices, saving precious time and moving more quickly to productive work time.
BYOD cons for the employer:
- Increased complexity. Allowing any device will certainly mean there are many more varied devices in use across the organization. This means that there are more security protocols to manage and more potential system compatibility issues to resolve.
- Increased risk. Keeping a myriad of devices secure can be a challenge. This is especially true when employees use these devices across their personal lives as well. It will be tougher to enforce password requirements. It can also be tougher to ensure the device doesn’t get into the wrong hands, simply because it will be taken more places and potentially used by more people, such as spouses or children. Employees are also more likely to use the device in risky ways, such as connecting to open WiFi hotspots or leaving the device unattended. Employees will also have greater ability to take sensitive data off the secure systems and use it on other, unsecured devices.
- Device as a distraction. Employees may be more likely to use the devices for personal items during the workday. Today’s phones often include games, social media applications, and more. Employers will have less ability to limit these types of programs on the device and could lose some productivity as a result.
BYOD pros for the employee:
- Fewer gadgets to carry around. For employees, it’s often frustrating to have to keep separate phones and laptops (and tablets, and so on) for personal use and for work use. Having the same device used for both is more practical. This can lead to increased satisfaction, as we noted above.
- No learning curve. By utilizing a device the employee already owns, there is no learning curve when getting started. This can be a big time-saver; it also reduces frustration and increases productivity.
BYOD cons for the employee:
- Risk of loss of personal data or even of the device itself. For security, upon termination most companies will require employees to either hand over the device or allow it to be completely reset—including all personal data. The same applies if the device is lost or stolen. Employees may be resistant to give up their phone and/or data if they leave the employer—even if it’s in the policy.
- Less privacy. With a device used for work, it’s reasonable to assume that the employer will want access to it and the data on it. But how should personal data be kept out of that equation? If an employer should have remote access to its devices, where is the line? (This is a question that employers struggle with when forming BYOD policies.)
BYOD policies are becoming more commonplace, even as employers and employees alike grapple with these issues. Have you considered implementing a BYOD policy?
About Bridget Miller:
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.