You, like many business owners, may have noticed more and more employee-owned devices in your office over the past few years. In fact, Gartner Research estimates that 70 percent of mobile professionals will use personal smart devices for work by 2018. Is this a sign you can take laptops and smartphones out of next year’s budget? You might want to say “yes” but before you do, consider the consequences.
What is BYOD, Really?
BYOD means ‘Bring Your Own Device.’ Sounds simple, right? The concept is simple but the execution has the potential to be dicey. At its essence, a BYOD policy reduces the total number of devices any one employee has in their life by combining work and home devices.
BYOD And Phones
In 1990, if one of your employees required a cell phone for business use, it made sense to provide them with a business cell phone. They were unlikely to have a personal cell phone, and the cost of the device and service was prohibitively high to lay out their own money.
Flash forward to the early 2000s, and it wasn’t uncommon to see people carrying two mobile phones — their trusty Blackberry for work and a Motorola Razr for home. Today, smart phones are so prevalent it seems silly to make an employee carry two phones, and keep track of two different chargers and all of the requisite accessories.
Today, you can subsidize an employee’s phone bill as part of their compensation, if the position demands it, and allow them to carry a single device of their choosing. Alongside that, you can create a policy that mandates minimum standards for hardware, software or operating systems to be sure employees’ phones can handle the necessary workload.
How, though, do you protect sensitive or proprietary information when your employee is in control of the device? A service like Blackberry Balance can segment business information from personal information on Blackberry devices, while their Enterprise service protects your information on Apple and Android phones. BYOD is covered when you have the right tools to manage it.
BYOD And Computers
While it’s pretty easy to get employees on board with using only their personal cell phone, a BYOD computer policy will not be as simple to implement. Fewer and fewer employees really NEED a laptop for home use, so why should they purchase an expensive computer that will endure the vast majority of its wear and tear at work?
For most workplaces, the BYOD policy on computers should probably be an optional one. Make it clear that employees are welcome to use personal devices under a specific set of circumstances and that your business is not liable for damage done to those devices. Be sure employees are taking adequate security precautions, you have a clear policy on what level of personal use is allowed throughout the workday and a clear procedure for clearing the device of sensitive information in the event an employee is terminated or leaves the company.
As always, when altering policies, confirm that your changes are both fair and legal. Your local government, an HR consultant or your accountant are all great people to start BYOD conversations with. Communicate thoroughly with employees and be ready, at least at first, to answer a lot of questions and tweak your policies after hearing their input.