At the farthest ends of the spectrum, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) can be described as one of the most employee-friendly policies you can have or one of the biggest security risks you can take. For most small and medium-sized businesses a BYOD policy will fall closer to the middle – it can be a flexibility and productivity advantage for employees, but you also need to be aware of the risks involved. As with most policies, the right decision on BYOD depends on your company’s specific approach to things like culture, perks and data security. However, in order to make the right decision, you need to know about the pros and cons of BYOD.
Increased employee satisfaction
Gone are the days when Blackberry is the only mobile option for company-owned phones, but with so many options available you can’t possibly make everybody happy. When employees have BYOD they can use whatever device they feel most comfortable with, and as a bonus, that may include multiple productivity apps and hacks that they are already using.
Reduced technology expenses
Now that wireless providers have gone mostly away from the buy-the-service-and-get-the-phone-for-free model, the purchase of a phone carries a significant cost. There’s also the consideration of device maintenance. Both of those expenses can be avoided with BYOD.
Even if you reimburse your employees for the cost of their wireless service, you will likely still be paying far less than you would be if you provided company-owned mobile devices.
Improved workplace flexibility and productivity
As work/life balance continues to evolve into work/life flow, employees are more likely to be plugging into work throughout the day, not just when they are “in the office.” With BYOD they can access email and other significant information from anywhere at any time. This can be especially helpful for employees who travel a lot or frequently spend time visiting clients. Without BYOD employees are more likely to leave the “work phone” behind in favor of their personal device.
It’s also important to note that BYOD will often include tablets and/or laptop-tablet hybrids like iPads and Surfaces. With those devices, an employee can be just as productive as they can be on a company-provided laptop.
Allowing company data to be accessed on a device over which you have very little control leads to many difficult questions. What level of access are you willing to allow your employees to have? What happens if the device is lost or stolen? What happens if it is hacked? How do you keep viruses away from the company network? What do you do when an employee leaves the company? You’ll want to be sure you answer those questions before implementing a BYOD policy.
Industry compliance issues
Highly-regulated industries may bump into big challenges when it comes to BYOD. Can you create a BYOD environment and still meet compliance standards? Would BYOD subject your organization and/or your employees to liabilities that would not exist under a company-owned device approach? Will you still be able to protect data and information to the level required by laws governing your industry?
Uncertain service and support
There’s something to be said for issuing the same device with the same operating system to all of your employees that qualify for it. Service and support can be easy in that scenario. In a BYOD environment with multiple devices and operating systems it can be very difficult for IT staff to know how everything works. Walking your technology-challenged employees through an issue becomes 10 times harder when they are using technology that is unfamiliar. The technology savviness of your employees can be a relevant factor in making the BYOD decision.
Overtaxed shared resources
If several users are tapping into your BYOD network it could slow down load times and decrease employee productivity. You’ll want to be sure you have the proper internal systems in place.
Whether you’ve already instituted a BYOD approach, an anti-BYOD approach, or are still considering what you think will work best for your organization, it is important that you take (or have taken) these steps:
1. Establish a company policy. Create the guidelines that cover support, security, liability and when it’s acceptable to use your own device (if at all).
2. Train your employees. Hold a class on BYOD and go over your company policy. Make sure they understand how the policy applies to them and why you’ve chosen to implement the policy. It’s also crucial that they understand the risks and their responsibilities.
3. Set network expectations. Enhance your network’s security and segregate the system to mitigate risks.
In the end, the decision on BYOD can come down to your willingness to fight the massive societal trend of personal mobile use to vehemently protect company data versus your appetite for taking on acceptable risk for employee satisfaction and flexibility. Either way, it is critical that you make a well-informed decision that is right for your organization.
If you’d like to further discuss how to properly implement your BYOD policies, please complete the form below.