Bring your own device (BYOD) is the policy of businesses allowing, or requiring, their employees to use their personal devices — mobile phones, laptops, etc. — on the job. It’s part of a growing trend to empower employees while saving costs for businesses at the same time and is increasingly more common with the proliferation of smartphones and laptop computers.
However, having your employees use their own devices is not without its downsides. In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons and provide you with a free BYOD policy template to help mitigate risks.
A recent CBS MoneyWatch survey reported that more than 67 percent of workers used one or more of their own devices at work. Other studies have found that employee productivity, morale, and accountability improve with BYOD policies while the business’ hardware and service costs decrease.
A study from Cisco found the following benefits to employers:
- 69 percent of IT department decision makers were in favor of BYOD policies
- Workers saved an average of 81 minutes per week due to working more efficiently and increased productivity
- Businesses saved an average of $350 per year per employee
- Small businesses reaped the greatest benefits.
And for the employees, a Forbes study found that half of all workers felt they were more productive when they used their own devices because of the familiarity with the interface, minimal learning curve, and overall usability.
A BYOD policy is an easy way for your business to save money while increasing employee productivity and satisfaction.
The primary reason that a business may be reluctant to adopt a BYOD policy is security concerns. Lost devices can be a major risk — business communications, trade secrets, or sensitive customer data may be accessed if a phone or laptop is lost or stolen. However, with the right networking infrastructure in place, any security risk can be mitigated at least to the level they’re already at when employees use a company-issued device. For some tips on how, see the next section below.
Another potential downside is that businesses may be liable for their employees’ actions on their devices, even when they’re using them on personal time.
Finally, allowing employees to bring their own device may impose a burden on your IT team. One of the benefits of issuing company devices is that you can standardize the platform and applications that they use, but allowing employees to use their own may introduce a range of variables — something that may make them harder to support.
Manage the Downsides with a BYOD Policy
Cloud-based applications like the Google suite are managed by a central administrator. In the event that an employee is terminated or a laptop lost or stolen, that employee’s email account only needs to be deactivated once to remove all of their access to the Google suite’s applications and files.
Similarly, a virtual phone service like Grasshopper allows you to deactivate the employee’s extension, therefore preventing them from making or receiving any calls from the business line on their mobile phone.
Smart and comprehensive BYOD policies can also go a long way in helping to protect your business. You may not be able to guarantee compliance, but it’s an essential first step. For example, prohibiting the use of mobile devices to send offensive or explicit text messages or access offensive or explicit websites, instituting training plans to clarify potential liabilities, and requiring security measures like enabling remote wipe features. Consequences for non-compliance should be made clear as well.
You can find a helpful template to base your own company’s BYOD policy on here. The best place to store your policy is either in the employee handbook, or in the employee’s personnel file. Once created, consider reviewing your policy as part of your onboarding process.
How to BYOD
The first question that likely comes to mind is how a business should compensate its employees for bringing their own device. However, a Tech Pro Research survey found, perhaps surprisingly, that only 7 percent of businesses fully reimbursed their employees for the cost of their hardware and data costs and only 18 percent received partial reimbursement. This is largely attributed to the ubiquity of mobile devices for personal use and service providers increasing data usage limits and decreasing usage restrictions — something that will only continue.
Given that most, if not all, employees have a mobile device with a sufficient data plan anyways, there’s no additional burden on them to use their own device at work.
However, you may wish to give your employees access to a business phone number that they can access from their own devices. This is called a virtual phone service — it gives your business a main phone number, often with individual employee extensions, and forwards calls to that number to your mobile devices. Calls made from your mobile devices can also appear to originate from your business phone number.
Virtual phone services offer a number of benefits to your business, including:
- Create a main business phone number to give to your customers without the need for a full phone service
- Create a phone number in the city you do most of your business in, even if you live elsewhere, to reduce your long distance costs
- Allow employees to use their personal devices, but without having to give out their personal phone number
Anecdotally, I still receive occasional phone calls to my personal phone concerning a business that I left over three years ago. A virtual phone service would have prevented this.
We recommend Grasshopper as the best virtual phone service because of its competitive cost and the range of call management features that it offers. Setup is easy, and in minutes you can begin to send and receive calls to and from your mobile device that appear to come from and to your main business phone number. You also get helpful call management features like voicemail-to-email, call transfers, and fax service for a minimal cost — features that are usually only available through full VoIP phone services.
The Bottom Line
Allowing your employees to use their own devices at your business may sound like an attractive option, but the benefits need to be carefully considered against the negative. A BYOD option can save your business money and make work more convenient for your employees, but they introduce additional security and liability concerns. That said, these potential negatives can be mitigated with a comprehensive BYOD policy that improves operations for both you and your employees.