Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are set by companies to allow employees to use their personal smartphones, laptops, and tablets for work. A BYOD policy can help set a business up for success—especially a small company—but there are definite downsides to consider. If you're thinking about implementing a BYOD policy, it's a good idea to review some of the pros and cons before making a decision.
Savings for the company on purchasing and replacing technology
No learning curve for employees
Potential improvement of employee morale
More up-to-date tech due to personal upgrades
More complex IT support for disparate devices and operating systems
Higher security risks
Potential loss of employee and company privacy
Some employees may not have their own devices
Pros of a BYOD Policy
With a BYOD policy, you won't have to buy phones and laptops for every employee. Some employees may not have their own devices, but a recent Pew Research survey found that 77% of American adults already own a smartphone, and 92% of people ages 18 to 29 years old own one.
In addition, employees are more apt to take better care of their equipment because it actually belongs to them. Usually, employees know that if they lose or break their company phone, it's a pain, but the company will provide a new one. If they lose or break their own phone, this loss tends to be a much bigger deal for the employee.
Employees can stick one phone in their pockets or briefcases and they don't have to worry about taking care of and responding on two devices.
If John likes iPhones and Jane likes Androids, both can happily use their preferred system. They don't have to learn a new system. Often, if your company pays to install Microsoft Office or Photoshop or whatever software the employee needs for work on an employee's personal laptop, the employee is happy to have the software for personal work as well.
Employees have no learning curve for new equipment because they already understand how to use their own electronic devices. They can jump in on day one for immediate productivity.
It's a huge expense for any company to update equipment, but employees are often more motivated to pay to replace their personal phones or laptop with the latest available device.
Cons of a BYOD Policy
More complex IT support systems:
If every employee has a standard-issue computer, tablet, and phone, it's easier for the IT department to support and fix the devices. If everyone has their own device, it can become much more complex to keep the electronics functioning. If you need to install custom software, will it work on everyone's devices? What if Jane isn't willing to update her laptop? What if John wants to run Linux while everyone else is running Windows?
Higher security risks:
What type of data does your organization generate and use? It's easy to make rules about how employees should use company devices, but it's not quite so easy to tell your employees that they can't let their 13-year-old write a school paper on their own laptop at home. What are you going to do to make sure that your company information is kept secure?
Also, when employees leave the company, you'll want to remove any confidential information from any employee device. But, you don't want to delete their personal information. No one is happy if you say, “IT needs to wipe all of your photos and documents from the computer to make sure that you don't take any confidential information.”
The potential loss of privacy:
You'll need to determine how you'll secure your company's confidential information before an employee agrees to use his equipment for work. Make sure that you state clearly, from the beginning, what you will do with classified information on the device or you'll have problems when an employee leaves.
If Jane is a salesperson who uses her personal phone number for work purposes when she quits and moves to your competitor, all of her clients still have her phone number in their records.
When they call, she'll answer, and Jane will have a much easier time moving those clients to her new company. Even if Jane signed a non-compete agreement, if the customers come to Jane, you can't legally stop them. As long as Jane isn't pursuing the customers, she's in the clear.
Conclusions About BYOD Policies
A BYOD policy may work well for smaller companies. However, it's wise not to make the decision based purely on the convenience and cost factors. Think about how a BYOD policy will have an impact on your business in terms of privacy, company data safeguarding, security, and IT support. You will want to also think about what device your employees want to use for work. Look to the future and make decisions about how to handle the devices when an employee leaves your organization.
Suzanne Lucas is a freelance journalist specializing in Human Resources. Suzanne's work has been featured on notable publications including "Forbes," "CBS," "Business Insider," and "Yahoo."