The Pros and Cons of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy
A BYOD Policy Is Often a Good Choice for Smaller Companies
A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy is a predicament for now and for the future. Before the days of smartphones and laptops, the idea that you'd ask an employee to bring in their own equipment for work was ridiculous. (“We'd like to offer you the job of secretary, Miss Jones, but please provide your own typewriter for work.”)
But today, everyone has an iPhone in their pockets, and a laptop on their desk, so many business managers think about why they should pay for a phone or laptop when employees already have them? Hence, you find appearing the Bring Your Own Device company.
If you're thinking about implementing a BYOD policy, think about the pros and cons. Here are pros and cons for you to consider when you think about the best direction for your company.
Pros of a BYOD Policy
Cost: You will find that the cost of buying phones and laptops for every employee is sky high. If you ask employees to bring their own, it saves you a literal fortune. You may run into an employee who doesn't own a smartphone, but most people already do.
A recent Pew Research survey found that 77 percent of American adults already own a smartphone, with 92 percent of 18-29-year-olds owning one.
Convenience: Employees can stick one phone in their pockets and don't have to worry about taking care of two devices. Work email, home email, is all together. You'll know that you can always reach your employees because they'll always have the phone with them.
Every employee likes their own equipment: If John likes iPhones and Jane likes Androids, both can happily use their preferred system. They don't have to learn new systems. 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.
The employee has no learning curve for new equipment because the employee already understands how to use their own electronic devices. They can jump in on day one for immediate productivity.
Up to date technology: It's a huge expense for any company to update equipment, but employees are often more motivated to pay to replace their phone or laptop with the latest available device. This is a boon for your company as the equipment is updated faster than it would if the company had to pay for it.
A sense of ownership: If you lose your company phone, it's a pain, but the company will provide a new one for you. If you lose your own phone, the world is ending. Therefore, employees are more apt to keep control of their equipment because it actually belongs to them. They don't just lose a piece of plastic—they lose their photos, their memories, and what can feel like their right arm.
Cons of a BYOD Policy
IT support: 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, it can become 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?
Security: 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. What are you going to do to make sure that your company information is kept secure?
What happens when an employee leaves your employment? You'll want to remove any confidential information from any employee device when they leave the company. 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 and documents from the computer to make sure that you don't take any confidential information.”
You'll need to determine how you'll secure your 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.
What happens to a phone number when an employee leaves? If Jane is a sales person 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 to move 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
Is a BYOD policy right for your company? A BYOD policy may work well for your company. But, don't make the decision based purely on the convenience and cost factors. Think about how a BYOD policy will have an impact on your business and think about what your employees want.
Look to the future and make decisions about how to handle the devices when an employee leaves your organization. A BYOD policy can help set your business up for success—especially for small companies—but there are definite downsides you need to identify and manage.
Suzanne Lucas is a freelance journalist specializing in Human Resources. Suzanne's work has been featured on notes publications including Forbes, CBS, Business Insider and Yahoo.