Technological innovation has revolutionised business. Things like Cloud computing and the rise of remote working have made our jobs more flexible than ever, but it’s not only home workers who reap the benefits, as the rise of BYOD (bring your own device) policies has shown.
If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to organisations allowing or requesting employees to use their personal laptops, phones or other devices for work, whether they’re in the office, at home or on the go.
For a long time, the practice was considered a security risk, but organisations have found a way to minimise the threat and take advantage of its many benefits. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Organisations save money
Think about how much money your organisation spends on work devices each year. Every employee needs their own computer, and you need to make sure each one runs properly and has the latest software.
Likewise, remote workers need to be provided with laptops and senior employees given smartphones with a data plan.
These costs all but disappear when you establish a BYOD policy, because employees are responsible for providing their own equipment. Most of us invest in new phones and laptops every few years, so you can be sure that everyone is using up–to–date technology that they’re comfortable with.
2. Boost productivity
A 2013 study by BT found that 42% of respondents felt more productive when using their own device.
This is mostly down to employees’ familiarity with the equipment. We spend hundreds of hours on our personal laptops and phones, getting so used to them that we can perform certain actions using muscle memory.
Meanwhile, no matter how much we use our work devices or how well designed they are, they’ll always feel a bit different and perhaps even awkward by comparison. Even things as simple as the device using a different default browser or operating system can be frustrating.
However, many employees have no other choice, with the result that their work is done less efficiently.
3. It’s easier to communicate with colleagues when out of the office
How often do you check social media because you’re sitting around waiting for a friend to turn up or a train to arrive, and there’s nothing better to do?
Judging by the number of people we see using their phones, we’d guess it’s a common occurrence.
And how likely is it that, with the right access, you’d spend that time working? Perhaps you wouldn’t do it as often or for as long (and nor should you; you’re off the clock), but it’s helpful to have the option if you’re against a deadline or a crisis emerges.
Using your own device for work means you’ll have everything on hand, no matter where you are. There’s no need to reach for the company laptop or phone; you can simply switch apps, open a new tab or make a call.
The ability to do this obviously has potential negative consequences for employees’ work–life balance, but the flexibility it provides can’t be ignored.
The security risks of BYOD
While BYOD has many benefits, organisations that implement a BYOD policy need to be aware of the security risks involved. There is an increased chance of:
Lost or stolen devices
Using a single device for work and personal activities means sensitive company data will be in public places a lot more often, increasing the risk of it falling into the wrong hands.
When an employee leaves an organisation, they might be tempted to misappropriate sensitive information – this is particularly the case when they leave on bad terms.
Organisations tend to mitigate this risk by retrieving any work devices the employee used and removing their access to the premises. But if the employee has used their own device to work, this becomes a lot harder. You can’t demand that they hand over their laptop or phone.
Instead, you need to remove their account from the system as quickly as possible, preventing them from logging in to the company’s network and associated programs when they’re no longer employed.
Employees must be careful about which Wi-Fi connections they use. Unlike the office network, which is tightly controlled, public Wi-Fi can often be compromised, allowing cyber criminals to monitor what you do.
The best way to address this risk is by implementing controls that prevent employees from accessing sensitive information when out of the office.
This will be a mild inconvenience but nothing more. Employees will still be able to check emails, take phone calls and access the majority of the company’s files wherever they are, but they’ll need to come in to the office when dealing with information that poses a high risk were it to be misappropriated.
Ultimately, you’ll be better equipped to deal with these risks by allowing staff to bring their own devices to work, because many of your employees already use personal devices to do work outside the office.
And if they’re already doing it, you should at least implement a formal policy that helps them understand the risks and prevent security incidents.
Create a BYOD policy today
Our BYOD Policy Template Toolkit makes it simple to establish your organisation’s approach to personal devices in the workplace.
It contains a complete, customisable BYOD policy and acceptable use agreement, together with implementation guidance.
It can be used as a standalone document or implemented alongside other policies in our documentation toolkits.