A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is a policy that specifies when and how employees can use their personal electronic devices—such as smartphones and laptops—for work purposes.
A good BYOD policy will specify what personal devices can be used for work and under what circumstances. A BYOD policy can also specify when personal devices are not allowed to be used for work purposes. If your company does not want employees using personal devices for work at all, that can be laid out with a BYOD policy.
Why Your Company Needs a BYOD Policy
Nearly every employee at your business will likely have a personal smartphone and laptop. Even if your company issues work phones and computers, employees may prefer to use their personal devices for tasks like checking their email or making calls. Alternatively, they may accidentally use their personal devices to access work-related data.
If your company doesn’t want employees using personal devices for work-related tasks, employees need to know that. A BYOD policy clearly states when personal devices can be used for work and when they cannot. Clear rules are easier for employees to follow and for managers to enforce.
Benefits of Allowing Personal Devices
There are several potential benefits to allowing employees to use their personal devices for work.
If employees have their own smartphones, laptops, and other devices to use for work, your business doesn’t need to supply these devices for every employee. That can dramatically reduce the costs of equipping your employees for work.
In addition, employees may be motivated to upgrade their personal devices from time to time. That’s a good thing for your company because newer devices offer updated features and, in many cases, additional security. Even if your company provides credit to employees for technology upgrades, that’s much cheaper than replacing the smartphones or computers for all of your employees at once.
Employees will likely buy devices they like and know how to use. A BYOD policy allows them to use the systems that suit them best.
For example, if one employee prefers Android smartphones and another prefers iPhones, they’re each free to use their preferred devices. Since they’re more comfortable with these different devices and already know how to use them, both employees can be more productive.
When employees are allowed to use their personal smartphones for work, they only have to carry around one phone. In addition, if they use a personal laptop for work, they don’t have to decide between bringing their work computer home in the evening or leaving it at the office. This can be especially important for hybrid workers, who need flexibility when working with devices at the office or home.
Allowing employees to use personal devices for work is also convenient for remote workers since the alternative is to ship company-owned devices back and forth to employees.
Companies that offer a BYOD policy may be seen as more forward-thinking by current and prospective employees. This is especially true in today’s work environment, where many employees are hybrid or remote. Since many employees prefer to use their own devices, offering a BYOD policy can also improve employee morale.
Drawbacks of Allowing Personal Devices
There are a few crucial reasons why companies may not want to allow employees to use their personal devices for work.
IT support is more complex
If every employee has a different smartphone or laptop, providing IT support for all of those different devices can be challenging. Some devices might be compatible with a piece of software while others are not. Some employees might be more proactive about keeping their devices up to date than others. Some employees may also be unwilling to have your IT install a specific piece of software or update their device.
When all employees have the same company-owned devices, it’s much easier for your IT team to provide critical updates, software, and support.
Allowing employees to use their personal devices to access work-related networks and data presents significant security risks. If devices are not kept up to date, they could be vulnerable to hacks that can then spread to your company’s network. Even if your IT team determines that an employee’s device is secure, there’s no guarantee that they are the only ones with access to it. Employees might share their personal devices with family members or friends outside work hours, for example.
Navigating control of company data when an employee leaves a company can also be tricky. Your IT team may prefer to completely wipe a device’s hard drive to ensure no sensitive company data remains on it before an employee leaves. But few employees will be happy to have their personal devices—which may contain private photos and documents—wiped.
Loss of privacy
Employees using their own devices for work also raises privacy concerns. Say an employee needs to share their screen during a business presentation. Doing so may unintentionally reveal private, non-work-related data on their computer.
If employees are using their own smartphones, they may also need to give out their phone number to colleagues and clients. This may be a privacy concern for some employees and also erode barriers between employees’ work and home lives.
Should Your Business Have a BYOD Policy?
Every business should have a BYOD policy, even if the purpose of that policy is to specify that personal devices are not allowed for most or any work-related tasks.
In general, allowing employees to use their personal devices works better for small companies that don’t work with sensitive data than it does for large companies with a lot of data. It’s a good idea to consult your IT team, managers, legal counsel, and employees when deciding whether to allow personal devices for work purposes.
Creating a BYOD Policy
There’s no single BYOD policy document that will work for every business. However, there are some things you should consider when crafting a BYOD policy.
- What types of personal devices are allowed to be used?
- What requirements must employees follow to keep their devices up to date and secure?
- Are employees required to allow your company’s IT team to access their devices?
- If FLSA non-exempt employees will be using their own devices, will they be allowed to access work-related data outside of work hours if it requires overtime pay?
- How will work-related data on employees’ personal devices be backed up?
- If work-related data is to be removed or wiped from an employee’s device, how will personal and work-related data be distinguished?
It’s also a good idea to compensate employees for using their own devices. For example, your company may pay part or all of an employee’s phone bill if they use their own smartphone for work. Alternatively, your company could offer an annual credit to employees for upgrading their devices.
Whatever your company’s BYOD policy, it should be clear and easily accessed by employees. It’s a good idea to include the BYOD policy in your employee handbook.
A BYOD policy specifies whether and how employees can use their personal devices like smartphones and laptops for work-related purposes. Allowing employees to use their own devices can save money and boost productivity, but this also raises security and privacy concerns. Every company should have a clear and comprehensive BYOD policy, even if your company does not allow employees to use personal devices for work.