- A “bring your own device” policy, or BYOD, lets employees use personal devices to complete company work.
- There are some drawbacks to BYOD, including cybersecurity risks, but the productivity benefits may outweigh these concerns.
- With the right guidelines and safeguards in place, a BYOD policy can improve morale, productivity and employee satisfaction.
- This article is for business owners and managers who are considering starting a BYOD policy for their employees.
It’s become more common for companies and organizations to adopt a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. What does this mean, and what are the advantages and drawbacks that decision-makers should be aware of? This guide offers insight into BYOD policies and how you can create a safe and efficient workplace.
What is BYOD?
BYOD has become commonplace across various industries as more companies are transitioning to a hybrid work model, where employees come into the office on some days and work from home on others. Rather than use both a company-issued computer and a personal device at home, bringing your own device to work is a feasible solution.
There’s an unprecedented number of employees working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, business use of personal devices is increasingly widespread, with the BYOD market expected to reach $300 billion this year.
It’s easier for companies to allow employees to use their own devices at home, in the office or from any other location. Personal laptops, smartphones, tablets and USB devices are now used for company purposes, and those devices can access company networks.
While BYOD is considered an excellent way to boost productivity, it does have some drawbacks. Security is a major concern for businesses thinking about implementing a BYOD policy.
Allowing employees to use their own smartphones, laptops and other devices for work purposes offers some major advantages for businesses.
The first is a boost in productivity. Being able to access the company network from a smartphone removes the limitations of a 9-to-5 workday, letting employees do work at any time. Whether it’s checking email while on vacation or updating a presentation on the train ride home, employees are able to get work done outside the confines of the office. [Related: Tips for Cybersecurity While Traveling]
Cost is another reason why many businesses have embraced BYOD policies. While companies previously had to pay for the hardware, software and service contracts to use mobile devices, BYOD policies shift those costs to the employee. The employee is the one buying the phone or tablet as well as the service contract that goes with it, freeing businesses from having to cover those expenses.
Did you know? Improving employee morale is another potential benefit of a BYOD policy. Employees tend to be happier when they have the option to use the devices they feel most comfortable with.
BYOD policies can also help you attract new employees. Since most people prefer to use their own mobile devices, businesses that give them the ability to do so may have an advantage in the hiring process over those that require all employees to use the same company-issued smartphones and laptops.
While there are many reasons to install BYOD policies, there also are reasons why you might want to think twice. The most pressing concerns involve the security and protection of valuable data. A survey by SentryBay, a U.K.-based cybersecurity firm, found that 69.1% of security professionals believe a rethink is needed to handle cybersecurity threats now that many people work remotely.
The security fears are twofold. The first has to do with the sheer number of users and devices that are given access to a company network. If a network is open to all employees and their devices, the risk of a breach increases.
By opening up their networks, employers are gambling that all employee-owned devices are free of viruses or other malware that could infect those networks. Businesses with BYOD policies must have extra security measures in place to ensure that their networks are free from cybercriminals.
The second concern is that giving employees access to important company files and data via their own devices increases the possibility that they could end up in the wrong hands. Once data leaves the protected confines of the company network, it could conceivably be seen or stolen by anyone. Also, should a device become lost or stolen, all of the data it holds may fall into the wrong hands.
These security worries put a tremendous amount of pressure on IT departments to support the wide variety of devices that employees are using and ensure that each one meets their security standards.
Tip: If you allow employees to conduct company business on mobile devices, invest in a mobile device management solution to track and secure all devices with access to company data. You should also train remote employees on how to work securely from home.
Personal devices and remote work
When personal devices are allowed to access company networks, it makes it more challenging for IT departments. Personal devices tend to have less comprehensive security protections compared to company-issued devices. Therefore, it’s crucial for companies to educate employees on cybersecurity best practices, such as identifying phishing scams, avoiding spam links and not opening emails from unknown sources.
Device infection, data leakage or loss, and mixing personal and work data are all issues that can arise in companies that have adopted BYOD policies. IT departments must be vigilant in protecting these personal devices. Installing antivirus software, using firewalls and exercising containerization are some ways companies can reduce the risk of cybersecurity incidents.
Key takeaway: Companies looking to implement a BYOD policy have a lot to consider. If you leverage viable cybersecurity solutions and employees are aware of the implications of the policy, you are doing your due diligence to protect your company’s sensitive data.
Companies that allow employees to use their own mobile devices need to have a well-thought-out BYOD policy that governs how they can be used. These policies are designed to protect companies from numerous security concerns. These are some aspects that every effective BYOD policy should include:
- Devices: Spell out which specific devices and operating systems are allowed.
- Passwords: Require password protection on all devices. See our guide on how to create a stong password.
- Use: Determine which functions – email, databases, etc. – employees can access from their mobile devices.
- Applications: Ban any outside apps that cause extra security concerns.
- Two-factor authentication: Require at least two-factor authentication on all devices. This keeps hackers from impersonating users, as it requires employees to log in to company software in two steps rather than one.
- Reimbursement: Detail any costs you might reimburse employees for.
- Training: Consistently update your employees on any security issues, and create ongoing learning opportunities for anything related to BYOD.
- Device control: Make clear that you will remove company data from former employees’ devices, as this could be a vulnerable target for hackers.
Require all employees to sign the BYOD policy, and alert them anytime you make a change to the policy.
If you take these reasonable precautions, there’s no reason a BYOD policy can’t be employee-friendly and effective. The productivity and culture benefits are worth it.
Chad Brooks contributed to the writing and research in this article.