As consumers become more familiar with technology, and the technology itself becomes more affordable and flexible, the question of whether Bring Your Own Device policies are practical is becoming a main topic in the business world.
Today, there are hundreds of options for smartphones, and consumers can custom order a laptop to exactly fit their needs without having to pay much extra. People have developed strong preferences for their operating systems, whether that is Windows, Mac, or even Linux! In the smartphone world, the ongoing battle between Android and iOS continues, and the business-friendly Blackberry continues to look antiquated.
With all of these options and preferences, what is the best technology policy for businesses today?
The Advantages of BYOD
A Bring Your Own Device policy has obvious advantages for the employees at a company. If you are able to bring your own phone or laptop, there will be less transition time, you will be more familiar with the layout and software, and you get to work with the software that you prefer. For many employees out there, this would be a dream. However, in order for this to be a plausible option for companies, there also has to be a significant incentive for the company side of the equation.
[pullquote]The biggest argument for the futuristic BYOD office environment is that it will boost the productivity of all of the employees.[/pullquote]
The biggest argument for the futuristic BYOD office environment is that it will boost the productivity of all of the employees. The idea behind it is very simple: happier workers = better workers. This way of thinking is hard to argue against, and it is the chief reason that employees vote for BYOD policies.
If you get your work email on your personal phone, it is more convenient and easier for you to stay connected. If you have all of your work information on your laptop, it is easier for you to leave the office early but finish up work from home. This type of flexibility can greatly enhance employee experiences, and often it truly does result in higher productivity.
Here come the disadvantages…
[pullquote]The biggest problem with BYOD is as obvious as the happiness advantage: it is complicated to combine many systems and have everything work OK.[/pullquote]
As with any policy, naturally there will be some disadvantages. The biggest problem with BYOD is as obvious as the happiness advantage: it is complicated to combine many systems and have everything work OK. As it is, companies spend a lot of money for IT teams that keep their business running smoothly, but even the best IT teams would have a hard time keeping up with each individual device for each employee. Even worse, employees wouldn’t exactly be excited to hand over their personal devices so their IT team can go through their things. This can create a very complicated situation for IT teams, and for the company as a whole.
Tied into the same IT problem, many companies also monitor the activities of their employees so that they can ensure that work is getting done, and that there are no rules being broken. While general internet monitoring is possible through server-side software, monitoring of the rest of employees work is less easily done if they are each running their own device. Also, the employee can side step network monitoring relatively easily by setting up a VPN and proxy, so this form of monitoring can prove somewhat unreliable.
On the reverse side of that, having employees access a secure network with their personal devices creates quite a security risk for the company. Without being able to control the security level on the device, the network has to be better protected against malicious software residing on employees computers. This in and of itself is a huge problem for businesses.
What is the solution?
The consumerism aspect of our culture means that BYOD is a trend that is most likely going to be around for a very long time. However, this doesn’t mean that it is the correct solution for every company. There are many grey areas between bringing your own smartphone and laptop, and having no access with your devices at all.
Many companies are taking the happy medium approach by letting employees bring their own smartphones, but not their laptops. This allows their employees to stay connected while at home, without sacrificing the control and monitoring that is on their workplace desktop.
Another reason that there is no definite solution is because all industries, and positions within those industries, are different. For salesmen that are on the road most of the year, it might be OK to let them use their own laptop as long as they have compatible software for their regular reports. If your customer relationship management software is based online, then it is even easier for your employees to use their own devices simply to access it. Some industries have very specialized software that is only compatible with professional versions on Windows software, so bringing in your own Apple laptop just isn’t feasible.
[pullquote]As technology becomes more pervasive, there will be higher demand for BYOD in the workplace. [/pullquote]
It is very important in this day and age for companies to find a happy middle ground for them and their employees. As technology becomes more pervasive, there will be higher demand for BYOD in the workplace. What many companies need to realize is that they cannot stop this trend, and that BYOD is a way for them to improve their employee relationships and to attract new talent. If there is an opportunity to let employees use their own device, it shows a great level of trust to extend to them that option. As many companies are finding out, this can lead to higher productivity, and a happier work culture.
It all comes down to the simple fact that the most important thing is that work is getting done. Employers are now forced decide how important it is to control exactly how it is done, and to really weigh the positives with the negatives. The idea of having less control isn’t very appealing to business owners and people managers, but if letting their employees use their own device really boosts productivity, they might not have a choice.
Most business owners would probably agree that if they are making more money, they don’t care too much about how the work is being done. If workers happiness and productivity can produce enough increase in business to help pay for extra IT team members and better security, then the strategy is well worth implementing. However, this is really hard to measure, and may have to be decided on a personal level by the owner of the business.
BYOD can certainly increase productivity for many businesses, but there are also many negatives to a free technology policy as well. The people in charge need to weigh how much they think the increase in productivity and happiness will be, against the potential negatives that may arise. If the result is even close, then BYOD is well worth the risk and the new-found happiness of your employees.
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