Insights & Articles
Posted on 2 December 2019

The risk and benefits of BYOD at work

6 minute read

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) involves employees using their personal devices — such as smartphones, tablets and laptops — for work. It can bring flexibility and reduces the capital costs of investing in new technology. However, BYOD doesn’t really have the greatest reputation.

There are many challenges with the practice of BYOD, such as security issues, which is why so many employers are reluctant to implement the policy. Despite this, 67% of people use their own devices at work anyway. Whether BYOD is an official policy within an organisation or not, mobile phones will be used for work purposes.

When implemented properly, there are many advantages to BYOD. It can provide employees with the freedom and flexibility to more easily get tasks done. Here, we’ll go through the many risks and benefits of BYOD at work so you can decide whether it’s worth implementing in your workplace.

The risks of BYOD at work

When it comes to allowing employees to use their own mobile devices at and for work, conventional wisdom on the subject is — don’t. Many employers believe that BYOD creates more vulnerabilities than it’s worth, potentially resulting in employee distractions, reduced productivity and security issues. In fact, 39% of enterprises cite security concerns as the main reason why they are reticent to adopt a BYOD policy. And, while this is certainly an over-simplification, that’s not to say that their concerns aren’t legitimate or understandable.

1. Data security concerns

In all fairness, BYOD raises potential security concerns of which businesses need to be cognisant before designing and implementing a policy. These include:

  • Data theft – BYOD allows for easy communication with employees, no matter where they are. But if they’re communicating with you at a coffee shop, airport or train station over an unsecured Wi-Fi network, this can expose sensitive data to opportunistic hackers.
  • Malware infiltration – Your company computers and devices are well insulated from Malware risks. Your employees’ personal devices, however, will likely not have such robust protection. They may download an app or game containing a virus that could find its way into your network.
  • Accidental data loss – If an employee loses a device that they use for work, they can potentially also lose vital data. The consequences of this can be seriously damaging to employee productivity and, at worst, bring your entire organisation to its knees.

2. No BYOD policy outlined

The inherent risks of employees bringing their own mobile devices to work are compounded when you don’t have a clear and consistent policy in place. Acceptable use policies need to be clearly defined so that your team knows which apps and assets can be used. Company rights need to be established to prevent the leakage of sensitive data, and security tools need to be made available to employees where needed. Ownership of apps and data need to be clearly defined and accountability needs to be established. Without this infrastructure, companies cannot insulate themselves from the risk of vulnerability. Ultimately, you need a BYOD program to make BYOD work.

3. Lack of employee training

While employees don’t need training in the use of their own devices, they do need to be trained in how to use them safely and appropriately for work. 90% of security breaches are caused not by a lack of sophisticated encryption but by human error. As such, appropriate hands-on training needs to be administered so that employees understand how to use their devices safely for work.

The benefits of BYOD at work

Although the risks of implementing BYOD are not to be ignored, neither are the advantages. If companies implement a BYOD policy properly and securely, they can mitigate the risks while opening themselves up to a number of distinct advantages These include…

1. Increases employee productivity

If there’s one thing upon which virtually all companies can agree, it’s that they could benefit from improving their productivity. And anything that improves how much each employee is able to get out of their working day is worth at least considering.

Employees are inherently more productive when using their own familiar tech. In fact, smartphone use, far from being detrimental to productivity, can actually increase it by as much as 34%. Extrapolate this across every employee every day, and the possibilities are certainly exciting.

Moreover, many of your employees will likely be digital natives for whom their smartphone is an extension of themselves. When they use their own devices at work they can spend more time on important things rather than learning how to use the digital tools you give them. According to a study by Dell, 61% of Gen Y (millennials) and 50% of workers over 30 believe that tech tools they use in their personal lives are more effective and productive than those used in their professional lives.

2. Save money

Another point upon which all companies and business owners can agree is that they’d all like to save money and facilitate an easier cash flow. Embracing BYOD can help you to do exactly that. Companies that implement BYOD successfully actually make an annual saving of around $270 (£209) per year, per employee. Which makes sense. If employees are using their own devices, companies are spared the overhead costs of supplying them, not to mention the savings that come from increased employee productivity.

That makes for some pretty impressive savings!

3. Recognise employees using social platforms

When employees use their personal devices at work, it makes for easier and more efficient communications. Workplace social platforms such as Rippl, Kudos, Yammer, the aptly named Workplace and Slack are just some of the communication tools companies use to help their employees interact and engage with each other. No longer does a conversation need to be followed across emails, texts and phone calls.

BYOD allows for better quality employee interactions and a better sense of cohesion through the use of social platforms. However, this can become a distraction. You may need to use a different kind of social platform. One that looks and feels familiar but also helps you to recognise your employees’ achievements and encourage peer to peer employee recognition. Fortunately, there are a number of these apps which have a clear focus on employee recognition. And 69% of employees feel that if their efforts are better appreciated, they are more likely to work harder.

These platforms enable you to utilise BYOD in a productive way that’s highly conducive to employee engagement and harmonious workplace relationships. More recognition helps employees to feel valued, which in turn can further boost not only productivity but employee retention — reducing turnover. Some of these dedicated platforms can even be used to allow employees to earn rewards through targeted incentives aligned to business goals.

It’s plain to see that recognition and acknowledgement of employees’ accomplishments can be incredibly advantageous in perpetuating the right kind of workplace culture and helping employees to feel more valued. When these recognition-oriented apps are used in conjunction with BYOD, and an appropriate policy, the benefits of both are increased.

Create a BYOD policy and reap the rewards

Implementing BYOD may come with caveats (what operational measure doesn’t?). Nonetheless, there are a number of tangible benefits which is why when so many companies give it a try, they seldom look back.

With proper implementation, a solid data plan, a clear policy and ample employee training, companies can reap the benefits while neatly sidestepping the risks. They can help you to get the best out of employees and help employees to get the best out of themselves and each other.

Consulting an external service can help you to facilitate easy and secure implementation. Whatever apps you use to assist employee communication, recognise achievement and implement potential rewards, make sure that they can be implemented seamlessly and securely across a broad spectrum of employee devices, as well as providing a good level of support.

With the right combination of software tools, comprehensive and consistent policy and rigorous security measures, the sky’s the limit for employee productivity and satisfaction.