August 26, 2013

Bring Your Own Device: A new trend in the office

Image on Flickr by MIKI Yoshihito (Creative Commons BY)

As a convenient perk, both employees & employers benefit

Guest post by Joseph Stark

joseph-starkBring Your Own Device, or BYOD, is a growing trend in the work environment and a concept that businesses cannot ignore. Taking root in the United States and internationally, it refers to people who own their own tablet computers, smartphones and other personal devices — and are also now using them in the workplace, too.

With the surge in employee use of tablets, laptops and mobile devices, many of these gizmos are not issued by the company. Rather, the individual brings his or her own device into the office or at home as part of the corporate workflow. Like it or not, it’s becoming the new norm. What are the challenges and issues raised as a result?

Tying BYOD into the corporate network

Image credit: AJ Leon (CC BY)

Image credit: AJ Leon (CC BY)

Bring Your Own Device, which has also been called bring your own technology or bring your own PC, refers to the process of bringing a personal device in to a work environment and using that device for business-related needs. Many of these devices are able to access company information, software platforms and applications. It’s a concept that is growing in popularity both because employees want to do so and because employers benefit from it. It’s widely used throughout the world as a resource because both parties see it as a win-win.

One of the most interesting factors about BYOD is that it’s one of the most common scenarios in other countries. For example, in Brazil, up to 75 percent of all employees bring their own device to work. In Russia, it accounts for 44 percent of use. The trend is growing in the United States, too. The benefit to companies is that the employer does not have to supply the employee with the hardware separately, which can reduce some costs.

At the same time, some businesses are still fighting the trend. But do they really have anything to fear?

Who is participating in BYOD

Many different fields are embracing the BYOD trend. Nurses enjoy the freedom of choosing their own device because they feel they can improve patient safety and reduce the risk of error by having technology that they already know how to use. Young creative people are loyal to specific brands that offer digital tools to complement their skills. Even the manufacturing sector is weighing the pros and cons of BYOD for their workplaces.

Imagine not having to learn a new device to access computer files. You are comfortable with your current device, so it makes sense that using it for work makes it an easier transition.

One of the reasons so many businesses are interested in allowing employees to do this is simply because they believe it will increase productivity. Imagine not having to learn a new device to access computer files. You are comfortable with your current device, so it makes sense that using it for work makes it an easier transition. Interestingly, professionals indicate that allowing access to personal data doesn’t necessarily impact the amount of time trained pros spend on work related tasks opposed to personal tasks. In other words, it’s not all about playing on Facebook.

Using one device can enhance communications. For example, the Blackberry BBM for Android will allow for individuals to easily communicate with co-workers virtually anytime and anywhere. Messages are easily sent in seconds to contacts. These devices allow individuals to scan barcodes, add friends and enable group messaging. This enhances the ability of the employee to engage co-workers at a moment’s notice, whether it’s to share files or to communicate important instructions. It’s clearly easy to see the benefit this can have on the employee and on the business itself. Communication is made easy with contacts in one place at one time.

Giving employee morale a boost

For business owners who have employees down in the dumps, encouraging BYOD within the workplace may increase employee morale by helping to keep employees stay connected with family members who need them. Having a business accommodate employees’ personal preferences can make the workplace more enjoyable to spend time at. By boosting employee morale, BYOD can help lower turnover and lift productivity.

Image via Flickr by mkosut

Would you rather work at a company that has a restrictive device policy, or one where you could use the device that you’re already comfortable with?

Look even closer and it’s clear to see that the use and access of these devices just makes things easier. Instead of spreading work across two tablets or two mobile devices, it’s all located on one device. Even managers benefit from this type of communication access and ease of use. Sure, you could supply your employees with tablets just for work-related functions, but they are more likely to have it in hand at all times if their personal information is on it, too.

In some instances, businesses are using this type of policy as a way to bring in the employee. When a business needs to attract new talent, especially in industries where there’s competition for that top talent, it’s often best to have a policy that allows BYOD. Bottom line: It can make a big difference to many people. For long-term employment, job seekers are more interested in choosing an organization that allows such policies rather than choosing those organizations that do not. Consider which one of these businesses you would rather work at. Would you rather work at a company that has a restrictive device policy, or one where you could use the device that you’re already comfortable with?

Addressing IT concerns

Most of businesses’ concerns about BYOD relate to security risks. However, many of these concerns are easily addressed through enforcing a strategic policy. These policies should include data usage, data sharing, passcode locks on phones, device monitoring on the company network and a policy to cover employees who leave the company. With a rigorous policy in place, many of the BYOD security risks are taken care of.

Here’s the bottom line every business owner needs to realize. With ample security readily available, affordability an asset and employee morale up from offering such an opportunity, there really is no reason not to allow for such tools. New systems are in place, including easy-to-use apps that make it possible to connect to business systems with ease, that there’s no lack of technology gap between personal software and hardware and business electronics. Businesses will find it hard to come up with some reason not to provide employees with such an easy (and no-cost) perk that’s easily beneficial to the employer, too.

It’s a good deal for both the employer and the employee. The employer will save costs on devices for each individual employee, and the employee will get to use the device that they already own and are comfortable with. It may be the perfect solution for all involved.

Joseph Stark Jr. is a freelance writer and blogger by day, focusing on technology and business. By night he is a tech junkie, gym member and avid writer. He currently resides in Santiago, Chile, where he continues to write and contribute to a number of high-profile blogs.
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