Is Bringing Your Device to Work a Good Idea?

A decade ago, the lines between work and home began to blur substantially when telecommuting became the latest trend.  Employees were able to “dial in” from home and work at their computer from the comfort of their living room.  Now the lines are being blurred even more as many companies are allowing employees to bring in and use their own electronic devices in the workplace.  Personal laptops, smart-phones, and tablets are becoming quite common in corporate America, making for headaches for IT departments who have to contend with new issues that would have been unheard of before.  Here are some issues that must be addressed as companies examine developing a BYOD (BringYour Own Device) policy.

  • Access/Connectivity Issues—One of the first issues that an IT department will have to contend with is whether or not an employee will even be able to access the company’s server using their own personal device.  Because of malware brought in on these devices, the company’s data can be at risk, so this isn’t just a technical issue; it can also be a matter of finances if the company suffers a cyberattack and loses data and/or personal information of client’s and customers.  In fact, many hackers have already figured out this back door to corporate servers and are looking to exploit this particular problem.  Also, if you are allowing your employees to connect to your server to do work, are you liable if their device malfunctions?  Will your IT department have to use their own time and resources to fix a personal device so that they can work?  These issues must be discussed and addressed early on.
  • Privacy Issues—Privacy issues on work computers have already been addressed some time ago and numerous court rulings have upheld that, for instance, employers have the right to read employees emails when sent on a work computer.  The same goes for Internet usage on a work computer.  But what happens when the work computer is also the employee’s personal computer that goes home every night and was bought and paid for with the employee’s money?  There we enter a decidedly grey area.  It is completely unclear what expectations of privacy a worker and the employer have when it comes to personal device usage in the workplace.  A company needs to protect itself with an iron-clad user agreement which outlines these details up front before personal computer usage is allowed.
  • Productivity Issues—A final issue that has to be addressed goes to the reason that you are at work in the first place—to do a job.  If personal devices are allowed, employers have every right to worry that productivity will decrease as employees goof off playing Temple Run or checking their friend’s Facebook status every five minutes.  These are less IT issues and more personnel issues that should also be addressed before a company moves forward with a plan.

All three of these areas should give you some food for thought when it comes to the new trend of bringing your device to work with you.  Obviously, something so new leaves many murky areas that still have to be explored before final decisions can be made.  And certainly, just as these are addressed, new ones will arise.  Technology grows and with it grows the challenges that companies are face with.

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