Implementing BYOD policies in the workplace

While there are potential advantages, appropriate safeguards are needed

Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl

Continuing with last week’s theme of technology in the workplace, this week’s post is on the issue of bring your own device (BYOD) policies. Such policies are increasingly popular because many employees these days would prefer to bring their own devices from home rather than use company-issued smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers.

Because of that, some organizations are starting to allow employees to purchase or bring their own devices and use them for work purposes. Many younger employees in particular frequently question why they have to use what they see as outdated technology provided by their employers.

For example, some people would prefer to be able to use their iPhone or Android phone for e-mail and phone calls rather than a company-issued BlackBerry. While I personally really like my BlackBerry Q10 and feel it’s a great tool for business, other people have their own preferences. For example, many of my colleagues prefer their Android device or iPhone.

Advantages of BYOD policies

According to some experts, BYOD policies can help to attract, retain and engage employees and increase productivity. They can also save money and help to brand an employer as “cool” and “hip.”

Many advocates of such policies point out that it can be difficult to impossible to stop employees from using their own devices for work purposes. Therefore, it might be better to acknowledge that such use is going to happen anyway and provide support and the infrastructure necessary to make use of personal technologies secure and confidential.

Appropriate safeguards required

However, allowing employees to bring their own device creates many problems such as information security and confidentiality concerns, issues surrounding hardware and software support for numerous devices from multiple vendors and the blurring of the distinction between business and personal use of technology. Therefore, employers that do decide to adopt BYOD programs need to create appropriate policies, procedures and guidelines governing the introduction and use of externally supplied technology.

While some people might suggest such policies have little to do with the human resources function and are more the purview of IT, any employment policies are within the potential ambit of HR, even if other functions have primary responsibility for that area. Therefore, HR should work with IT and other stakeholders to develop and enforce such policies.

At a minimum, a BYOD policy should at least consider the following issues:

  • Enforcing passwords and authentication technology on personal devices.
  • Reimbursing employees for technology purchases.
  • Determining what types of personal devices will be supported.
  • Ensuring the appropriate software is installed and maintained.
  • Developing guidelines relating to secure and non-secure uses of technology.
  • Documenting guidelines covering ownership of intellectual property.
  • Creating appropriate boundaries between personal and business information.
  • Communicating what type of information should and shouldn’t be stored on personal devices.
  • Determining what to do in the event of loss of a personal device.
  • Developing guidelines around when employees leave the organization.

Nevertheless, many organizations are understandably reluctant to implement BYOD policies. Since this is an emerging issue, it isn’t entirely clear just what the best practices are, and every organization’s needs are different.

One alternative to having a full BYOD policy is to offer employees a choice of company supplied devices and provide support for multiple technologies. For example, our own company, Thomson Reuters, allows people who are eligible for a company smartphone to choose from a range of options including several BlackBerry models, iPhones and Android devices.

This eliminates the headache of ensuring that external devices are secure and trying to provide technical support and software updates for non-supported or obsolete devices while also allowing employees a personal choice. It also helps to avoid issues surrounding the boundary between personal and business information.

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