BYOD and Small Business: How to Stay Secure and Productive

i-bulbLet’s look back through the fog of time to the far-distant year of 1990. Imagine going to work one day, and finding a memo (possibly mimeographed) on your desk that said that from now on, your company was instituting a “bring your own device” policy. You could now use your own cell phone and computer and bring them back and forth between the office and home. That would seem ludicrous. Apple had just the year before come out with the first laptop, a “portable” Macintosh that, at 16 pounds, weighed more than five Macbook Airs do today. You weren’t lugging that. The cell phone would be even more ridiculous. You certainly could bring your clunky Nokia to the office, but what would be the point? You already had a phone, right there on your desk. There was no added value to BYOD.

Fast-forward 25 years. Advances in mobile technology have made the office of 1990 an unrecognizable museum diorama even to those who were there. Cloud storage has allowed any smartphone, laptop, or tablet to access secure business data, meaning an employee can work from anywhere. Because of this, businesses in the Bay Area and elsewhere are adopting BYOD policies, allowing employees to use their own devices to access and work on business-related matters. This can be a great benefit, and a small but manageable risk, if done correctly. Here’s how to stay secure and productive with your BYOD policies.

The Benefits of BYOD

BYOD policies bring a lot of benefits for both the employees and the employer. If used correctly, you’ll wonder why you ever used any other policy.

  • Cost. Even if you reimburse your employees the cost of their smartphones or tablets, or even laptops, you are saving a lot of money on the infrastructure needed to have dozens of stationary computers networked together in a traditional office. You can still have these, of course, but this gives you more flexibility on your office layout and the ability to hire new employees without immediate worries about their workspace.
  • Flexibility. When the lines blur between office and out-of-the-office, workers don’t feel as tethered to one space. Working from home is always slightly different from working in an office, but when working from a single device, there is no functional difference in what an employee can do. Telecommuting not only allows you to have a smaller physical footprint, saving money on rent for office space, but having employees always carrying their primary work stations means that working on the go doesn’t entail any downtime.
  • Employee comfort. I don’t know about you, but when I worked at an office computer, it always seemed a bit alien, and I was happy to get home to mine. Using your own device means using the device you chose, the one you feel most comfortable with. Don’t underestimate what this can do for productivity.

Potential BYOD Drawbacks and Their Solutions

Of course, nothing is perfect. Every rose has its thorn, as offices in 1990 used to sing. There are a few potential drawbacks to enacting BYOD policies. All of these have solutions, though.

  • Security. This is the biggest drawback to BYOD. Many employers are working on this by buying work-specific devices for their employees, apart from their personal phones, but still letting employees choose specific devices and models with which they are comfortable. This way, the business can enact the right procedures, which include setting parameters on what apps are acceptable, who has access to the devices, and what non-work activities can be done on the devices. (Listening to podcasts is ok; chatting with friends is not). By having fair security standards, you can negate a lot of the risks. Smart businesses are figuring out how to navigate this, and we even see high-security government contractors and agencies embracing smart BYOD policies.
  • Employee Burnout. This is the flip side of flexibility. When you always have your work device on you, you are always working. This is becoming more and more of an issue as people try to navigate the new world of constant connectivity. I believe that within the next decade norms will be established, if not by law, then by culture. We’ll adjust. But in the meantime, make it clear to your employees that while they aren’t discouraged from working in their free time, it isn’t mandatory either, and it isn’t even wink-wink “not mandatory.” Don’t create a culture where people feel pressured to work at all hours. That’s the best way to lose your best people.
  • Damage. The nice thing about office workstations, with row after row of desktop, is that those are really hard to drop. Smartphones and tablets are tougher than they used to be, but can still suffer from cracked screens, ruined hard drives, and anything else. Luckily, there are great computer and smartphone repair experts all over the Bay Area. Keeping your devices functioning is supremely important, so make sure you bring them to the best.
  • Keeping up with the latest. Technology moves fast, and while you may not replace devices every year, within 2-3 years you might be obsolete. This can make people leery of switching over to using their personal devices for work, fearing the costs of constant upgrades necessary to do their jobs, but if you work with ClickAway, we can get you the latest smartphones and tablets at great prices, with unbeatable plans.

We don’t know what the office will look like in 25 years, or if it will even still exist. We do know that mobility is here to stay, and by embracing it now, with a partner like ClickAway who can help keep you secure, functioning, and on top of the latest tech, you can be ahead of the curve, instead of stuck in a museum.

 

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