Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy: Complete Guide For Businesses

It’s no secret that technology changes rapidly.

That’s exciting for gadget and tech lovers, sure, but a real problem for businesses whose IT departments can’t keep up. 

Employees are solving (or circumventing) the IT lag by using their personal devices instead of waiting for their employer to provide waiting for their employer to provide electronic devices. It was a natural solution, after all, because they were already using their mobile devices and apps for everything else in life. Why wouldn’t they also use them on the job?

That’s where the issues surrounding Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) come into play.

We’ll tell you what BYOD is, what’s good (and bad) about it, and how to deal with employees’ personal devices in the workplace.

What Is BYOD?

Simply put, BYOD stands for “bring your own device.” Other variations may allude to phones, laptops, or other technology. We’ll go with “device” which covers all of the gear employees may be bringing into the workplace.

BYOD is a thing now simply because employees are often on the cutting edge of technology with their personal and home devices while what’s available at work often lags. They prefer to use their own phone than some older system their employer offers.

BYOD is somewhat inevitable. Trying to stay ahead of your employees when it comes to technology is impossible. Luckly, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if you plan for it.

BYOD Pros and Cons

A workforce carting in their own technology and devices seems like a free-for-all. To be sure, there are some downsides, but let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.

BYOD Pros

Reduced technology costs are a top benefit. Instead of having to provide and support all of the technology your employees use, they handle it themselves. No need for expensive training, either. Even if you subsidize some costs so that work use on personal devices is compensated, you’ll still come out ahead.

Improved efficiencies and workplace culture. Employees are already used to their devices. They have their preferences, they know how to use them, and they’re already a daily habit. That leads to efficiency and a productive workplace. They don’t have to fight clunky technology that frustrates and get to use what they like to use.

The latest and greatest is always at work. Instead of your IT department constantly chasing after the newest thing (5G! OS upgrades!), your employees are doing it for you. 

BYOD Cons

Data security can be compromised. The big concern with BYOD is in regards to security. It’s easier for employees to use devices in a way to steal, share, or misuse information. They may have work-related information on their device that they unwittingly open up to exposure when they use public WiFi systems. Employee devices (and weak passwords) can be a way malware, hacking, or similar concerns find a way into your company’s systems. There may even be legal issues to consider, depending upon what kind of information is found on an employee’s device and how private and secure that information is to be kept.

Employee privacy concerns. Some employees might find attempts to make their device secure at work as an invasion of privacy. They might not want their employer to force them to use certain apps or monitoring approaches on their personal devices. They are wary of being tracked by employers. Additionally, some employees don’t want their work life to invade their personal life. Having their personal devices used for work is a messy blurring of that line.

Software or hardware incompatibilities may occur. Employee devices might be different operating systems and in differing stages of updates. There’s no guarantee that all of the different technology supports what employees need to do, or that the employee experience is the same. The differences between the “same” Android and Apple app, for example, can be significant. It’s possible that the effort needed to make this ad hoc system of devices function together may cost your IT department more in the long run.

What Should A BYOD Policy Include?

If you’ve decided to go ahead with a BYOD approach after considering those pros and cons, you’ll want to create a policy. Personal devices are going to find their way into your business and connecting to your networks, whether employees remember to tell you or not, so being proactive about a personal device policy is critical.

Start with a clear definition of acceptable use of devices. Be clear on what activity is and isn’t acceptable while they are on the clock, whether at home or in person. This is particularly important if they are using your networks. For example, you may want to state that devices used for work may not be used to store or transmit illicit or illegal materials, to harass other employees, or to transfer proprietary business information. You may want to tell employees that texting or email for work while driving is unacceptable. Be clear on what will happen to their employment if they are found to be breaking your acceptable use definitions.

Be clear on security expectations. This may include password lockers, regular changing of passwords, restrictions on using public WiFi with any device also used for work, screen lock requirements, reporting lost or stolen personal devices, and so forth.

Provide a list of preferred or recommended software and devices. Depending on the apps and software your employees need to do their job, you may want to recommend devices or tools that are compatible with each other and your organization’s systems. You may also want to indicate which operating system versions are necessary. This may reduce some of the IT costs associated with a complex ad hoc network. Provide instructions on who to consult if they need support, or let them know they’re on their own.

Reimbursement and disclaimers. If you offer some kind of reimbursement program, provide those details. Be clear about how you’ll handle employee data on their personal devices, and what liabilities you’ll assume (or won’t assume) in regards to personal information and devices should they become damaged. Inform employees that backing up their personal information is their responsibility. 

How to Implement BYOD In Your Workplace

1. To get the BTOD ball rolling, be sure your policy is in place, and employees have read and signed it. 

2. Then, be sure your network, data, and IT department is ready and functioning securely before having employees connecting with devices.

3. If monitoring device or network use is necessary, be sure to let employees know. Making it easy for employees to add their device will improve the likelihood that they’ll comply with the policy. Whether it’s built into how employees sign into your shop’s WiFi system, or a dashboard where all personal devices are registered, make it simple. 

4. Finally, if applicable to your organization, your IT department should be able to find what devices are accessing your networks, ready to monitor what devices are connecting, and when. Monitoring devices and compliance is continual from this point on.

When done right, a BYOD approach opens up the door to some great tools and employee efficiency that you couldn’t accomplish if you had to furnish every employee with a company-owned device. 

BYOD is already happening. Embrace today’s constantly shifting work environment, whether it’s working from home or promoting safety by going touchless, by establishing a BYOD policy sooner rather than later.

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