2 December 2015
There is no doubt that the prevalence of mobile devices in the workplace has increased exponentially and is likely to continue. Technology is changing the face of the workplace including how employees work, where employees work and when employees work.
Some organisations are taking advantage of the technological age by doing away with dinosaur computers chained to desks instead opting for laptops and tablets because of their flexibility, transportability and convenience. Some employers are even going as far as introducing bring your own device (“BYOD”) policies in the workplace thereby cutting the cost of employer provided devices.
So, should you consider a BYOD policy in your organisation?
What is BYOD?
Bring your own device or BYOD is the practice of allowing employees to use their personal devices (such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets) for work purposes in and/or outside of the workplace. BYOD is not limited to allowing employees to check emails or perform work on their laptops. It may also entail allowing (and even encouraging) employees to use workplace specific applications such as a remote desktop, clock in and clock out systems and intranet functions.
What are the benefits of BYOD?
An effective BYOD arrangement can be beneficial for an employer. Not only are there reduced business costs associated with not having to provide employees with computers and mobile devices, there are also benefits such as:
- increased employee satisfaction (by way of using devices employees know, like and understand);
- increased productivity; and
- increased efficiency and opportunity.
Whether a BYOD arrangement will have a significant beneficial impact on an organisation will be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of organisation and the information and type of devices used in the organisation. There are a variety of arrangements that can be tailored to suit the needs of the business, including a mix of employer-provided devices and employer devices.
What are the risks of BYOD?
When employees use employer-provided devices, an employer can configure the computer as they please and make strict policies about how it is used and monitor that usage. The difficulty with BYOD is monitoring and controlling how an employee uses their own device, especially since the employer is limited in its control.
Some of the risks associated with BYOD include:
- privacy breaches;
- unauthorised use;
- excessive use;
- vicarious liability; and
- breaching workplace surveillance laws.
While these risks are not insignificant, there are many ways an employer can overcome and manage risk including implementing a BYOD policy or amending any existing electronic communications policy to incorporate BYOD. Many employers may consider that a ban on personal devices or taking a blanket approach is an effective means of exercising control and managing any risks. While this method may enforce security, it renders any electronic device useless and any benefits that personal devices bring to the organisation would also be eliminated.
Implementing BYOD in your organisation
Before considering adopting a BYOD scheme, employers may wish to review their electronic communications policy and make certain that it clearly states what is and is not acceptable use ensuring that it draws a line between personal and business use. An employer may wish to retain the right to monitor, access and review data on the personal device associated with the use of the device for business purposes (ensuring that they comply with any relevant workplace surveillance laws). It is also best practice to consider including provisions around employees obligations, such as obligations upon termination of employment regarding deletion of data. Having a BYOD policy in place as well as a clear electronic communications policy will assist in ensuring that when an incident does happen, there is a set of policies and procedures in place that all parties are aware of and have agreed to. That way, for example, an employee won’t be shocked when he or she is asked to hand over their device for a partial ‘wipe’ before leaving the organisation.
If you are considering implementing BYOD in your workplace and need help drafting a policy or reviewing an existing policy, please contact the PCS team on (02) 8094 3100.