Employees working on their own smartphones or laptops at work has become a common sight in the business world. It’s all part of the growing trend of businesses adopting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. That’s where employees are allowed to bring in their own personal electronic devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones) to work in order to conduct business. Many large corporations have made this a part of their operations, but the most growth is being seen among small businesses. Whether you’re a small business contemplating the implementation of your own BYOD policy, or if you’ve just started one, there are a number of things you should definitely know.
What works for one small business might not work for yours. A BYOD program can cover many different areas and a variety of devices. What your program addresses largely depends on the type of business you have, your overall business goals, the expertise of your IT department, available resources, and any number of other factors. It can become a complicated endeavor, but don’t feel like you need to follow every step of a pattern set by other companies.
It stands to reason that when employees are allowed to use devices that they’re already familiar and comfortable with, they’ll have more satisfaction in their jobs. Instead of being given a device and told to learn it, they can have a choice in what they use, giving them a new level of control over how they do their work. A happy worker is a more productive worker, someone who is more adept at responding to challenges and completing tasks.
With a new program comes the concern over BYOD security. If every employee is using their own device, there’s admittedly a greater risk of lost or stolen data. This concern is often cited as the main reason business owners do not adopt a BYOD program. However, small businesses that are aware of this potential problem are in a better position to deal with it. Often it requires the implementation of policies that are clearly outlined and understood by the employees. Such policies may limit the types of devices accepted under the program while spelling out what the protocol is for devices that are lost and stolen. Most policies allow for swipes of business data on personal devices should the worst happen. Other companies simply make sure their most sensitive information is kept offline, away from the major security risks.
It’s not enough to simply tell your employees that your small business is starting a BYOD program. Training is also a major part of the implementation process. With so many security concerns, along with the added workload being placed upon the IT department, employees need to know about the added responsibilities they have. Through training, employees can be taught all about the best security practices so they avoid any risks. Training shouldn’t be a one-time thing either; it should be done on a regular basis to update employees about the latest risks and technologies.
Another benefit drawing many businesses to BYOD is the potential to reduce costs. Instead of purchasing devices for employees to use, under a BYOD program, that expense shifts to the workers. They are the ones who buy their own devices, and if they want to upgrade or switch, they will be the ones footing the bill. Some businesses do decide to subsidize devices, but that is largely up to each individual company and its resources. Even so, the promise of savings is often too enticing for a business to resist.
While BYOD policies can lead to greater productivity for your staff, there’s always the possibility employees will get distracted by non-business related items on their devices. BYOD gives workers easy access to apps that may interfere with work–apps like Angry Birds or personal email services. A clear BYOD program can help avoid these conflicts, but sometimes that’s not enough. IT can set up a policy where devices are monitored, and certain apps can even be blocked if necessary.
Bring Your Own Device is part of the new business reality. Personal devices are now becoming ingrained into business culture and will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future. Knowing what to expect before jumping on the bandwagon can prepare you and your small business for all the benefits and challenges that lie ahead.
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