Bring your own device (BYOD) at first sounds like a sure thing in the business world. The concept of allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices for work purposes does seem to carry multiple benefits. One recent study shows that around 59% of BYOD employees end up doing more work thanks to their companies’ BYOD policies. Other research has shown that employees who can use their own devices are more satisfied with their jobs, while businesses may save more thanks to reduced costs on purchasing their own equipment. Despite these notable advantages, many companies have shown reluctance in implementing a bring your own device policy. That’s because a number of obstacles have appeared that can potentially slow down the widespread acceptance of BYOD.
One of the biggest barriers to full BYOD adoption, and one that is often overlooked, is the fact that employees generally do not trust their employers with their personal devices. Smartphones and tablets can be highly personal, with data like photos, videos, and apps that workers would rather keep away from their IT departments. But if a mobile device is used on the job, someone has to manage it, and all signs point to employees preferring that someone be different from their employers. A survey from July 2014 shows that more employees (42%) were happy with third-party operators managing their mobile devices than those who were happy with employers doing it (30%). In fact, nearly a fourth of respondents said they didn’t trust the employer with any type of control over their devices.
This barrier over trust ties in largely to the other major concern from employees–mainly that of privacy. Workers tend to want to keep their personal and professional lives separate from each other, and it’s easy to see how BYOD makes that distinction hazy. Using personal devices for work usually means giving management some form of access to the device. Some employees are willing to accept this to some extent, but they have expressed worries over if businesses can actually keep their private data secure. Monitoring of mobile devices may also adversely impact device performance, which may dissuade some employees from fully accepting a BYOD policy.
At the heart of most uneasiness surrounding BYOD is the issue of security. Employees want to make sure IT workers protect their private information, and employers want to protect company data. The main problem and fear is that BYOD may end up facilitating the spread of malware and malicious apps. By using personal devices while in the office, employee behavior can have some unfortunate side effects on security, even if the behavior is unintentional. If an employee accidentally downloads an app with hidden code designed to spread malware, that malware may soon spread to other devices or even the business network itself. Whereas before BYOD, businesses could keep a tight grip on managing all devices employees use, under BYOD there are many more factors to consider and variables to manage in order to stop security problems. One of the solutions to the spread of malware from an infected device is to remotely wipe the device, but this again brings up the issue of privacy and how companies handle employees’ personal information.
Other barriers play a big role in the lack of enthusiasm of BYOD adoption. While surveys have shown BYOD employees to be more productive, there is still the concern that having access to apps and programs unrelated to work will cause employees to get distracted, eventually resulting in less work getting done. Businesses also have concerns over the costs of BYOD. While it’s true that businesses wouldn’t have to spend money on purchasing devices for their employees, administrative and management costs of personal smartphones and tablets may increase. These findings aren’t necessarily conclusive, but they do raise enough concerns that keep businesses from moving to a BYOD environment.
If a company fully intends to adopt BYOD, these barriers can be overcome. Many experts recommend compartmentalization (sometimes called containerization), wherein personal devices divide professional functions from personal functions. This can allow for more protection for data, while keeping an employee’s personal and business life separate. Businesses can also deploy new mobile device management strategies to better monitor and keep track of workers’ devices. Every move will have its own set of tradeoffs, but BYOD can be worth it in the end. With the right planning and forethought, companies will be able to get the most out of BYOD.