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03 Aug 2017

BYOD in the Workplace

In 2013 Gartner predicted that by the end of 2017, 50% of businesses will allow employees to use their personal devices for work purposes.

With so many organisations expected to be embracing this modern way of working in the near future, there are several benefits and concerns that need to be considered before introducing it into your company.

What are the benefits?

Allowing employees to work off their own devices means they can use devices that they’re accustomed with and that provide the highest degree of comfort, both of which have been linked to improving morale and productivity.

This also puts an end to the historical battle that splits consumers between Apple and Microsoft, as individuals can choose to work off their preferred operating system.

The growing adoption of cloud technology within organisations offers employees the freedom to work from anywhere, which can positively impact work/life balance and thus leading to higher satisfaction.

Research from Samsung highlighted that 78% of workers believe that using a single mobile device for data access helps them balance their professional and personal lives.

Similarly, it has also been found that 79% of employees believe that the constant connectivity associated with BYOD enables them to do their jobs better. Generally IT departments avoid purchasing new cutting edge technology as devices need to be reliable and fully tested.

This isn’t the case with BYOD as consumers regularly upgrade to get the latest phone or tablet which can mean faster processors, larger storage, better cameras, more memory and so on.

This is known to increase employee satisfaction, especially as there is no longer the requirement to carry around multiple devices.

Furthermore, as firms are no longer required to supply employees with company-owned devices, a BYOD policy can result in cost savings in the long-term.

What are the risks?

Although BYOD can boost your work environment, it can also leave your organisation increasingly vulnerable to security threats.

Security is one of the biggest risks associated with implementing BYOD policies in the workplace, as personal devices are not likely to have the same level of IT security measures that company owned devices have.

This can make it hard to protect valuable customer data and other business information, thus increasing the likelihood of data leaks.

Another concern of using personal devices at work is that IT departments lose control over the hardware, meaning they can’t control what programs or apps are installed, how the devices are secured or what files are downloaded.

Furthermore, it creates an added challenge for IT departments as all documents need to be compatible with a variety of operating systems.Certain industries, such as healthcare, have strict regulations about the use and distribution of information.

Using personal devices can make enforcing data protection policies a challenge, as all data must be safeguarded appropriately and only shared in strict accordance with regulations.

For example, data may be accidentally shared with those who have no right to see it.

Failure to comply can result in significant legal penalties. Allowing access to company data from personal devices poses the risk for employees to walk away with a significant amount of company data still on their personal device when they leave the company.

Similarly, if a device is lost or stolen it can pose a huge security risk for firms. Recent research has highlighted that nearly 80% of companies only put in place basic pin codes to protect data on their staff’s phones, leaving information easy for hackers to reach.

To prevent such events, companies must have plans in place that outline how to deal with these situations. As mentioned above, BYOD has been known to increase employee productivity, however it could also hinder productivity as social media apps and games are just a touch or tap away.

It’s common for users nowadays to easily get carried away with the amount of time spent on such apps, therefore it’s vital that employers set out their expectations.

The Verdict

There is no doubt that using personal devices can improve working environments, however it’s important to assess whether BYOD is appropriate for your business - do you have reason to believe that it will improve processes or staff productivity, and not just because it’s popular?

The advantages and disadvantages must be thoroughly considered before changing your current strategy. It’s essential for all companies that allow personal devices to be used for work purposes to have a BYOD policy in place.

This should set out how personal data is dealt with on personal devices and will advise on best practice regarding the risks discussed above. Failure to have a BYOD policy in place, can result in a fine of up to £500,000 as stated in the Data Protection Act.

If you’re considering introducing or changing your BYOD policy, the UK Government and the National Cyber Security Centre both provide useful guidance.

Equally, if you would like to find out how to protect your organisation against security threats, speak to one of our security specialists today.

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