The bring your own device (“BYOD”) trend has been advanced by millennials in the workplace. BYOD policies allow employees to use their personal devices (i.e., cell phones and laptops) for work-related matters rather than using employer issued devices.
Many employers find BYOD policies to be more efficient and easier to keep up with the pace of advancement in technology. In the United States, approximately 68% of corporations permit BYOD policies. These policies have benefits such as lowering business costs and improving productivity. However, the BYOD trend can raise various legal compliance issues and security concerns.
One key benefit of BYOD policies is that it lowers costs for employers. Since most employees own a smartphone and a laptop, asking them to bring these devices to work saves employers money. In addition, BYOD policies are convenient for employees because work and personal email is all together on one device. It also allows employees to use their preferred equipment and avoids requiring employees to learn new systems. For example, an employee may prefer Apple products over Android devices and if the employer uses Android, the employee may have to learn how to use Android’s system.
Another benefit is that personal devices are expected to have the latest technology because users typically update their personal devices frequently to keep up with new technology. This prevents employers from constantly updating their devices. Further, employees who use their personal cell phones and laptops are less likely to lose the devices since it is easier than juggling two separate devices, one for work and one for personal use.
Personal devices also allow employees to access work documents wherever they are. While it is possible that an employee could forget a personal device, employees are more likely to have their personal devices than work devices with them at all times. Although these benefits make these policies attractive to both employers and employees, it is important for employers to familiarize themselves with the disadvantages to avoid any potential issues that could arise.
In 2015, approximately 78% of security incidents were caused by employees. Forgetfulness is unfortunately a major problem that affects BYOD policies, such as leaving a mobile device in a public area where it can be accessed by others. These policies also burden employers’ IT departments. If every employee uses their own technology, the IT department’s job becomes more difficult because it must keep all the devices running properly. For example, instead of having one uniform technology system, the IT department will be responsible for various systems since employees’ preferred technology differs.
BYOD also poses various security issues. It is more difficult for companies to regulate how employees use their personal devices. Therefore, employers risk their confidential employer information being accessed by unsecure systems. For example, employees may connect to unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots and accidentally share personal company information with others connected to the same Wi-Fi.
In addition, when an employee leaves an employer, they typically return their work devices. However, when an employee’s personal computer or cell phone has confidential employer information on it, employers can use a special program. These programs have been designed to remove work-related content from a departing employee’s computer or cell phone. Further, if a departing employee uses his or her personal phone number for business, clients will continue to contact that number. Unfortunately, you cannot legally stop clients from contacting that employee. However, employees have to be careful not to violate restrictive covenants, which limits the ability to contact former clients of the employer.
If an employer allows or requires employees to use personal devices for work, it may subject itself to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and state wage payment and overtime laws. Since non-exempt employees can engage in work activities outside of business hours, employers may be required to pay a non-exempt employee for those hours. An employer using BYOD policies may also be responsible for an employee’s costs while using a personal device. For example, California law requires that an employer cover an employee’s business expenses, which may include part of the costs of a cell phone plan when it is used for work.
To address these concerns, employers need to weigh the benefits and detriments of BYOD policies. If an employer chooses to implement such a program, we suggest that it be comprehensive and cover potential areas of concern.