Bring Your Own Device: Good for Business if Done Correctly

HR professionals have been contemplating their social media policies for years now, pondering the question should we or shouldn’t we. It turns out that letting employees bring their own devices to work is good for business. This conclusion is based on research appearing in the Harvard Business Review, Like It or Not, More Employees Are Using Their Own Devices.

The phenomenon of employees using their own personal devices or social media accounts is often referred to as BYOD, short for “bring your own device.” The research about BYOD’s impact on business is based on an article by Jane McConnell, Tracking the Trends in Bringing Our Own Devices to Work. Here are two important points about the prevalence of personal devices HR leaders and business owners need to consider:

  1. For the reporting years of 2014 and 2015, BYOD existed in over half the 300 companies surveyed with 35% of organizations officially allowing it and 20% did not officially allow. However, those companies not “officially” allowing BYOD, acknowledged its existence.
  2. BYOD technology is more prevalent in high-performing, customer-oriented workforces. Also, BYOD technology is increasing at high-performing companies, even though it’s officially sanctioned less often.

In sum, your employees are probably already using their own devices or social media resources to some degree and such use tends to result in better performance, especially in customer-focused roles. So what action should you take as a result?

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Companies Need a BYOD Policy

Even if your business does not allow for BYOD, it should still consider updating its employee handbook to include a BYOD or social media policy. According to Ms. McConnell’s research:

“Many customer-facing employees … spend most of their day with clients and serving them is their mission. They’re under pressure to provide good, efficient service. They need to be both fast and effective, and are willing to use whatever information and resources are at their disposal. If they find shortcuts, ways around official policy that let them provide better service, they will take them.”

Companies need to respond to the reality that BYOD is already a widespread “thing” throughout your company and that if properly managed it can be good for business. In this regard, the full range of issues and scope of your BYOD policies should be discussed with an attorney experienced in matters at the intersection of social media and employment law. But a few points to start that discussion include the following:

  1. Your company’s social media and BYOD policies need to specifically address how employee-owned devices or social media services may be used and by whom (e.g., sales representatives versus administrative employees, etc.).
  2. The BYOD and social media policies should explain what is an acceptable business use of employee-owned devices and social media services. Employers should be clear that, while they protect their name and business-related assets, they do not retaliate or discriminate against employees for using either or participating in political, labor organizing or other lawful activities.
  3. If both personal and business use is permitted, then employees should be reminded that all employer policies apply to company use of individually owned devices and social media accounts.
  4. Also, employers must evaluate security measures to protect company and client information. And employees should be required to immediately report a device or service that is lost or stolen.

A Caution for Employees: Carefully Consider the Loss of Privacy by Using Personal Devices and Social Media 

As an HR professional, my may consider reminding your employees of the impact of using their own personal devices and social media accounts. If there is any post-employment litigation, especially non-compete violations or trade secret misappropriation claims, employee personal devices or social media accounts would be “in play” in terms of being reviewed and produced in any such lawsuit.  If employee smartphones, tablets, other personal devices, or social media accounts have a dual personal and work purpose, then they will likely be subject to the employer’s agreements covering the protection of company information, and employees will be expected to account for all employer-owned content.

For more information about BYOD policies and employee social media issues, contact attorney Jason Shinn. Mr. Shinn has worked with employers since 2001 to draft HR policies. He is especially interested in how advacements in technologies and social media add new wrinkles to HR issues or create altogether new employment law issues to address.


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