Whether you choose to embrace it or try to resist it, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend is set to grow. A study by Cisco Systems found that 78 percent of white-collar workers in the U.S. use a mobile device for work and 41 percent indicated that most smartphones that connect to the company network are actually employee-owned.
So, if you don't already have a BYOD policy, you need one.
Employees will connect to your network and use their personal mobile devices for work, whether you allow it or not. In the past, your company network could afford to be hard on the outside and soft on the inside, but nowadays you need to be hard on the inside too.
There's no one-size-fits-all solution for a problem like this. In creating a policy, you have to consider what devices you'll need to support, how much access you'll give them, and what kind of budget you can allocate. Do you have specific compliance issues to contend with? Are you willing to subsidize data plans or device purchases? How do you ensure company data is kept safe?
If you have an existing policy for laptops, that can be a good place to start.
Take the time to assess and weigh your employees' desires against the company's needs. If you can get a solid agreement in place and create a user policy that your employees are happy to sign, it should be easy. Setting up a comprehensive policy will require work upfront, but will also safeguard you against disputes and problems later.
That same Cisco study also found that the top two perceived benefits of BYOD were "improved employee productivity (more opportunities to collaborate) and greater job satisfaction." By arming your employees with access to company tools, you can certainly boost productivity.
A recent Good Technology survey found that "more than 80 percent of people continue working when they have left the office — for an average of seven extra hours each week — almost another full day of work."
Taking advantage of that trend and equipping those employees with access to the information and tools they need to work effectively at home makes a lot of sense.
Younger workers expect to have access to social media. They will use their personal devices in the workplace whether you condone it or not, so why not make sure that they have the ability to use them for work rather than just play?
As the traditional division between work life and personal life breaks down, it's important employers seize the opportunity. A solid BYOD policy sets boundaries and establishes expectations for everyone concerned. It can lead to a happier and more productive workforce. With the right planning, that can be achieved without compromising data security.
Michelle Drolet is founder of Towerwall, a data security services provider in Framingham. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.