Do you use your own mobile device to do work for your employer? Even if you have just answered a quick text to a co-worker saying they are going to be late for a meeting, you have embraced a version of bring your own device (BYOD). Apart from the practical concerns of separating work from personal and the increasingly blurry line there, there are some legal concerns you need to be aware of.
The wikipedia article I linked to above includes another term, bring your own technology (BYOT), that I think you also need to be aware of. Your company’s drive to decrease it’s capital costs (less mobile devices to buy) has led to this fervor around BYOD. Your employees are doing so much more than this. Every piece of friction in your business processes may lead to an employee doing something you object to. Let’s look at a few examples:
- Editing documents in their off time. Deadlines press down on us all. You want to prepare for that presentation that you have with your manager. So what do you do when you need to leave at 5? You open up your Dropbox account, drag the file there, and then open it up at home for editing. Does your company have a contract with Dropbox? Was it securely sent? Did you secure it on your computer system at home? You are relying on a third party service and their terms of service, as well as their security systems.
- Available by phone 24/7. This one is one of my favorites. You have a work phone, you have a work mobile phone, you have a personal phone and you have a personal mobile phone. My god, what do you do? I used to carry around two mobile devices, and alternated between them. I have known some people who have used Google Voice as a low cost (in fact it’s free) way to merge these. My friends call one number and it rings everywhere. They text me there and it replicates out. Caller leaves a voice mail which is transcribed by Google and then emailed to me. What if that voice mail contains confidential information? What rights do you have with Google? Especially when they are looking into your email to target advertising.
BYOD is not creating a problem, it is accelerating it
CIO.com published an article last week highlighting the fact that confidential information is leaving on workers’ mobile devices. I have a few problems with the article. The first is the feeling that this problem is new. Just like problems with social, nothing is new. The only thing that technology has done is decrease the friction and increase the speed at which you are harmed. Confidential information has always been at risk of leaving your offices. What about copy machines and the ability to run off multiple copies of that executive briefing? What about the hard drive on that copier? Let’s go even further back to the mimeograph machine. How about even further back to the printing press?
The reality is that you have always been at risk of someone taking something out the door. Either in their briefcase or in their mind. You already have policies in place. You need to do a better job educating your employees.
The second part of the article that I have an issue with is the conclusion that 18-24 year olds play loose with corporate documents. My problem is that everyone is guilty of this to a certain extent. It is not a demographic problem. It is a friction problem again. The more friction and barriers to getting the job done, the more apt we are to go off on our own. Have a good cloud solution that makes corporate documents available easily and securely wherever your employees are? Awesome. If you don’t, employees will find one of their own.
Embrace BYOD or lose workers? False premise, I think
I think this is much larger than just mobile devices again. Employees want to do good work. They will use every tool at their disposal to do a good job. It’s not just millenials. Its every demographic. Embracing systems that cater to this are important. Embracing systems that really balance your corporate need with your employee need are just as important.
When I talk about systems I am not just talking about technical systems. I am talking about training programs, and work-life balance programs. You need leadership that embraces the notion that their employees have lives outside of work. Respect the boundaries of your workforce. There is another benefit here as well with well-defined boundaries. Compensation concerns.
Fair Compensation for Work Done
With this desire to get more done and no defined boundaries, you run the risk of really interesting compensation lawsuits. Your younger workforce, which the CIO.com article points out, is more apt to embrace BYOD. Your younger workforce is, with a little generalization, also paid by the hour for their work. Without defined boundaries you may find yourself on the hook for those hours worked.
Even things like open innovation contests can run you into this problem. Employees will argue that you wanted them to work after hours to respond to the challenge. “We want you to do everything you can to create new and better products and services for our customers.” Employment lawyers cringe at statements like that without qualifiers.
BYOD is here to stay
As much as I see the risks here from an employer-employee perspective, BYOD will only accelerate. I don’t think you need new policies. I think you need to do an audit of your existing ones and work on training. Document the boundaries that you are communicating. Educate your employees on the risks of third party services.