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BYOD Policy: Do I Need One for My Small Business?

With an increasing dependence on electronics, employers are becoming forced to confront the issue of how an employee can use his or her own personal electronic devices in the workplace. In response, more and more business owners are implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to establish guidelines for their employers to follow. Read on to learn why a BYOD policy is advantageous, how to best implement one and also what legal issues they may ultimately present.

Why is a BYOD Policy advantageous?

A BYOD policy does have its benefits. They include:

  • Cost savings due to the lack of capital investment in corporate phones.

  • Increased employee satisfaction thanks to using their own phone.

  • Increased productivity due to an employee’s ability to access their work in the cloud.

  • Being more electronically up-to-date due to the ease of updating hardware and software on personal devices.

  • Greater likelihood that employees will take good care of their device and know how to work and maintain them- ultimately resulting in lower support costs.

What are the keys to a good BYOD policy?

On CIO.com, contributor Jonathan Hassell provides a list of tips for establishing a successful BYOD policy. (To read them in their entirety, click here) They include:

  • Specifying what devices are permitted (phones, tablets, handhelds, etc.)

  • Establishing a stringent security policy for all devices. Require passwords and lock screens on personal devices used for works. Be sure you use a strong, lengthy alphanumeric password rather than a 4-digit PIN.

  • Defining a clear service policy for devices covered by BYOD (This means addressing areas such as the types of support, service from IT representatives and HelpDesk, etc.)

  • Making the ownership of each app and data clear. (Do you have the right to wipe their devices that are brought under the network of your plan?)

  • Deciding what apps will be allowed or banned. The goal is to prevent employees from installing and using an application that poses a security or legal risk.

  • Integrate your BYOD plan with your Acceptable Use Policy.

  • Set up an employee exit strategy. (What happens when an employee with devices covered under your BYOD leaves the country?

What are the downsides of a BYOD present?

There are numerous legal issues that should be considered when implementing a BYOD. These include:

  • Using a BYOD could result in the breaching of legal requirements concerning security, encryption and confidentiality. Allowing employees to use personal devices for work purposes can increase the opportunity for unauthorized access through confidential information accessed via the cloud.

  • In the event of litigation, a BYOD can complicate the discovery process since the equipment is used for both personal and work matters.

  • If hourly employees are using equipment for personal and work use, they could make wage-and-hour claims seeking additional or overtime pay.

Are there other options besides a BYOD policy?

Some business owners utilize purpose-built mobile devices that can potentially be more efficient and cost effective. In addition to legal issues, personal smartphones in the workplace can lead to a decline in productivity and missed communications due to poor cellphone/Wi-Fi connectivity and the personal distractions such as texts, apps, game, etc. A purpose-built device allows employees to roam freely throughout the workplace without sacrificing voice and data coverage or clarity.

Does the potential for problems mean I shouldn’t implement a BYOD?

Not necessarily. You can reduce the potential for litigation by having a BYOD policy that requires written permission to work remotely at home using a personal device and instructs workers to respond to email only during regular work hours. Also, it may help to invest in mobile device management MDM (to keep personal data separate from work data) and/or mobile application management MAM software (to monitor data rather than devices).

At the end of the day, the best course of action is to enlist the services of an experienced lawyer who can review your BYOD policy. That will help ensure that your company reaps the benefits of the BYOD without opening itself up to legal risks. 

Sources:

  • ABA Journal
  • CIO
  • eWeek
  • TechTarget
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Florida 561-653-0008 California 213-377-5200
* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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