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To BYOD or not to BYOD at work? That is the question

Learning at work happens all the time in this knowledge-based economy, and it's not always between office walls. The mobile worker needs instant access to information and uses more than one device during the day in order to always stay connected. All technological devices can enhance workplace learning and lead to better employee performance; all, including their personal phones and tablets. This is called BYOD — Bring Your Own Device — at work.

BYOD became a true business trend a few years ago. If at first there were big enterprises like SAP, IBM, or Cisco, and mid-sized companies that adopted BYOD, soon more and more companies — of all shapes and sizes — followed through and allowed employees to bring their own devices at work.

The US was leading the trend, followed by Asia and Latin America, while European countries were more reluctant towards it.

Lately, the BYOD at work trend seems to be reversing, even for the US. A hybrid approach — between full BYOD and no BYOD at all — takes over the workplace. Why is that? Because BYOD is still a young happening, and it needs more clear standards, rules, and policies.

This means that managers have to carefully consider all aspects of a BYOD at work implementation and its impact over the good functioning of their organization.


The main argument for adopting a BYOD policy is the fact that it can save a company's money. Since employees already own their devices — and they know how to use them, there's no need for companies to spend precious dollars on device acquisition — or training on how to use them. People already bring their phones and tablets at work, so why wouldn't companies benefit from that?

The other big argument for including BYOD in the workplace focuses on employees and their needs. Being able to use their favorite devices puts employees in the driver's seat and gives them more control over their way of learning and working. When, where, and how this happens is almost totally up to them.

Also, since there seems to be a blurry line between private life and work life, employees will rarely forget to bring their devices at work, or the much-needed chargers.

Working on their personal devices instills a greater sense of ownership, especially over the tasks. This keeps people more focused when looking for new information, which positively influences their productivity.

These pro-BYOD arguments make perfect sense, but you know what they say: there are always two sides of the same coin. So...

Hold your horses!

There are many serious questions about how a BYOD policy could be efficient, but unfortunately not all of them have clear answers.

  • Who decides on the type(s) of devices preferred? The company, or the users?
  • Who pays for service charges and purchases of new devices? The company, or its employees?
  • Who supports the correct use of company program, tools, and apps on employees' devices?
  • Who is to ensure that all devices run properly at the same time?
  • How can the company be sure that all sensitive data is always secure?
  • How can data privacy of employees can be protected?
  • What happens when an employee leaves the company? How can the company prevent any data loss or data breaches in that case?

Of course, these questions only scratch the surface. Once you start to look for possible answers, others will inevitably arise.

BYOD at work may help an organization save money, but it can also make it spend even more. IT support, mobile device management, and ways to ensure security of data are at the top of the expenses.

The good news is that all of these can be achieved without spending all employees' weight in gold. For example, in terms of data security, a first step would be a pass code protection; the device could be set to erase all data in it after three (or more) failed attempts to log in. Encrypted, separate cloud storages can be used at the same time — one for personal data, and one for company data; this can solve the problem of data access and use once an employee no longer works for the company. Last but not least, a virtual desktop infrastructure makes sure all activities — learning and more — only happen in the cloud, and the endpoint device has no data left on its memory once the user logs out.

To BYOD or not to BYOD?

Many companies choose a middle ground, in the hopes of reaping as many BYOD benefits, while avoiding as many disadvantages. This middle ground often includes devices owned by the company. This way, the organization has more control over its data, and employees can still work anytime, anywhere.

If your company seriously considers adopting BYOD, you need to be prepared to answer all — and more — of the above questions, and create some clear policies that every stakeholder should agree upon. It all depends on your organizational needs.

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