In an op-ed on RCRWireless, Josh Bouk, VP Sales and Marketing for Cass Information Systems' Expense Management Division, predicted 2016 would be the year of BYOD management. Great news for businesses seeking to reduce costs and further enslave employees, but a little biased perhaps?
Cass is a provider of management solutions for large-scale bring-your-own-device programs, and its survey involved approximately 200 IT leaders at 175 companies. Few studies involve the opinions of low-level employees who are generally compelled to embrace it. On the plus side, and unlike many BYOD solutions, Cass' products include employee reimbursement as a key feature — which half of the companies surveyed didn't offer.
When to Pick Up the Tab
Experts (and the law) both agree that reimbursement is not just a "carrot" but a mandatory requirement.
"There should be some sharing of the cost of a plan. Even a token amount would be appreciated," says Lori Kleiman, author, speaker and owner of HR Topics. "Also, it is essential in the U.S. that employers be aware that, for any non-exempt employees, the time they spend communicating with managers or others — or even just looking at work email — must be time that is paid under the law."
When companies attempt to save money it's perceived as good business, but "bring your own device," regardless of shared ownership schemers or other "incentives," is an attempt to merge a user's personal and professional lives while increasing productivity at the employee's expense. This can happen in time or with mobile-device service provider charges.
"It completely removes any respect for a life outside the workplace," suggests Kleiman. "In addition, they feel they always have to be 'on' in terms of professionalism. Even if they are happy to answer a quick question, they may be far more casual at home. They may have had a few glasses of wine at dinner, pick up the call and are not as engaged as they might like."
And given how children are attracted to mobile games, incoming calls could be answered by them — which is difficult to prevent in a family environment. Parents can and should let kids play games they enjoy. After all, they're not at work.
Blurred Phone Lines
The impression personal-device advocates give is that employees are lost without their mobile device and they're just delighted to use their own at work. But what happens when a user refuses to be "on call" after hours? What if the employee correctly identifies that it's an underhanded way of eliminating overtime or device purchase costs?
"The repercussions would be in terms of managerial attitude — for instance, a smaller raise due to lack of availability and commitment, or being passed over for a promotion due to an assumption that they don't want to work so hard," says Kleiman.
As a former "difficult" employee, I keep my private and professional life separate and can confirm that IT has enough to do without adding BYOD to the mix. It primarily benefits the organization and the perceived benefits are generally aimed at reducing hardware costs and overtime pay (why have the helpdesk on prem when it can be contacted any time there's a problem?) — and the unpaid extension of ops just works so well.
You might be asked to join a mobile policy program and allow third-party admin access to your phone. Then again you might be asked for your personal mobile number for business purposes. Either way, how will you respond? Confrontation feels so good to imagine, but isn't always in your best interest. Neither is blind acceptance, though. Know what you're getting into and evaluate the risks and benefits of your involvement. Work culture is a give-and-take arrangement that offers advantages to both parties. As holder of (some of) the keys, fight for that.
"As with anything, this is a world of compromise and communication," states Kleiman. "For employees, understand that if you are flexible with your manager in this regard, they should be flexible with you when you need to make a personal call at work, book an airline ticket or work from home because a repair is being done. Companies should consider formal flexibility policies so that managers know it is acceptable to allow some flexibility in the workday in exchange for BYOD."
Ultimately, two-way communication is essential. While managers should set boundaries for when they will call and what response is expected, users should do the same — making managers aware of situations at home and asking for the slack they deserve. Something Kleiman suggests for all communication? Sending a text first and asking if now is a good time to talk. Employees should feel free to say no, but ask if the situation is urgent and, if so, provide an alternative.
BYOD may offer competitive advantages, but each one should be fair wall to wall. Business owners and senior executives with a share in company profits are motivated to keep long hours. Other employees, not so much. It's not that you lack professionalism; you just value your personal time, even if that means going to the track, a night out with friends or some quality family time. Firms that respect this in their BYOD policies will receive no complaints from you or the departments you support.