Is BYOD Right For Your Organization?
A “Bring Your Own Device” approach to enterprise mobility saves your company on hardware costs and increases employee satisfaction and productivity. But how do you strike the right balance between convenience and data security?
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Multifamily organizations face many challenges when considering how best to leverage the latest technology. With the lighting-fast product cycles of mobile and the extensive blending of business and personal use (often called IT consumerization), it can be difficult and expensive for the industry to keep pace with changing tech. In many cases, employees already have the latest devices and apps in hand, allowing them to be more nimble in staying up to date than their employers. As a result, many in the multifamily space and beyond have adopted Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, asking employees to bring their smartphones and tablets to simplify onboarding, improve effectiveness, and drive efficiency — not to mention reduce hardware and service costs.
By some measures, 72% of organizations support a BYOD approach to getting work done “for all or some of their employees.” Certainly, given the increasing power of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, your employees can now very easily “work” anywhere, anytime – and expect to be able to. Connect this to the fact that workers in multifamily operations are very often on the go, moving from property to property and managing a range of logistics and processes.
But the legal and security implications arising from the blurred line between personal and business activity presents a dilemma that has multifamily leaders hesitating to embrace BYOD. Security, compliance with laws, and privacy concerns need to be balanced with the inherent flexibility of BYOD in order for such a program to work well.
So which factors should you consider as you choose your mobile strategy? How do you weigh the pros and cons between providing employees and contractors with devices versus letting them use their own? And might a hybrid model like CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) offer a best-of-both-worlds approach?
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Furthermore, the article notes, “if users are able to implement their own technologies into their working practices, then they are more likely to take work home with them – as these employees are working an extra two hours every day and sending 20 more emails every day.” Cloud storage also allows employees to work in ways that weren’t previously possible. And avoiding shared devices prevents inherent struggles and complexity related to multiple logins between users. These benefits are why multifamily operators aren’t ruling out a BYOD strategy before trialing one.
The chief concern when personal devices are being used to access company data is preventing data leakage. Employees may not be as adept at keeping their devices up to date with security patches and software versions. And retrieval of company data and intellectual property is harder to confirm with a BYOD strategy. For instance, in cases where an employee is suddenly terminated it can be challenging to verify a return of data and/or deletion of the company’s apps. Employees may share their device with other family members or even sell their device. And in many cases they’ll keep the same phone number, which can be problematic if they were in a customer-facing role. The long-ranging consequences of a potential data breach to business and brand contribute to the unease in contemplating a BYOD strategy for multifamily operators.
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IT departments can limit security risks by introducing tools that apply permissions and monitoring to track use.
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Secondary concerns include the fact that IT departments will likely be burdened by the greater variety of devices to support, and some employees may bring personal devices that are incompatible with company software.
IT departments can limit security risks by introducing tools that apply permissions and monitoring to track use. But an alternative arrangement, known as CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) that represents a blend of flexibility and control, can help companies jump over the potential security, device support and compatibility hurdles presented by BYOD.
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CYOD seeks to preserve your enterprise data while promising a better user experience than conventional device management.
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Although your official company policy may prohibit employees from using their personal cell phone for business use, you could still be on the hook for “reasonable” reimbursement.
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In early 2018, The National Law Review advised California employers to weigh two options for reconciling their device policies with the court decision, writing:
The safest approach is to pay the entire cost. That said, a more palatable approach is to pay a flat monthly stipend (e.g., $50). Put this policy in writing and expressly state that employees may submit expense reimbursement requests each month to the extent that the flat rate does not cover the total expenses for the usage that month. Distribute the policy to employees, and remember to inform new employees as they onboard. Until more guidance is provided, employers should continue to carefully monitor this area of law and their company’s practice.
In other words, paying for your employees’ personal cell phone plan in full makes complying with the law easier, but could be the most costly choice. Alternatively, paying a monthly stipend helps you control costs, budget more accurately, and avoid paying for employee phone plans of varying price.
According to Syntonic, a company that splits mobile billing between personal and business use, 47% of companies use a stipend to reimburse employees. In a distant second, 29% require employees to manually calculate their work-related usage each month (2016). If you’re contemplating having employees track and submit expense reports for work-related cell phone usage, keep in mind that your HR processing time and costs could increase, and it may not be feasible if most of your employees are using unlimited plans or plans with free minutes.
Whether your organization practices BYOD or CYOD, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires companies to pay non-exempt (hourly) employees overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a given week. In today’s work anywhere/anytime culture, this has implications for you as an employer. If employees are using their mobile devices for work once they’ve gone home for the day — for example, responding to business emails before bed — they may be eligible for overtime pay. Failure to comply with labor regulations can result in penalties, like when an employer in San Antonio, Texas was found liable for not compensating an employee for almost $40,000 in overtime work, much of it performed on an employee-owned device.
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Whether your organization practices BYOD, CYOD or a different model, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires companies to pay non-exempt (hourly) employees overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a given week.
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Providing some guidance for employers, the editorial board of The Labor Dish, an employment and labor blog proposes that:
In light of this decision and others like it, employers should consider either limiting BYOD to exempt employees or re-developing time reporting systems/policies so that all time worked, (including time spent responding to after-hour emails and calls) is captured and paid.
Early in your decision-making process, it’s important to audit how your employees are currently using their personal devices so you can assess the financial impact of the strictest interpretation of compliance versus a monthly stipend model. Whichever approach you choose, it is critical to be very clear on your policies regarding device use, stipends for device purchase, cell phone bills and data plans, and more. You might include waiver forms that allow company access to personal devices and confirm that employees waive claims for loss of personal data or damage resulting from such company access or company wiping of the device. Should employment be terminated, you might require the employee to certify, in writing that all company-related data has been scrubbed from the personal device.
Research published by Ovum and commissioned by Logicalis reported that of the 60% of full-time employees who partake in their organizations’ BYOD programs, only 20% of have a signed BYOD policy (2013). More recent figures show that 87% of companies rely on their employees using personal devices to access business apps. Are your policies keeping pace?
Multifamily operators should consult with their legal and HR teams to ensure they’re compliant with the laws in the municipalities and states they operate in. If you are unsure where to begin investigating options for your organization, IT Manager Daily offers a BYOD Policy Template that can help clarify guidelines for acceptable use, devices and support, reimbursement, and security, as well as risks and liabilities.
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It is critical to be very clear on your policies regarding device use, stipends for device purchase, cell phone bills and data plans, and more.
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