A large percentage of your employees are likely to have personal electronic devices like smartphones and bring them to work. It seems like a simple thing but these tiny devices are powerful computers, cameras, video/audio recorders, etc. With them comes the threat of lost productivity, unprofessional conduct, compromised security and more.
That means that the use (or misuse) of a personal electronic device could affect employment status. Doing the wrong thing with your device could get you fired.
As the employer you’ll probably know what that “wrong thing” is when you see it, but that isn’t enough. In fairness you should explain your personal device policy to your employees so that they can comply and, ideally, avoid any problems entirely.
That is the goal of a BYOD policy – to document the appropriate use of personal devices in your workplace. Some of the areas it needs to address are:
Productivity is a major concern. The time at work an employee spends on a personal device is largely time lost from the point of view of the employer. Sure – it might only take a few seconds to respond to a text, check Twitter, or post something to Facebook but when the device is always within reach all that time can add up. It is also true that people are generally not nearly as good at multi-tasking as they believe and the more time they spend flipping between work and their personal devices the less they are fully focussed on work.
Some employers have their employees place their devices in a locker but the real goal is to just get the device off their person so they can’t be checking it constantly. Instead they can retrieve it and use it on breaks.
Some employers are less strict and allow the employees to keep the devices with them but with the understanding that it won’t distract them from their work. Seemingly more lenient this can actually create more friction – if the employer sees the device coming out more frequently they have to start questioning the urgency and that can lead to resentment.
Your BYOD policy should address access to devices. Are they to be put away until breaks? Or can they be carried and used with discretion? If so what is considered appropriate use?
In a retail or service environment customers expect and deserve courtesy and attention. In years past customers would be frustrated when they entered a store and saw the employee paying more attention to a phone call or chatting with their peers. Today they are more likely to be put out by an employee that is too engrossed in their mobile device to look up and acknowledge them politely.
This is largely a generational issue. There is a generation of young people that will sit in a group of people and converse, while spending most of the time looking at their personal devices and carrying on simultaneous conversations via text message, etc.
Among their peer group this is commonplace and accepted, but a customer from a previous generation is likely to be appalled by an employee that is also engaged with their device. In fact any customer, regardless of generation, is unlikely to enjoy competing with a device for the attention of someone who is supposed to be helping them.
Your policy should explain what happens to devices when dealing with customers. If for example you allow your people to carry their devices you might specify that they never, ever come out in the public areas where employees interact with customers.
One aspect of protection is content. The internet delivers an almost infinite variety of content anywhere, but much of it is inappropriate to the workplace. One employee might use their device to access content that another finds offensive, and that employee could then accuse you of providing a hostile work environment. That means that in addition to specifying when your employees can use their personal devices at work you also have to specify what is acceptable on the premises. Just as you wouldn’t allow an employee to leaf through pornographic magazines in the lunch room you can’t let them access that same material on their devices.
Your policy should address the kind of material that you consider acceptable/unacceptable for your workplace. You can help enforce this and further protect yourself through the use of a content-filtering system (something that blocks access to certain types of content) but employees still have access to anything over their cellular connections. They have to know what is allowed and what isn’t.
The other consideration involves your network resources. If you are going to give employees access to your wi-fi network you really need to set up a separate guest account and restrict their personal devices to that. Otherwise you are potentially giving them access to files shared on your network.
Some of this scan be addressed through proper configuration of your network but again – make sure your employees understand the rules. Explain that if you are kind enough to let them use your internet connection they cannot under any circumstances copy or transfer any files that are on the network.
You also need to clarify that personal devices never get plugged into any of the computers on your network. It’s fine to plug directly into an outlet to power up but connecting directly to the machine via USB is simply too dangerous and can never be allowed.
Your personal device policy is likely to change over time. Be sure to keep your existing employees up to date so that they can comply.
You should also discuss it preemptively with potential hires. When, during the interview process, you talk about the position, hours, etc. you should also bring up the policy in broad strokes. Just saying something like “we have a pretty specific policy here regarding personal devices. You’ll have to leave any devices in your locker while you’re working. You can look at it during breaks, but you can’t ever use it to access or view inappropriate or offensive material here in the workplace. We’d be asking you to sign off on that policy before hiring you, and breaking that policy would be grounds for dismissal, so if you have any questions please ask them now”.