Ramifications of mandatory BYOD on workers and employers

Summary:The movement started by employees who want to bring their own gadgets for work has taken a turn, according to new figures. Companies will be requiring workers to BYOD, and that will bring changes for both workers and employers.

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Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Every time I've written articles about the bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) movement, I have approached it from the angle that it's an employee-driven movement, a result of folks wanting to use their favorite gadgets. I may have been wrong to do that. Astute readers have pointed out that companies would soon take advantage of BYOD and force workers to use their own gear, whether they want to or not. It turns out they might be right.

My colleague Zack Whittaker pointed out that new figures from Gartner indicate that employers will start requiring workers to bring their own laptops, smartphones, and tablets for use at work. According to Gartner, half the employers may require employees to use their own gear to do their jobs by 2017. This will make supplying the gear a part of the hiring process, and the ongoing responsibility of workers.

It is practically impossible for IT staff to adequately support all brands and models of gear that employees will bring to work if left to their own devices.

Whether we believe that is fair or not, if this comes to pass, it will bring changes for both the employees and employers. With supplying gadgetry as part of the job, it will put an additional burden on job candidates during the already anxious job interview process.

Savvy candidates, and those are the ones most interviewers want, will have to start asking if mandated BYOD is practiced at the company. If so, this becomes an out-of-pocket expense to accept any position, should it be offered. The interviewee should ask for the BYOD policy in this case, so they will know up front what will be expected of them.

Most likely, most companies that will mandate BYOD, will restrict employee-supplied gear to a short list of phones, tablets, and notebooks. This is much the same as they did when the company was supplying the gear. It is practically impossible for IT staff to adequately support all brands and models of gear that employees will bring to work if left to their own devices. This short list of acceptable gear will require new hires to buy new equipment to qualify, even if they already own their own non-supported equivalents.

Employees required to purchase new gear for use at work may be able to get some of the cost back from Uncle Sam. For those who qualify, some of the costs of purchasing devices required by an employer may be recoverable as an income tax deduction.

Prospective employees will need to scrutinize the supplied BYOD policies to determine how their newly purchased equipment will be supported. Does the company pay for required repairs, or the employee? The cost of equipment doesn't end at the cash register at purchase time, and savvy job candidates will want to know this up front during the interview phase.

Companies, both hiring managers and HR departments, will need to be prepared and have the BYOD policies nailed down and well defined. They will want to make the discussion and distribution of this information part of the job interview process. Companies do not wish to hire new employees, and then slap them around by forcing unexpected out-of-pocket costs on the employee. It makes no sense to keep the work force upset on the job, and that means BYOD policy that is well-thought out and familiar to the workers.

If the analysts at Gartner are correct and we see many companies begin mandating BYOD in the work place, changes will be required from the job interview on through the continued employment of workers. It is going to require companies to carefully define the method in which BYOD will be implemented and maintained through the duration of every worker's employment. It can't be just a free ride for the company, saving the cost of the gear, it must be equitable to foster the loyal work force that every company wants to have.

Topics: Mobility, Bring Your Own Device

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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