Are Personal Devices at Work a Distraction? The BYOD Policy Dilemma

Person's hands typing on a laptop on a desk with a smartphone next to the laptop.

We are dependent on our phones more than ever before and for many people, the freedom to bring their phone into work is essential. Employees need to make personal calls here and there, whether it’s to make a doctor appointment or take a call from your child’s school. There’s a pendulum swinging between no-use and overuse. Employers are trying to figure out where their policies should land in order to maximize productivity.

Completely banning the use of personal devices is proven to lower morale among employees but the lack of any policy leads to a form of employee presenteeism. Presenteeism, in this case, means employees are present at their desk but are spending too much time texting, checking their personal emails, or social media.

This problem isn’t exclusive to cell phones either, what about tablets or laptops? Maybe an employee uses their tablet to read in between tasks and over time you start to notice little mistakes. Those small mistakes could grow into costly mistakes. What do you do? You could ban the devices completely, but what about those employees who want to read on their lunch breaks? Now you’ve crossed the line into micromanaging and you’ll likely experience a drop in morale instead of increase in productivity.

In researching this topic, I found a common thread of organizations taking a “performance-based” stance. That means if any given employee is performing their expectations and fulfilling their duties, they do not need any further restrictions. However, if you find that an employee is making mistakes on their tasks, late on deadlines, or simply not meeting expectations; their performance should be further evaluated. If the lack in productivity is due to the use of personal devices, you can form policies to try and fix the behavior.

Here are some ideas to help you get ahold of your BYOD policy before there’s a problem and without damaging the morale of your entire workforce.

Personal Devices at Work Are Performance Based Privileges

Four different laptops sitting on a table with people sitting in front of each one.

As an employer or HR manager, you know this isn’t just about meeting expectations, it’s about high-level performance. If your top employees are checking social media a couple of times a day it’s a different story compared to an employee who checks their phone frequently and is failing to produce quality work. It may be beneficial to handle the use of personal devices on a case-by-case basis. If you notice an employee abusing the privilege to bring their device to work, have a conversation regarding the performance rather than the device itself. If the issue persists, the device might not be the problem, the employee possibly lacks the motivation necessary to do the job and further disciplinary action could be applied.

Personal Device Etiquette Policy

Instead of a policy that bans the use of personal devices, consider an etiquette policy. Create a list of personal device etiquette guidelines that hold employees accountable just like any other policy would. These guidelines are meant to deter from the use of personal devices for anything except emergencies. Examples you can use are:

  • Personal phone calls should be taken away from the office or in a private area to not distract others.
  • Please use headphones to listen to music.
  • Silence ringtones and let calls go to voicemail when in meetings. Even on vibrate your phone can become a distraction so completely silencing (or turning off) your phone is preferred.
  • Avoid inappropriate behavior like using profanity on phone calls.
  • Avoid using social media sites outside of lunch and break times.

Related Article: Why Every Employer Should Have an Employee Handbook

Distractions aside – there’s another angle to this dilemma… Security!

If your employees are using their phones, tablets, or personal laptops for work-related purposes, security can become an issue. If the device is lost, classified information could be leaked. On the other hand, if the employee doesn’t have updated anti-virus software on their laptop, and they connect to the company network, they put your entire organization at risk. And that’s only scratching the surface of what issues could arise. So it’s essential to have a policy in place to protect your business. Luckily, you can use technology to your advantage.

Related Article: Protect Your Business with Social Media Policy

Your policy should require passcodes for any device that will be used for work-related tasks. You can back your policy with technology by using software and appliances like network access controls that will protect your internal network. For example, an employee brings their laptop into the office and tries to connect to your network, you have an appliance in place that will scan their computer checking that anti-virus software is updated and ensuring there is no inappropriate content that could attach to your network. If the application gets the green light, then the employee’s device will safely connect to the network and their work can presume.

The BYOD Policy Dilemma

You want your employees to be happy every day and feel motivated to exceed expectations; but you need to set policies that protect your business, increase productivity, and don’t damage morale. Having nonrestrictive policies and allowing your employees the chance to make the right decision is the best way to show you trust them. Make sure your culture supports personal devices at work being a privilege and your etiquette policy should be practiced by everyone. Most people will have the common sense to know when it’s appropriate to use personal devices and when it’s not. However, for the instances when it get’s out of hand, we hope these tips have helped.

What’s your experience with personal device policies? What has or hasn’t worked for your company and what have you had to change? We want to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *