Ever since smartphones became ubiquitous, employers have grappled with whether to let employees use their own devices in the office or provide them to staff. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies made sense because workers didn’t use smartphones as a primary business tool. Employees used their phones to check work email from home, make business-related calls and send messages while away from the office. The landscape has changed dramatically since March 2020, with smartphones becoming more important in the workplace.
As businesses reopen for the first time in more than two years, companies are reassessing their mobile technology policies. A new study conducted by Samsung and Oxford Economics examines the impact of BYOD and employer-provided device (EPD) strategies on small and midsize businesses.
The Maximizing Mobile Value study shows that while smartphones now play a greater role in organizations, most haven’t created strategies to get the most value from them. While companies often provide laptops to employees who need them, most organizations rely on a BYOD approach for smartphones. Nearly all businesses (95%) cited cost as a key reason. According to the study, BYOD doesn’t provide these companies with the cost savings they think they’ll get. Allowing employees to use their own smartphones can inhibit mobile maturity, lower productivity and compromise security.
BYOD vs. EPD by the numbers
While smartphones are now essential in business, only 15% of companies provide them to their employees. Thirty-nine percent of companies have implemented a BYOD policy, and 46% use a hybrid approach, giving phones to some employees and not others.
Companies with BYOD and those with EPD policies both believe their approaches save the most money. Among the businesses that have embraced BYOD, 77% stated that it’s more cost-effective than EPD, while 66% of companies with EPD policies think they save more money by providing smartphones to some or all workers.
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Putting smartphones first
Companies that adopted an EPD strategy see smartphones becoming the principal computing device used by employees to carry out their daily tasks. A majority (66%) of EPD organizations said they would consider replacing PCs with a smartphone that could power a desktop computing experience. Just over a third (39%) of BYOD companies said they would consider it. Businesses believe the ability to integrate phones into their legacy infrastructure is the greatest obstacle to a mobile-only workplace.
As you might expect, BYOD and EPD companies have different perceptions of their mobile maturity. Almost half of EPD organizations (46%) report being ahead of competitors in their use of smartphone technology. BYOD businesses didn’t fare as well, with only 29% stating they were ahead of rivals. Only 14% of EPD companies said they were behind the curve, compared with 34% of BYOD organizations.
While an overwhelming majority of executives consider providing a smartphone to employees as a perk, only about one-third of employees see it that way. Workers are more interested in accessing apps on smartphones, with 44% reporting that smartphones allow them to complete tasks they can’t accomplish on a PC.
Security risks associated with BYOD
Companies with BYOD policies are more lenient regarding security. Only 40% of BYOD businesses have mobile device management (MDM) tools in place, compared with 93% of EPD organizations. MDMs help keep devices secure by allowing companies to block apps and websites, automatically update software and remotely wipe lost or stolen phones. As a result, BYOD companies are more vulnerable to security threats and less able to respond when the devices are lost, stolen or compromised. Employees with phones that run an MDM client are more likely to use longer passwords and change more than one character when creating a new password.
Protecting employee privacy
With workers leaving their jobs during the pandemic, companies need to understand what employees want. While executives consider security issues to be crucial, 70% of employees report they keep a personal smartphone to protect their privacy, even if the company provides one.
Executives can address employee’s privacy concerns about EPDs by providing a smartphone with separated containers to protect work data from personal browsing activity and app data.
Assessing the organization’s mobile strategy
The study provides businesses with specific recommendations to help them make the best use of mobile devices. Organizations with BYOD plans should assess the actual costs involved and consider whether an EPD strategy is a better solution for the company. Companies can maximize the value of mobile devices by providing employees with the tools they need to work efficiently. Revisiting MDM policies to create separated containers for work and personal data on EPDs will address workers’ privacy concerns.
Oxford Economics and Samsung conducted the Maximizing Mobile Value study in December 2021 and January 2022. Respondents included 500 executives and 1,000 employees of small to midsize businesses across the United States.