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Leaving them to their own ‘devices’

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Companies are opening up to the idea of letting employees carry out official work on their personal laptops and gadgets

Diversity is a distinctive attribute of the modern workplace. The workforce is typically drawn from various regions and cultures. The devices they use at work are also beginning to display diversity.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), a concept encouraging employees to carry their personal devices to work for official tasks and duties is gaining greater acceptance. In India, it’s becoming prevalent among start-ups.

“Start-ups may encourage this practice due to budget constraints. Allowing employees to use their own laptops, spares them the expenditure of investing in these devices and continually maintaining them. More than the initial investment, it’s the cost of maintaining these devices that can drain a company’s resources. In a typical BYOD system, the employee buys and maintains his own hardware and the employer is expected to install the required software in the device. To protect data, companies following BYOD may apportion one space for official work and another for personal work, in an employee’s personal laptop. Controls are maintained over the official section,” Kiruba Shankar, who runs a technology-driven enterprise and tracks tech trends.

The majority of start-ups have a workforce that is predominantly young. Gen Y employees are capable of an extreme attachment to their gadgets. Young employees and older ones with a similar gadget-consciousness derive a sense of comfort from working with devices — laptops, smartphones or tablets — they have fastidiously chosen for specific features.

Aditya Bedre, who runs a photography enterprise tying up with experts in his field, believes professionals using technology for highly creative pursuits should be allowed to work on their own devices.

“When my assistant wants to work on a photo with a software — loaded in his device — that he has mastered, I should not insist that he use my system, unless it is loaded with better software and is likely to produce better results,” says Aditya.

Not just start-ups and loosely-structured enterprises, even big companies capable of comfortably bearing the expenditure from purchase and maintenance of these devices, can benefit from promoting BYOD.

One of the benefits is technological upgrade. It’s easier for individuals to keep upgrading their devices frequently than for companies. For a company, upgrading its devices often involves massive changes, Kiruba points out. The combined effect of better technology and comfort factor is believed to drive productivity.

Despite these obvious benefits, BYOD is rejected on the grounds of security. As companies try to protect data, they see BYOD as a threat to data security.

Contractual commitments and fears of carelessness are among what may deter companies from adopting a BYOD system. An employee may carelessly sell his personal device without destroying the official data, making it possible for the information to be misused.

“Certain companies may reject BYOD due to a client’s demand for specific systems promoting data security, including the avoidance of a BYOD-style of functioning,” says Kiruba.

Sorav Jain, digital marketing expert, says, “Some companies take the middle path, neither rejecting BYOD nor adopting it. For certain functions, they allow employees to bring their own devices — usually personal laptops and hard disks — but only after a process of registration. It’s taken into account that these employees have used their personal devices at work for a specific purpose. Due to this measure, the employees will be more careful with the data. And in the event of any data leakage, the company has some clues.”

Sorav believes companies should take a function-specific stand, ruling out BYOD for employees dealing with highly sensitive data and allowing it for those engaged in work that defies the boundary between the personal and the professional and is round-the-clock. He cites the example of employees encouraged to be brand ambassadors for a company and expected to promote the company’s culture on social media.

Of course, these employees should be advised to protect sensitive data entrusted to them.

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Printable version | May 27, 2017 1:40:58 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/empower/leaving-them-to-their-own-devices/article6962790.ece