How can employers minimize risks associated with personal phone use?

With remote working becoming the norm, most workplaces are embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.
Ericsson mobile phone user
BYOD refers to when employers allow employees to perform their duties using personal devices they can bring to work, including phones, laptops, and tablets. While it has its advantages such as flexibility and convenience, using personal phones for work comes with numerous risks for the business. Below are a few tips to help you manage the risks associated with personal phone use.

1. Identify the Risks

The first step to finding a solution understands the problem. To effectively reduce the risk of personal phone use at work, you need to understand what risks your business faces when employees use their phones for work purposes.  While every business is unique, below are common risks associated with personal phone use for work.

  • Data Breaches. Most times, cybercriminals get access to critical company data through employees. Also, your staff may leak important business information through their devices, either intentionally or not.
  • Low Productivity. Employees are more prone to distractions when using personal phones for work which lowers their productivity.
  • Legal Obligations. If your employees leak confidential information through their phones or engage in illegal activities, your business risks running into legal problems.
  • Costs of Implementation and Management. If you don’t provide phones for employees to use when working, you should reimburse them for the expenses they incur using their phones. You also need to invest in tracking tools like mobile device management services, which may add to your business expenses.
  • Inconvenience from phone damage or loss. Phone loss or damage may cause inconveniences and affect the company’s operations. It also puts your business information at risk of falling into the wrong hands.
  • Employees may create relationships with your business prospects and clients to divert business to themselves once they leave the company.

With a clear picture of how personal phone use can affect your business, you can effectively develop solutions to minimize the risks and ensure continuity and growth.

2. Reserve the Right to Monitor

Since personal phone use gives employees more freedom on what they can do on their phones, you should reserve the right to monitor their activities.  Before allowing the use of personal phones, you should explicitly state that you will monitor work-related activities and information.  One way to accomplish this is by using mobile device management (MDM) tools.  MDM also helps separate personal and business data, making it easy to monitor work-related activities without the risks of prying into personal details.

3. Enforce Data Protection Measures

Data breaches can not only ruin your business integrity and reputation but also lead to lawsuits. To minimize the risk of confidential information getting into the wrong hands, set up data protection measures to reinforce data security on your staff’s phones. These may include encrypting company information on the mobile devices, password and VPN use, and using wiping technology in case of phone loss. You should also bar employees from downloading or storing company information without permission and prohibit unauthorized access of company information by third parties.

4. Staff Sensitization

The more your employees know, the better they can protect your business from the various risks of personal use. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct staff training on the dangers of personal phone use for work. You can do this by organizing seminars and educational programs for staff.  Other than pinpointing the risks of using personal devices for work, train staff to identify potential threats and deal with them in case they occur. Doing so empowers your employees and minimizes the risks associated with personal phone use.

5. Implement a BYOD Policy

The best way to safeguard your business is by coming up with a detailed BYOD policy to regulate the use of personal phones at work. You can draft the policy with the help of your hr and an employment lawyer to avoid ambiguity and ensure its legitimacy.  Below are some of the details to include in your company’s BYOD policy.

  • Acceptable and unacceptable apps for employees to install on their phone
  • Mandatory security settings for the mobile devices
  • Details about location tracking features if any.
  • The appropriate phone use habits
  • Who is responsible for the costs

A BYOD policy helps you regain control and provides the best way for employees to use their phones without putting your business in jeopardy. However, be careful not to infringe on employee rights, such as their freedom to talk about their concerns, wages and even join labor unions.

If you are an HR manager and need help with creating and implementing policies for your workplace regarding personal phone use, it is best to consult an employment lawyer. Doing so ensures that you stay compliant with employment law while protecting your business from the risks of personal phone use by employees.