With so many employees embracing flexible working, are business mobiles the best way to stay connected?
There’s a growing consensus that desk or office-bound phone systems are no longer sufficient to keep organisations in touch – either with their own workforces, or with their networks of clients and contacts.
Despite the greater flexibility and coverage offered by the latest cloud and internet-based telecommunications options like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), the nature of today’s business environment – where increasing numbers of workers are based at home, on the road, or in remote locations – makes the use of mobile phones in some capacity more of a necessity than a luxury.
Knowing this, companies are then faced with the decision as to whether to allow their staff to use their personal phones for work purposes in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) situation, or to make an investment in issuing business mobiles to their employees. Here are some of the factors to take into account, in resolving this dilemma.
Freedom of Movement
When travelling on official business (e.g., to attend a conference, or as part of a sales run), workers in possession of a company-issued mobile device remain part of the enterprise telecommunications system and have access to its facilities while extending their scope of operations to reach customers and contacts in any location.
Members of an organisation who aren’t normally based in an office (such as home-based workers, or remote staff) may also be tied into the system if they are issued with mobiles which have been sanctioned by the business.
Location-based freedom is one aspect of the switch to business mobile devices. Another is independence from time constraints.
Expansion into global markets, online commerce, and the prevailing consumer-centric culture which demands 24/7/365 service and support have all contributed to the demise of the “9 to 5” working day. Enterprise users need to be reachable at all hours, to field queries or to promote their businesses to existing and potential clients in any time zone.
There’s a caveat to this of course, in that always being available can eat into a worker’s time outside of traditional working hours and cause disruptions to their work-life balance (link to Swytch article) which can adversely affect their performance. And with a business mobile device in their possession, there’s always the temptation to use it for personal matters.
This said, issuing company-approved mobile devices to employees does allow businesses a greater degree of control in several respects.
Consistency can be maintained in the choice of hardware and operating systems used – which makes the job of troubleshooting, maintaining, and updating systems a more streamlined process for IT divisions.
Application monitoring, accounting, and line provision may all be administered from a common platform. This allows management more oversight regarding data governance, performance assessment, and the auditing of requirements for industry or regulatory compliance.
Issuing business mobiles to employees also gives the enterprise greater scope for cost management – from the initial purchase of devices through to the various subscriptions available for voice and data.
Most carriers offer dedicated bundles and business plans to enterprise clients, which can result in big cost savings – and which set clear parameters for voice, data, and text usage to which workers must adhere. Knowing that their business mobile usage is subject to monitoring and inclusion on the company’s monthly phone bill tends to discourage personal use of company devices during working hours.
Rights of Ownership
Company-issued mobile devices can also clarify issues of intellectual property and data ownership, for information and contact data held on business hardware. This may become a contentious issue with personally owned devices when, for example, an employee leaves the company – and takes the client list they’ve managed to build up (or other resources) with them.
From the outset, there needs to be a clear demarcation of what information and resources are exclusively owned by the enterprise – together with a formalised policy on data usage and rights to business contacts.
Labour Laws & Compensation Issues
The labour laws of many jurisdictions require employers to give extra compensation (“time and a half”, overtime, etc.) to their workers for hours spent outside of certain periods of the day (typically based on traditional office hours). Use of company phones – including business mobiles – may qualify for this, and unless workers are exempt from these additional payments for some reason, business mobile use may impose an unanticipated strain on company budgets.
The legal jurisdictions of many countries have also imposed penalties for the use of mobile phones while driving or operating heavy machinery – and rightly so. Therefore, any accidents or fatalities caused while texting on a company-issued device in heavy traffic (for example) could have serious repercussions for the business.
Unless the business is prepared to shell out for a hands-free wireless microphone set for each device it issues – and impose a strictly enforced policy requiring headset use while driving (and even that may not be enough) – a blanket ban on mobile phone use when in control of a vehicle is the safest option.
The BYOD Option
BYOD or Bring Your Own Device is often viewed as the low-cost alternative to issuing company mobiles to employees.
While it’s true that BYOD relieves the enterprise of the financial burden of supplying hardware, there are still cost implications – such as whether workers should be reimbursed for use of their personal devices after office hours (and if so, how much?).
Data security is also an issue – in terms of corporate information being stored on personal devices, and possibly shared or transmitted to unauthorised third parties.
Intellectual property and sensitive corporate data may also fall victim to spyware or malicious apps installed without IT supervision.
Mobile Device Management (MDM)
Whether personal or corporate devices are involved, an effective Mobile Device Management (MDM) policy should be in place, setting rules for the storage and use of enterprise data.
A “white list” of approved mobile apps should be drawn up – and devices should be monitored to ensure that only those approved applications are being installed and used.
Clearly though, the more devices you have to manage, the greater the complexity and commitment in time and resources. The cloud-based Swytch network empowers businesses by providing UK-registered mobile business numbers which may be assigned for workers to use on their personal devices. Administration and management are co-ordinated from a central dashboard – so there’s MDM built in.
As for the question whether business mobiles are the best option for employees?
Smaller-scale businesses may find that a BYOD policy better suits their budget and human resources.
But larger enterprises having a bigger investment in their intellectual property, data governance, and regulatory compliance obligations will tend to benefit more from the increased control and oversight they get with company-issued devices.
Businesses at all scales can clearly benefit from a solution which enables workers to use their own devices, but with dedicated business phone numbers, and a centralised administration hub that allows for account management, provisioning, usage analytics, and greater cost control. The cloud-hosted Swytch network is such a solution.