BYOD—and Hold the Ice

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If you work construction, you probably have to have your own tools to bring to the job.  Hand tools, drills, and other tools are considered personal equipment.  It’s not unusual, and many tradespeople prefer to use their own tools on the job.  Chefs have their own personal sets of kitchen knives.  Hair stylists, makeup artists and massage therapists invest hundreds of dollars for personal equipment that travels with them. 

A whole new class of employees is joining the ranks of those who have to BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Devices.”  Companies are changing the way they do business, trading in adding machines, typewriters and land-lines for computers, laptops, tablets and Smartphones.  These devices cost money—a lot of money, and they are passing on the expense to their employees.

The days of the company car, company phone and company credit card are fading into the past.  Faced with rising costs, companies aren’t willing to pay the high cost of changing technology.  Having your own electronic devices may become part of job requirements for recruiting purposes.  Instead of asking if a candidate has reliable transportation, the question could be, “Do you have your own IPad and a data plan?”  Everyone has a Smartphone, right?  So why should the company pay the high cost of phones and data plans when most employees have their own?  They are on their own phones all day anyway.  Two phones to answer are distracting and unnecessary.

These digital devices are expensive for employees, too.  A candidate may be desperate enough to get the job that they’re willing to buy electronic devices they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves.   Some companies may share the cost of devices or supply software, but upgrades, data plans and insurance are the responsibility of the employee.

The high cost of devices could exclude a whole group of candidates.  Could BYOD become a new case for job discrimination?   If companies can’t ask a candidate if they have their own car, which is considered discriminatory for a whole class of individuals, can they ask if a candidate has his own laptop, Smartphone and IPad? 

BYOD also means the end of the real workday.  Salaried employees are used to putting in as many hours they need to get the job done.  Hourly employees, however, have to be paid for hours worked.  With cell phones and texts keeping employees tied to the office, reading and responding to work emails and texting at all hours of the day and night, are they adding work hours that should be paid straight time or overtime in the workweek?  It won’t take long for hourly employees to start clocking in remotely to put in a few extra hours in the evening.  Employers could end up paying lots of overtime if the company culture encourages or requires employees to always answer phones and respond to emails.  With companies doing more with fewer employees, they may feel pressured to work at home just to keep up and maintain performance standards.

With personal electronic devices, who owns the information and data?  Companies will have to overhaul internet policies.  Along with BYOD come new rules for confidentiality.  The cost savings may not be enough to make up for the high cost of protecting company secrets, product development and other proprietary information.  There are a lot of questions that need answers.  One thing is for sure, the world of work is changing, and BYOD may become the difference between a job and no job.

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