Let the iPhones in the Office

Employers should allow workers to freely use personal smartphones in the workplace. Pro or con?

Pro: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

In any debate, it’s nice when the opposing viewpoint is merely a theoretical possibility. The fact is that employee-owned devices are coming into the enterprise, despite attempts to prevent them. Even the definition of “into” is vague. Think about it: Even if your company used TSA-style body scanners to prevent you from bringing personal devices to the office, would you ever call a co-worker from your personal iPhone (AAPL) when at home or on vacation? Of course.

So this debate is akin to: “Should we let gravity push us down?” Fun to talk about, but the outcome has essentially been determined. And there are a lot of compelling reasons for allowing BYO technology:

Employees are more productive using devices with which they’re comfortable
Staff morale improves because workers can use their gadgets of choice
Procurement is spared some of the cost of reequipping employees with the latest technology

And my favorite:
They’re going to do it anyway, so why not manage what you can’t prevent?

Some organizations may bristle at BYOT, expressing valid concerns over manageability and security. However, you can mitigate these threats. First, develop clear procedures for securely connecting personal devices to the company network. Also, determine the level of support you’ll provide for personal devices—and what will happen if they’re stolen or lost. Finally, adopt support solutions that let IT easily manage and support a variety of mobile platforms.

Yes, mobile devices need to become more secure and manageable, but your employees aren’t going to wait.

Con: Trouble Waiting to Happen

Allowing employees to connect personal smartphones to corporate networks threatens information security and network privacy and can result in loss of employee productivity and misuse of corporate resources.

With some 300,000 entertainment and other apps available for the iPhone alone, potential distractions are endless and can drain productivity. In addition, many smartphones come equipped with dual cameras for video calling. Wireless carriers offload this video traffic from their 3G networks to available WiFi networks—meaning employees can video chat on the company’s dime and bandwidth.

Mobile devices may inadvertently compromise sensitive communication and information. Increasingly, smartphones are as powerful and versatile as PCs, rendering them vulnerable to viruses and malware. A smartphone’s portability also makes it easier for it to get lost or stolen, increasing the chances that valuable business data will end up in the wrong hands. Some corporations have employees sign a waiver that allows the company to delete all information on the device if it is lost. However, delays in reporting lost devices could give hackers all the time they need. Smartphone viruses and malware applications can infect corporate networks and instantly steal or leak proprietary information.

Corporations have tried to address some of these issues by implementing strong policies—for instance, separating devices for corporate and personal use and adopting security and network-segmentation techniques. But ever-changing mobile-user interactions, the proliferation of applications, and the diversification of platforms will continue to keep security professionals up at night.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the Bloomberg BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or Bloomberg LP.

Reader Comments

siphandone

At my workplace, all cell phones are banned from workplace. Leave it in the bag. Don't be seen on your desk. You come to work, not come to play with your toy. Exception is when they are at the break room.

joeliu58

I want an iPhone mini -ipod with phone capability. No camera, for $200.

Amused

LOL. Shawn Rogers is hilarious! I think his point of view is tongue in cheek:

"With some 300,000 entertainment and other apps available for the iPhone alone, potential distractions are endless and can drain productivity."

Ha ha. Shawn is clearly also making fun of companies who don't use the internet or telephones because of all the distractions.

Aziz Alfaz

I have an alternative view. Iphones should be banned from the workplace but not normal phones. We have to use phones to communicate very necessarily. But iphones or android may have other special uses rather that the main purpose of phones. For instance, surfing the stock market or shopping or chatting with bf/gf may happen by iphones. So, I am against using iphones at the workplace.

Lydia Lin

This debate brings up an interesting question. Some of the iPhone apps, such as the free iGPSGIS, can actually be used for work. So, if a city asks an employee to use the app to track the fire hydrants in the city, should the city provide the employee with an iPhone purchased by the city, or simply let the employee load the app onto the employee's iPhone?

Join the Debate

 

Participate More!

Please send us your ideas for new Debate Room topics. If you're an academic, association officer, or other industry expert and would like to write a Debate Room essay, send us a query. Questions? See the

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!