Is Your Company’s Mobile Device Policy Ready for a Hybrid World?

The workplace has undergone a radical change in a short period of time. Make sure your mobile policies are keeping up.

Written by Chris Balcik
Published on Jun. 14, 2022
Is Your Company’s Mobile Device Policy Ready for a Hybrid World?
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There’s no question that businesses have been compelled to change over the last two years to keep pace with employees’ changing needs and demands. Small and medium-sized businesses have felt this pressure more acutely than enterprises, but every business has seen some measure of disruption. With the increasing prevalence of remote work, mobile device policies are one area in which businesses need to refine their thinking.

Mobile technology policies from 2019 are inadequate for employees today. They are not always sitting in offices, and they need mobile work phones more than ever. Many workers also returned to hybrid offices and found that their companies had eliminated desk phones in favor of productivity and collaboration apps, all of which require a device such as a laptop or a smartphone. Yet small businesses tend not to provide employees with smartphones, only laptops. 

This oversight is now an issue: Would you take a job that expects great work, but doesn’t provide you with the tools you need? A new Oxford Economics and Samsung study found this is the current reality for many employees when it comes to smartphones. 

Oxford Economics surveyed 500 executives and 1,000 employees at companies with fewer than 2,500 employees, with the majority of respondents working at small businesses with fewer than 250 employees. 

The results were striking. Respondents revealed that smartphones have become critical tools for today’s professionals, offering the ability to consolidate devices, boost productivity, and reduce costs.

Despite this, only 15 percent of businesses provide smartphones to all employees, while 46 percent take a hybrid approach where some employees receive smartphones and others don’t. Another 39 percent operate based on the bring your own device (BYOD) approach. 

Companies providing smartphones to their workers say they’ve done so to improve productivity (95 percent), simplify management (86 percent), and improve security (70 percent). These are important — arguably critical — factors for all companies, no matter the size or industry. So, why aren’t all of today’s employers issuing workers smartphones? 

3 Benefits From Issuing Employees Devices

  • Better security management.
  • More productivity.
  • Lower employee turnover.

More on Hybrid WorkWhat Is a Hybrid Work Model, and How Do We Make It Work?

 

Cost Savings Confusion 

When asked why their companies don’t offer employees smartphones like they do with laptops, 95 percent of executives cited cost as a significant factor. Superficially, this objection might make sense.

Considering the cost of devices, including service plans, stipends, average device replacement cycles, and IT management costs, Oxford Economics notes BYOD companies spend $341 less per employee per year. But don’t be fooled. A more holistic view of mobile device policies reveals that the BYOD “savings” come at a significant cost to employee productivity, workforce efficiency, data security, and potentially employee retention. When businesses provide smartphones, employees are able to use their devices for multiple work-related tasks all while protected by company security measures. 

So, although upfront costs are always a factor, especially for small businesses, the long-term impacts can greatly outweigh the short-term savings. 

 

Mobile Security Proves Costly 

The survey revealed that companies providing smartphones to employees have better mobile security practices than those that rely on employees’ personal devices. In fact, the survey results showed that 93 percent of companies providing mobile devices to employees have a mobile device management (MDM) solution — a central system that enforces policies across a fleet of mobile devices — in place to help reduce security risks.

This number falls to just 40 percent for BYOD companies, leaving smartphones and corporate data unmanaged, and organizations without the tools necessary to mitigate security risks or respond when devices are lost, stolen, or compromised. 

MDM solutions help businesses avoid costly security issues, which can be taxing. Without the ability to allow and block apps or websites, force updates, and remotely wipe lost or stolen devices, organizations can be exposed to threats.

Oxford Economics also noted that businesses lost an average of $6,493 over the last five years just to data loss from employee theft. For small businesses, this is a huge hit. 

Companies with mobile security solutions in place tend to practice better security hygiene, according to the study. Of the companies with MDM solutions, 77 percent use two-factor authentication, compared with 61 percent of BYOD companies. Similarly, 72 percent of mobile-device-managed employees use passwords with at least eight characters, versus only 62 percent of employees in BYOD organizations. MDM solutions require lengthy, unique passwords as an extra layer of protection to stop bad actors from hacking other accounts where the same or similar password was used.

Better security solutions lead to better security practices. Better practices mean fewer and less costly security issues.

 

Productivity’s Price 

Your employees are now a mobile workforce in a mobile world; they need to be agile and get things done on the go. Mobile devices are key to unlocking their potential. 

Three-quarters of executives say productivity influences their decisions to provide smartphones to their employees, according to Oxford Economics. Moreover, 57 percent of employees now say smartphones are essential to their jobs. 

In an effort to further equip employees with improved technology, nearly two-thirds of companies said they plan to invest in new mobile technology, such as foldable mobile devices, over the next four years. The enthusiasm for leading-edge technology is also felt in the broader workforce, with 86 percent of employees stating they are excited to experience the new benefits of these devices in action.

Furthermore, companies are realizing that issuing phones positively impacts workforce productivity. At this point, 63 percent of smartphone-providing companies view them as “critical to agility and speed of decision-making,” and nearly half (46 percent) believe they are ahead of their competition when it comes to the use of smartphone technology. Conversely, many BYOD organizations recognize they are lagging: 34 percent say they are behind the curve when it comes to mobility. 

More in Founders + EntrepreneurshipWhy You Should Build for Your Actual User, Not Your Aspirational One

 

Mobile Workforce Turnover 

Since smaller companies are typically not as well-known as larger enterprises, recruiting can be an uphill battle. This is doubly true in today’s challenging hiring climate.

Employees want to be set up for success, and when businesses provide employees with the tools they need to get the job done, both sides are better for it. This explains why mobile device policies come into play when professionals choose where they want to work. 

Oxford Economics found that employers that provide devices enjoy higher growth and lower employee turnover rates. While less than half (45 percent) of BYOD companies reported growth of 5 percent or more in the past three years, the majority (53 percent) of device-providing organizations had higher growth rates. At the same time, most device-issuing organizations (51 percent) reported annual turnover rates under 10 percent, compared with just 37 percent of BYOD organizations having turnover rates that low. 

So, while organizations might be inclined to ask why they should provide employees with smartphones, the answers are in these numbers. Employers that provide smartphones have more productive, empowered, and secure employees who are less likely to leave. Any supposed short-term costs are more than offset by long-term benefits.

As employees continue to return to offices — and embrace hybrid work models — employers should re-examine their mobile device policies and calculate the cost of their approach. In our evolving world, issuing and managing mobile devices will ultimately prove to be smarter and more profitable than expecting employees to work on their own smartphones.

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