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Using personal devices at work

The UK leads Europe when it comes to smartphone usage, with more than half of UK consumers having used a smartphone, according to the latest figures. Meanwhile, there was almost a fivefold increase in the number of UK households owning a tablet computer last year. Mobile technology is changing the way we go online, organise our social lives and do our work. As such, it's presenting new challenges for employers to keep pace with the implications for the workplace.

Some organisations have a 'bring your own device' (BYOD) policy, allowing employees access to company resources and data on their personal devices. There are clear advantages of this. On one side, employers get to portray their organisation as forward-thinking and flexible, and also save the cost of having to buy the devices themselves. On the other, employees enjoy the convenience of using their own machines; some analysts claim that BYOD boosts morale and engagement.

But there are risks associated with a poorly managed BYOD policy. Perhaps the most worrying for employers is the threat to security. Phones are easily lost, which presents a real danger if it has been used to access or store confidential company data.

The risk goes in the other direction too. Employees use their devices for their own ends as well as for work, accessing websites or adding content as they see fit. In this manner, they could unintentionally infect their device with malware that could provide a backdoor for hackers into company systems.

When employees leave a firm, it's not straightforward for employers to make sure that any confidential or sensitive information has been deleted from their devices. The device is private property, after all, and not readily accessed by an old employer. And how can an employer be sure the data has not been used improperly or transferred?

Analysts recommend that well-managed BYOD policies should isolate business use from personal. Employers should consider making provision for remotely deleting sensitive data from devices that belong to ex-employees or have gone missing. Employees should also protect their devices with a password.

Acas gives advice on developing effective policies for issues associated with new technologies in the Social media area of its website. Acas advisers can help organisations understand the options available and decide on a way forward. Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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