Should companies continue to allow personal technological devices on the job?

Increasingly, especially in small businesses, companies are permitting employees to use their own personal technology devices on the job. Smart phones, laptops, and tablets are the primary technologies being used. This has started a social movement known as BYOD— “bring your own device” to work.

The benefits to small businesses are several. If companies allow personal technologies at work this means they have to spend much less on technology resources themselves. Plus, many employees are more comfortable using their own equipment and it is portable so they can take it with them. Companies also benefit because the employees in possession of their personal devices are “always working.” Some productivity gains may be expected.

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But, the use of many gadgets leads to many risks. One major risk is the lost or stolen devices, which can lead to huge headaches for companies. Once lost or misplaced, others can access company information, some of which may be confidential or proprietary. Most companies do not implement basic policies such as requiring lock codes on the personal devices when they are used at work.

Another big issue is misappropriation of information. Personal devices make it much easier for employees to take information when they leave. Thus, private information may get in the hands of competitors or thieves. Viruses and other malware is another troubling issue. Frequently, employees do not keep virus protection on their personal devices up to date and an infected device could create problems throughout a company’s network. Other issues include ownership, ability to monitor, technical challenges, and unanticipated costs

As work steadily spills into personal lives and companies continue to allow personal devices to be used on the job, the dividing line between work lives and personal lives is beginning to blur. This will pose additional problems for organizations and their staff in the future.

1. What are the ethical issues at stake when companies permit employees to use personal technologies on the job? What are the implications for all stakeholders?

2. On balance, should companies continue to allow personal technological devices on the job or should they disallow them? If they allow them, what policies should be put in place?

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