The workplace is evolving as more mobile technology is introduced into the normal way of communicating and handling tasks. As of the most recent figures from Pew Research, 90 percent of Americans own a mobile device. Smart Insights data reveals use of mobile devices has now surpassed that of computer desktops in terms of finding and using information.
Mobile Devices in the Workplace
It's also important to note that work, as a whole, has been transformed by the mobile device revolution. According to a survey conducted by the International Data Corporation, "U.S. mobile worker population will grow at a steady rate over the next five years, increasing from 96.2 million in 2015 to 105.4 million mobile workers in 2020." That's three-quarters of the American adult workforce that will be working remotely at least part of the time and using their mobile devices to remain productive.
Mobile devices may include the following:
- Smart phones
- GPS systems
These devices are no longer optional for use in work environments, but rather have become a regular practice. Therefore, it's up to companies to create mobile device policies to manage this type of technology and reduce the risk associated with it.
Managing Mobile Devices
From a human resource management standpoint, companies need to establish formal mobile device policies that protect the organization and limit their use to professional purposes. Employees increasingly turn to mobile technology to stay connected to both their personal and professional lives, to communicate with peers, and to collaborate on tasks, but this doesn't negate the fact that any time data is shared outside of the confines of a secure server, it can fall prey to theft.
The aspects that a mobile use policy need to cover in the average workplace can include:
- How mobile use is to be monitored to protect the safety and security of company-specific information and clients
- If the data usage will be monitored and what will happen if an employee abuses the amount of data (for example: downloading large files without permission)
- How mobile devices are to be stored and safely transported to and from the office, as well as during travel
- Where employees can get support for any technical issues that arise from use of mobile devices and software
If the mobile devices are owned by the company, then use records are accessible, and employees should be educated they will be monitored anytime they are using a company-provided mobile device to conduct professional and personal tasks. So too, the company will be responsible for providing password-protected networks that are supported by an on-call technical support team 24/7.
An example of a simple written workplace policy on mobile devices can be found at LegalZoom. Additionally, the Society for Human Resource Management recommends any mobile device use policy include the following elements and be published along with other employment policies:
- The objective and purpose of the mobile use policy as it applies to the work environment
- The type of devices that are covered under the mobile use policy (including those owned by employees or bring your own device (BYOD))
- Examples of acceptable use of mobile devices for practical work tasks and communications
- The known risks and prohibition of certain types of activities that mobile devices may be used for
- The corrective and/or full disciplinary actions that can be taken for violators of the policy
- Where employees may obtain further information with a contact person's name /email provided
In terms of creating a workplace policy for managing mobile device use, data cannot be ignored as a major component. Companies need solid systems for monitoring data coming in and leaving the organization. Monitoring use may be handled by a central communications team that reviews usage reports and alerts users on reducing data use. Large file sharing should be handled by way of secure file transfer protocol versus sending them over mobile devices. A company can control data by:
- Creating a limit on data usage for each individual user of company-provided mobile devices and smart phones
- Setting up alerts for data overages, abuses, and incidents that may warrant more investigation
- Training employees how to share files safely on the FTP system, especially company proprietary information
- Partnering with a communications vendor that can monitor and advise users on data best practices
In a time where mobile devices have become accessible and affordable, many employees are accustomed to using their own mobile equipment to engage in a variety of personal and professional activities while on the company clock. While the use of personal devices for work purposes can and should be discouraged, employers should work this into the written policy.
- Educate employees they can be personally held liable for sharing sensitive company information.
- Prohibit mobile devices that allow photography and file sharing in the workplace.
- Give guidelines for proper use of BYOD for personal use only, not work tasks.
From an employer standpoint, there is another reason to discourage the use of mobile devices to stay connected to work outside of regular work hours. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), time using mobile resources to conduct work-related tasks (for example: checking work emails) can be considered compensable work time. Additionally, if an employee racks up any expenses while using his or her personal mobile devices (for example: purchasing mobile Wi-Fi time), then the company may be forced to reimburse for these costs.
Managing Mobile Technology and Systems
Fortunately, there are a number of resources and tools available for companies that want to develop a strong mobile device use policy, while protecting the company from any potential harm.
- US Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shares a free downloadable guide on maintaining security of mobile devices for enterprises.
- Stay Safe Online provides multiple tips for keeping mobile devices safe and secure at all times, with best practices for companies that provide access to mobile technology.
- Roboform, a popular product that creates passwords with an app for most types of mobile devices, allows users to keep information locked safely behind hard-to-break passwords.
Education Improves Mobile Device Management
These are just a few ways that your company can manage and control mobile devices in the workplace. Remember that education goes a long way towards maintaining a workplace where information is secure, and employees can maximize productivity with mobile devices.