As digital transformation has become more of a buzzword over the last year to 18 months, bring your own device (BYOD) is another term that has risen in popularity. BYOD is the practice of allowing employees to use their own computers, smartphones or other devices for work purposes and there is a growing school of thought that bring your own devices policies can help organisations implement not only flexible working, but a more collaborative workplace culture.
These types of initiatives are more likely to be rolled out in smaller companies to help keep costs down; ensuring employees have important documents on them when it counts, instead of carrying two devices.
However, larger companies that are dealing with digital transformation are looking towards BYOD to streamline their processes whilst also becoming more agile. This increased desire to transition to bring your own device is also prevailing in larger organisations primarily to enable them to act like those Silicon Valley start-ups that have now become the global tech giants, such as Airbnb and Uber.
These companies tend to have a bring your own device policy as a point of order and people who are not in the Silicon Valley bubble often feel that they lead the way when it comes to new technologies and ways of working.
Different working patterns are influencing much of how companies operate nowadays. As little as 10 years ago, the idea of an employee having the option of working from home numerous days a week would previously have been unheard of. As technology has advanced and working patterns have evolved, the responsibility has fallen on organisations to adapt.
However, it is not just employees of tech firms that are changing the ways we work. Across a multitude of sectors, employees are looking towards flexible working in order to simplify day-to-day processes.
Local government, specifically UK councils, are one such sector. However, even if employees want to work flexibly, being able to offer such a policy is an entirely different matter as they can take time to introduce. For example, some organisations may not even be operating in the cloud and would therefore have to implement this before adding any BYOD flexible working offering.
With resources tight in many UK councils, it is unlikely that they are going to be looking to bring your own device policies as a priority, instead wanting to focus on activities that directly service the community.
The lack of investment in such policies is demonstrated by a recent survey from technology specialist, Ricoh UK. Using a Freedom of Information request, they surveyed 18 London councils about their BYOD policies and found that only half have such a policy in place, clearly demonstrating that these kind of programmes are not high on the public sector agenda.
Whilst there is clearly a need for the number of public sector organisations to improve their use of BYOD and other flexible working initiatives, another striking result from the survey revealed that of those councils that did allow employees to bring their own devices, there is a clear disparity in the number that choose to do it.
For example, there are 492 BYOD devices registered with Camden council – the highest in London – however in Royal Greenwich, there are only five devices registered. Whilst some councils are doing a good job putting in place bring your own device programmes, it appears they are not going to the next step and offering employees the training or development to demonstrate how these policies will benefit them in the long run.
Ensuring staff understand the benefits of flexible working is imperative for organisations that are shifting towards a bring your own device policy. There is no point making the investment in converting to a cloud-based infrastructure and then only having five or so employees taking full advantage of the benefits. Whilst it may not be feasible for all employees to use the policy, it remains important for them to be aware of it so they can take advantage of other benefits that go hand in hand, such as flexible working and increased productivity.
It’s not just councils that are failing to implement bring your own device; another study revealed that 42 per cent of local authorities that were questioned do not have a policy in place, suggesting that the public sector is well behind the private sector when it comes to applying such programmes. One possible reason why this may be the case is the strict guidelines that they face exist around data security, specifically citizens’ confidential information. This means that it is vital for them to have a clear BYOD strategy in place before employees use their own devices to access an organisation’s data. It is therefore not possible for the public sector to have a BYOD strategy in place unless it is thought through rigorously with such potentially sensitive data available on computers.
According to a report by the ONS, which found that the unemployment rate in the UK is now the lowest since the mid-70s, more people are now entering the workforce than ever before. However, whilst this is positive for the economy, it means that employers need to assess their working environment, as new employees will be looking to work in different ways.
In the future, employees will not only expect proper bring your own device schemes to effectively collaborate with colleagues but they will also demand flexible working. This could come in many different guises, from being able to work remotely to allowing employees to access social networks so that they can contact colleagues in different offices around the world without having to travel there.
As the research demonstrates, there is much work to be done in the public sector when it comes to modernising technology and ways of working. Whilst introducing bring your device initiatives and flexible working opportunities can be challenging, attracting and retaining, young, skilled workers to the public sector must be a key priority. The key to achieving this is to introduce new ways of working.
Chas Moloney, Director, Ricoh UK
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