Bring your own device (BYOD) is a workplace policy that encourages employees to access work systems and information on their own personal devices. Typically this includes laptops, tablets, mobile phones or desktop computers. The movement began as an opportunity for workers to use their own devices which they were familiar with and allow greater access to company information to increase convenience and productivity. Slowly, however, there is a growing concern that these policies may become standard and employers could begin forcing their employees to comply with BYOD and use their own devices for work everyday. This is a dangerous policy, and one that could potentially harm lower income employees.
The obvious reason this could be unfair to lower income employees is because it forces them to invest in technology they cannot comfortably afford. Desktop computers are much more cost-effective than laptops but cannot easily be transported to and from work each day. Using personal devices for work will also cause greater wear and tear on an employees personal device, which could lead them to be forced to pay out of pocket for repairs or replacement devices sooner than otherwise planned. It is also likely that employees will be forced to own a device from a short list of pre-approved phones, laptops and tablets. This could force lower income employees who could not afford the latest and greatest to upgrade their equipment immediately to something outside of their price range. It would also cause low income employees who cannot afford multiple devices to be forced into using a device they would not otherwise choose for their personal device since they are pigeon-holed into owning a device supported by their company. Many employees may not be able to afford smart phones, which have become more commonplace, but are still much more expensive than their basic counterparts. Even if an employee is able to afford a smartphone, having to do a great amount of work on them may require them to upgrade their data plan and raise their monthly bill. A $20 or $30 a month increase doesn’t seem like a great deal but for employees on a strict budget it could cause undue stress.
In a company where BYOD isn’t mandatory but encouraged there are still potential disadvantages for lower income employees. Employees who cannot upgrade to top of the line equipment will be at a disadvantage to their work counterparts and could be forced to work on inferior equipment which could limited their productivity. Without access to devices like tablets and state of the art smart phones they will also be at a significant disadvantage since working remote from home and checking in while on the go will be much more difficult for them. It is quite possible, if not likely, that such employees will find themselves much less productive overall compared to their counterparts who can afford such technologies. There are many benefits to the bring your own device movement and a company that can properly implement and manage it will be able to provide its employees with greater convenience and opportunities for productivity. It is critical, however, to make sure they do not alienate their low income employees during the process, and that could prove a tricky task for even the most savvy company.