If your employees regularly work outside of the office and need to stay in contact, issuing a business phone or a tablet can allow them to be more productive. So, what is the best way to go about it?

 

When your employees have a tablet or a smartphone, they will be reachable no matter where they go – both by their employer and by other co-workers. By improving internal communication you will make working as a team easier than ever.

 

In this modern business marketplace, cell phones are a business essential for employees in many fields. The roving employee no longer needs to operate completely solo – they can call upon the in-house network of experts at a moment’s notice.

 

Although supplying business cell phones and tablets to your employees creates a more accessible, connected and efficient workforce, the expenses can also add up. Also, there are certain issues and concerns to consider. Here are some things you should keep in mind when issuing a company provided business phone or tablet.

 

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not you should let employees supply their own devices to use while at work. According to this infographic from Trustwave, 75% of companies allow employees to use their personal devices while at work.

 

The pros of letting your employees bring their own device are that they will be more efficient and comfortable with their own phones. Also, you are not responsible for the device should it be lost or stolen. You will also save money on administrative overhead because you will not have to deal with wireless companies, purchasing equipment or keeping track of billing records.

 

The main disadvantage to this is security. If your employees work with sensitive data, it could be more vulnerable on their own device. For example, your employees could expose your corporate data by failing to apply software security updates on their devices. Every time you let an employee store or transmit work related information using their tablet, personal laptop or smartphone, you lose some degree of control over it. Employees may also worry about whether or not the company has access to their personal emails, text messages, phone records and applications.

 

If you are planning on letting employees access company resources using their own mobile devices, it is very important to govern how these devices are used and managed. You’ll want to develop a policy for mobile device security, encryption, passwords, data classification, acceptable use, anti-virus software and more. The policy should clearly address access rights, custody and ownership for the information involved – or there is a risk of liability.

 

However, when the device belongs to the employee you will always have a limited amount of control over the way it is used and you will need to depend on employees to secure their devices.

 

Supplying Devices to Employees

Even though the initial capital will be much higher, there are advantages to supplying devices to your employees. First of all, it will be easier to install an employee monitoring app on them, so that you have some control over the activities that they are used for. Plus, you will be able to see what company data is being transmitted. Also, managing multiple devices will become more uniform.

 

If you supply business cell phones or tablets, you will be able to determine the way the device is used, install security software, encrypt company data, monitor the use of the device and apply security patches in order to avoid malware, hacking and misuse.

 

Of course, when you are supplying devices to employees you will need to choose a cellphone plan that offers good value for money. The good news is that competition among cell phone plan providers is fierce, so with a little bit of research you can get a good deal.

 

Shop around with various providers and explain the scale of your needs. You can get a few quotes, and then try to negotiate further – you might be surprised at how negotiable the costs are if you have a contract with multiple employees. These days, a small business phone service is provided by most major carriers regardless of where your business is located. 

 

Tablets and Smartphones Can be Valuable Training Resources

Company issued smartphones and tablets can also be used as training tools. They provide access to tremendous amounts of knowledge and information that your employees can use to get better at their jobs.

 

For example, in the NFL the management of the Baltimore Ravens used to give the team training binders, but recently swapped them for rugged tablets. The players now have access to an incredible library of nutritional information, team calendars, film from previous games, strategy, tips and much more.

 

A sales employee who already uses his or her smartphone to listen to music while on the road, could also be using it to improve their sales skills by listening to a podcast featuring sales strategies and tips. Consider how you can install learning software and access to courses, ebooks, audio materials and other content that will enhance the knowledge and skills of your workforce.

 

Available All Hours is Not Always a Good Thing

Some employees have been hesitant about accepting a company provided business cell phone, as they fear that their employers would suddenly expect them to be available after working hours.

 

Make sure that you are very clear about whether or not employees are expected to respond to messages and email on their smartphones after working hours. If they are being paid overtime or an on-call rate, this is reasonable. However, if you aren’t paying them then they have no obligation to answer until they clock in the next morning.

 

Employers who are enlightened and value their staff understand that they won’t retain top quality talent if they don’t value their time. Also, working long hours and being connected all the time actually makes you less, rather than more, productive. Research finds that employee output falls off sharply after a 50 hour work week, then even more dramatically after 55 hours.

 

Even more shockingly, an employee who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study by Stanford University’s John Pencavel. So, even if you do give your employees smartphones, make sure that you encourage them to turn them off and relax and recharge at the end of the day.

 

More Tips for Issuing Smartphones and Tablets to Employees

 

  • Have a clear strategy before you proceed – why are you looking to issue smartphones, what are you hoping to achieve with them?

 

  • Outfitting the device with a rugged tablet or smartphone cover will prevent it from becoming damaged or cracked if bumped or dropped. Investing in protective covers could save you a lot of money by avoiding the need to replace broken phones or purchase additional insurance plans.

 

  • When you begin providing business phones to certain employees, other employees will start to ask for company provided phones as well. If you have a reason as to why you gave one employee a phone and not another one, it’s important to make this clear. If the employees don’t feel that your decisions are fair, this can create resentment and animosity.

 

  • If you operate a small business, consider looking into a small business phone service, as there are likely plans that are affordable and well suited to your needs.