The Future of Work: BYOD, “Bring Your Own Device”?

Current trends have hollowed out the workplace, eliminating the concept of “jobs” (not to mention employer provided “benefits”), offices, and, of course, many of the tools. Capital and management input nothing except cash, and claim ownership of all but a tiny sliver of the worker’s production. (Do I sound grumpy?)

One of the more problematic ideas out there now is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. The advantages are cost and convenience for the employees who already know and love their personal equipment, and it is surely a “light weight”, and perhaps “agile”, business model

This idea surely makes sense for a totally “cloud” based work force, where the work is all out in the cloud somewhere. (I had a well-organized friend who was happy to tell me that all his work was stored on servers, so much so that you could saw his PC in half and he’d never lose any work.) In this case, using a personal device is fine, because you can work from any device.

But other tasks require local software, data, or equipment, which belong to (and make up) the business itself.

A recent article by Brian Gaff (“BYOD? OMG!”) takes a legal viewpoint, and he has a lot to say, most of which seems obvious to me.

How do you keep “work” and “personal” data and activities separate? Who owns what? The security implications are appalling (OMG! Indeed). Workers’ devices bring in who knows what malwear, and carry off who knows what traces of work. I’m not seeing how you can possibly secure the digital property of a company if you allow this kind of willy nilly access.

From the other direction, this puts the onus on the worker for buying, configuring, and protecting the capital equipment of the company. I haven’t heard cases where this is optional (“BYOD, or we will buy you one”), or that workers are compensated extra for providing both equipment and system administration.

My hunch is that this practice will only be prevalent among freelancers and purely digital workers. The countervailing trend will be to make workers use dedicated devices, possibly from secured locations.  This will get to be quite interesting as workers get more and more wearables–perhaps it will become common for employers to provide uniforms, so they can be sure about what the workers are “carrying”.

  1. Gaff, Brian M., BYOD? OMG! Computer, 48 (2):10-11, 2015.

New Way of Work

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