BYOD: Exploring the Evolution of Work Device Practices in a New Remote-Forward Era [Survey]

Beyond Identity Blog

Highlights:

  • 49.7% of employees say their employer doesn’t give them a choice on what type of device they get to use for work. 
  • An overwhelming 80% of employees say they’d prefer to use separate devices for work and personal activities.
  • Over 1 in 4 employees using work-issued devices say they’ve damaged company tech before.
  • 61.8% of people using a personal device for work say they don’t receive a stipend from their employer for device upkeep.

Thanks to the rise of remote work, bringing your own device (BYOD) for work became more popular than ever. And it’s only expected to rise: Studies project the BYOD market will reach $450 billion by 2022.

BYOD programs can provide benefits to both employees and employers. Employees get the benefits of using the device of their choosing and not having to lug a second set of technology around with them. For employers, there are cost savings to be found, as letting employees use their own devices shifts the costs to the employee, although some studies suggest this would be only modest savings. BYOD may also increase productivity and improve overall employee satisfaction, as people tend to prefer their own tech.

There are also risks to BYOD policies, such as potential security breaches and poorer work-life balance for employees. BYOD may give employers access to employee’s personal data. You may even find yourself with a data-wipe of your device if you part ways with your company, as happened to one former Google employee who used her personal cellphone for work.

To understand more about the emerging BYOD trend and the respective pros and cons, we surveyed over 1,000 employees who use technology for work about their preferences for what type of device they use and how the devices they use impact their productivity and work-life balance. Read on to see what we learned.

Who’s Bringing Their Own Device to Work

To get a sense of the current technological landscape, the first part of our study explores the different devices used by employees in their workplace.

work issued vs person devices

Employees reported using between 2 and 3 devices for work, on average. Computers were by far the most common device used for work as determined by nearly every person surveyed. Smartphones are also becoming increasingly popular as work devices, with two-thirds of respondents reporting using a smartphone for work. Less common were tablets, which less than one-quarter of people admitted to using, and e-readers, which only 5.7% of employees used.

We then asked respondents if the devices they used were work-issued or their own. The majority of people use work-issued devices. Almost 50% of respondents said they use only work-issued devices compared to just over 14% who use only personal devices. About 36% of people said they use both work-issued and personal devices. 

That said, the vast majority – almost 81% – of people would prefer to have separate devices for work and personal use. Experts agree it’s better to have a clear separation of work-life and personal life; using personal devices can also lead to more stress or unpaid overtime. 

The BYOD Security Conundrum

When it comes to using devices for work, security is a vital concern.

security devices of all kinds

One of the main arguments against BYOD is that it opens the risk of a security breach when personal devices are used for work. Personal devices are usually more vulnerable to hackers who can then use these devices to access corporate networks. Given this, we would expect employers to have strict policies on securing personal devices when used for work, but this wasn’t the case for many of the people we surveyed. While the majority of employers did have specific security policies for personal devices, almost 40% did not.

Nearly 85% of people using only work-issued devices said their employer pays to secure them. Of those using only personal devices for work, 49% said their employer pays to ensure their personal devices remain secure. 

Without their employer contributing to their security, it appeared that employees who used only personal devices for work seemed to implement security measures. Employees who solely used personal devices were the least likely to use any of the security measures we asked about, from passwords to encryption. Interestingly, though, employees utilizing both work-issued and personal devices were the most likely to employ most of these security measures, except for VPNs or encryption. 

Decoding Employer-Issued Devices

We next explored the different aspects of work-issued devices in the workplace.

the ins and outs of work issued devices infographic

For most employees, their employer chose the brand of work-issued devices, but 37% of respondents said they got to choose the brand of their work-issued device. If given the choice, most employees said they would use Apple devices for work, with almost one-third of respondents choosing it over other brands. The second most popular brand was Dell, although it only received 17% of the vote. HP was also a commonly preferred brand among employees.

One of the concerns with remote work is that people will start using work-issued devices for personal use, but our survey showed people actually used their work-issued devices for personal activities less often when working from home. People working in an office were more likely to say they engaged in all of the personal activities we asked about, from checking personal email to online shopping to social media or gaming. In-office workers were even twice as likely as remote workers to view adult content on work-issued devices. 

Hybrid workers were the most likely to check personal email or stream videos or music on a work-issued device, but they were also the least likely to use their work-issued device to view adult content. And less than 1% of hybrid workers viewed or stored pirated content on their work-issued devices, compared to 7% of remote workers and over 10% of on-site workers. Hybrid workers were also less likely to do any gaming on their work-issued device. So perhaps the best strategy for employers that are concerned about personal use on work-issued devices is to allow employees to have a bit of both in-office and remote working lifestyles.

If the concern is damage to or the security of work-issued devices, our survey suggests employers needn’t worry too much. Almost 74% of respondents said they’ve never damaged an employer-issued device, though around 20% were aware of one of their work-issued devices getting hacked.

The Pros of Personal Devices

To compare the different aspects of work-issued device usage with personal device usage, we asked people why they use their personal devices for work.

reasons people use personal devices infographic

The most common reason people used personal devices for work was that they like to have everything in one place. The second most common reason (29.3%) was that people weren’t provided with the devices they needed by their employer.

For some, the choice to use a personal device for work came down to quality. If their employer didn’t give them high-quality devices, they’d rather use their own. Similarly, if an employer didn’t provide the brand of device the employee likes, our respondents indicated that they would rather just use their own. For about 24% of respondents, their personal devices were more transportable or powerful than work-issued devices. And over 22% said their employer-issued device doesn’t work properly. Studies have shown employees who don’t like their workplace technology are more likely to quit; one strategy for employers who want to improve workplace satisfaction is simply to give employees better tech.

The COVID-19 pandemic has blurred the lines between work and personal life, and many employees said they’ve started using their personal devices for work more often since the pandemic started; over 58% of respondents said their personal device use for work increased, compared to just under 31% who said COVID-19 had no impact on their usage. Just over one in 10 people said they’ve actually decreased their use of personal devices for work since COVID-19.

When employees use their personal devices – such as cellphones – for work, this opens the door to questions of whether they should be getting reimbursed for this usage. Some states, like California, require employers to reimburse employees who use their personal cellphones for work, but there is no federal requirement that employers reimburse employees for business-related expenses. According to our survey, most employers did not provide a stipend for the upkeep of personal devices used by employees for work. Only around 38% of respondents said their employer pays such a personal device upkeep stipend.

The Impacts of Personal Devices vs. Work-Issued Devices

To get to the bottom of the BYOD argument, we looked at how employee productivity and work-life balance are impacted by the type of devices they use.

productivity and work life balance by device type infographic

The verdict was clear: Employees who use only work-issued devices to do work were the most likely to rate both their productivity and work-life balance as “very good” or “excellent.” 

That said, employees who solely used their personal devices for work were actually the most likely to rate their productivity as “excellent.” This validates the argument that using personal devices can boost productivity because employees are faster on their own tech. But employees who used only personal devices for work were also the most likely to rate their productivity as “fair” or “poor.” Meanwhile, employees using both work-issued and personal devices for work were the most likely to rate their productivity as “very good” but were also more likely to give their productivity a mere “good” rating. 

The other concern with BYOD is that using personal devices for work would disrupt employees’ work-life balance and put their overall well-being at risk. This appears to be true based on our survey: Employees who used personal devices for work were more likely to rate their work-life balance as “poor” or “fair” than employees who only used work-issued devices. Interestingly, it was employees utilizing both work-issued and personal devices who had the highest instance of a “poor” work-life balance. With separation between work and personal activities, employees and employers can achieve a work-life balance while using whatever tech they prefer.

The Emerging BYOD Trend

BYOD is not new, but it’s certainly growing as more employees take to remote work. This leaves employers and employees with a big question: Should they embrace the BYOD trend? While there may be benefits to BYOD, there are also key risks, not the least of which is security. When employees use personal devices for work, there’s a greater chance of a security breach. Preventing these breaches requires more than basic security measures, like two-factor authentication.

At Beyond Identity, we specialize in helping you keep your data and applications secure. Rather than relying on traditional multi-factor authentication (such as six-digit codes sent in an SMS text message), we’ve eliminated passwords altogether so hackers have no credentials to leverage in an attack. We enable you to know who is behind every device and stop unapproved users and bad actors from accessing your critical SaaS apps and cloud resources – a particularly important capability in this new remote work era that sees more employees using personal devices to access work materials. Learn more about how going passwordless can protect your business at BeyondIdentity.com.

Methodology

We surveyed 1,013 current employees about the devices they use for work. Respondents had to report using a technical device (e.g., laptop, tablet) for work activities in order to qualify for the survey. Respondents were 42.2% women and 57% men. Eight respondents were nonbinary. The average age of respondents was 36.9. 

When asking respondents about the devices they use for work; the security measures they take to protect their devices; the personal activities they do on work-issued devices; and the reasons why people choose to use personal devices for work, they were instructed to select all options that applied. Therefore, percentages won’t add to 100. 

Limitations

The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Statement

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