Why Your Workers Hate BYOD

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If CIOs and other IT leaders have any doubt that employees are down on BYOD, senior writer Tom Kaneshige clears up any confusion.

At a New York banking firm, a couple of executives lost their jobs because they didn't report lost phones within 24 hours, in violation of a draconian BYOD policy. At a California law firm, the CIO knew every time one of its lawyers slipped away to play golf, exposed by watchful BYOD management software.

Just how many employees have been burned by BYOD is anyone's guess -- companies aren't wanton to share those stories -- but I bet there are enough being talked about among co-workers to stir a BYOD backlash. There's simply no denying a slowdown of companies adopting formal BYOD policies. Even CIOs in Europe say BYOD is stalling.

Recently, I was embroiled in a Twitter debate over BYOD and its ugly twin, privacy.

The topic was Apple Pay and its potential to stymie BYOD even further. In an interview with Yaacov Cohen, co-founder and CEO at Harmon.ie, a developer of enterprise mobile collaboration software, Cohen argued that employees will be reticent to turn over their mobile wallet to a BYOD program and, by default, IT's prying eyes. Techies countered, rightly so, that Apple has built in controls that prevent IT from technically being able to see purchases made by the employee.

Its Always Been a Matter of Trust

But BYOD isn't a technical issue, rather it's a matter of trust between a company and its employees. To resort to a cliche, BYOD is where the rubber meets the road.

[Related: Mobile Workers: "I Want My BlackBerry Back"]

There are predominantly two privacy-related reasons why workers hate BYOD: GPS location tracking and apps inventory. Employees don't want their company to know their whereabouts at all times, nor do they want IT to know what apps they're using or what websites they're visiting. No one wants to be approached in the cafeteria by a co-worker sympathizing with you about your cancer, just because word got out that you have a cancer-related app on your iPhone.

Tech vendors and techies are coming up with ways to partition business and lifestyle apps and data on a device, assuming employees will feel secure under indecipherable acronyms and obscure tech jargon -- but they're not. We live in an age of conspiracy where our private information is bartered with. Let's face it, human resources and IT that pretend to be an employee's friend are in league with the corporation.

BYOD Leads to Burnout

There are other guns leveled at BYOD, too. Signs point to an always-on workforce getting burned out. BYOD essentially puts them on call around the clock, over weekends and on vacations, which can lead to copious amounts of stress, according to a TEKsystems survey of more than 300 IT professionals.

[Related: Is BYOD Burning Out Your Workforce? ]

Another problem with BYOD: the user experience, or rather lack thereof. As IT puts more management and security controls on BYODs, the consumer-ish ease of use begins to suffer. Again, tech vendors are working hard to come up with ideas to make security and management seamless to the end user, which means more complexity on the backend.

"The technology is out there, but then you come down to another level of complexity," David Schofield, partner at Network Sourcing Advisors, an Atlanta-based mobile consultancy that advises companies on both BYOD and corporate-owned mobile device policies, told me this summer. "At what point does it become too complex that it's just not worth it anymore?"

Then there's a new California Court of Appeal ruling that states: "When employees must use their personal cellphones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them employees get paid for work." It's the first binding ruling in the BYOD space; the U.S. justice system has just waded into BYOD's already murky waters.

There's no question BYOD is at a tricky time.

Despite the slowdown of formal BYOD policy adoption, there's compelling evidence that shadow BYOD, whereby employees covertly use their personal devices for work purposes, is on the rise. The risk of corporate data leakage from these stealth devices has never been higher. CIOs don't want to bring a formal BYOD policy to bear, but they might not have a choice.

The irony is that the employee with the stealth BYOD phone or tablet might fancy himself a modern-day James Bond fooling the company, but he's not. A friend told me that his company doesn't have a formal BYOD policy, but IT told him: "We know who you are."

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