In an effort to improve employee productivity, reduce risks, and keep people on task, countless IT departments lock down company computers so they can’t be modified by the user. Broadly speaking, this is a terrible idea.
A piece from the online news source site, Slate, explains the issue:
The secretary of state didn’t know why Firefox was blocked; an aide stepped in to explain that the free program was too expensive—”it has to be administered, the patches have to be loaded.” Isn’t that how it always is? You ask your IT manager to let you use something that seems pretty safe and run-of-the-mill, and you’re given an outlandish stock answer about administrative costs and unseen dangers lurking on the Web. Like TSA guards at the airport, workplace IT wardens are rarely amenable to rational argument. That’s because, in theory, their mission seems reasonable. Computers, like airplanes, can be dangerous things—they can breed viruses and other malware, they can consume enormous resources meant for other tasks, and they’re portals to great expanses of procrastination. So why not lock down workplace computers?
In more than one job I’ve had in the past, the computer I had at home was better than the one that my employer provided. If they wanted to maximize employee productivity, it made the most sense for me to bring that computer to the office.
In fact, this phenomenon is so widespread that it now has a name: BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. CIO Magazine has an entire BYOD section on their website. And a blog post from Simple MDM lists four major advantages and six downsides to BYOD. That article is titled “The Challenges Of A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy” and includes one interesting issue that doesn’t come up too often:
There may be times when a company must search an employee’s device to find a bit of company data. What happens if, during that search, the IT department stumbles upon evidence that the employee has also been working on a project for a competitor?
“Challenge” is the right word, but many BYOD researchers may be missing the point entirely. An article on Forbes questions the BYOD investment:
Are businesses really benefiting from the Bring Your Own device (BYOD) trend? The idea seems simple: Employees use their own phones and tablets and employers save money.
No, that’s not the premise of this movement. BYOD is much more profound: it means that employers are so inept at issuing useful equipment that employees feel more qualified to manage their technology needs on their own.
This is a strong accusation, but the numbers back it up. So what should employers do?
Instead of trying to issue computers and lock them down, they should grant employees individual technology budgets and focus on securing data.
Then, individuals will be empowered to choose whatever is best for their own personal productivity. And that’s what we really want—self-directed, highly productive employees.