BYOD: Just another money-grab?

BYOD policies sound alluring. No more forced use of a crappy old corporate laptop - “hey look, we’ll let you choose whatever you want!” But I think it is a way to shift the cost burden over to employees. It will be done slowly, over several years, and we’ll welcome it. But it will lead to employees carrying more costs. I guess we should be careful with what we wish for.

In my teens I spent many years working in the produce & butchery departments at a local supermarket. When I started out, the contracts still had the last vestiges of union-dominated times. So we got paid allowances for laundry, extra allowances if we’d passed some school exams, higher rates for overtime, meal allowances, etc. During the years I was there, these were eroded. Each year they gave us pay rises that were nominally higher than inflation, and yet another allowance was ‘incorporated’ into my wages. Sometimes allowances would remain for older employees. When I left, I was being paid significantly more than new employees, in part because I still had several extra allowances.

I think we’ll see the same thing with BYOD programs. I think it will go like this:

  1. Announce BYOD program, employees to be paid non-taxable monthly allowance
  2. New policy: Wage rise to cover BYOD, now incorporated into your wages
  3. BYOD line item disappears for new employees
  4. BYOD line item disappears for existing employees

After a few years, employees will be expected to provide their own devices. Just the same as the way you pay for your own clothes, and your own transport to work.

This is in part due to changing expectations. Most people now have their own smartphone, and don’t want to carry multiple devices. If they’ve got the cash, they buy a much better laptop than the typical aging corporate laptop, bogged down with 7 different ‘security agents.’ It also ties into the broader trend, where consumer-grade products are better than ‘enterprise’ products..

But you should know why businesses are doing it. It’s about money. You can ignore all the other guff about “better workplaces, attracting talent, personalisation, blah blah blah.” Yes, there are additional savings due to lower rates of ‘lost’ devices, and I don’t begrudge anyone that. But if they can get you to pay for your own laptop, why wouldn’t they? If your company expects you to provide your own devices, make sure they’re paying you for it.

To be clear though - I’m not against BYOD, and I’d prefer to operate in that sort of environment. For the last few years, I’ve worked for places where I can manage my devices as my own. This was originally with devices paid for by my employer, but that’s now changing. This model suits me well, as I can choose the devices that suit my work style - my needs are different to those who stay in one place all the time.