Ambiguous bring your own device policy can thwart mobile productivity

Mobile workers are more productive than their peers, but still are frustrated by confusing BYOD policies and lack of ubiquitous Wi-Fi.

The phenomenon called bring your own device is spurring worker productivity, but the lack of consistent BYOD policies and less-than-ubiquitous Wi-Fi remain frustrating barriers, according to a mobile workforce report issued last week.

The typical mobile worker doesn't see technology as a barrier; it's the cost and availability.

Chris Witeck Sr.,
director of product marketing, iPass

The study, conducted by iPass Inc. earlier this spring, found that mobile employees work longer hours than their peers, with 51% working more than 50 hours per week and 16% more than 60 hours. Yet the vendor's quarterly mobile worker report indicated that employees feel thwarted by what they term a confusing or "overly strict" bring your own device policy in their enterprise, according to iPass Director of Product Marketing Chris Witeck Sr. "Not having a policy in place makes it ambiguous for what can be expensed or what [mobile device] can be used for what purpose," he said.

The study found that 70% of mobile workers are allowed to use their personal devices for work, with North American employees -- as opposed to workers from other global regions -- most likely to work for a company with a bring your own device policy. Of workers who do BYOD, the majority said they either expense or would expense Wi-Fi costs stemming from their personal mobile devices.

"It was often thought that BYOD was beneficial to the organization, but we also saw where employees resisted using their devices for work-related activities [if they had to pay for access]. We are now seeing that change," Witeck said. Almost half of workers responding to the iPass survey said their BYOD expenses -- encompassing both Wi-Fi costs and sometimes monthly subscription fees -- are paid for by employers. "That's a trend working in the right direction," he said. "If you shift costs back to the employee, personal use would trump the business use of their device."

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Whether a firm has a bring your own device policy is also becoming a factor that workers consider as they mull prospective job changes. More than a third of respondents said an employer having a BYOD policy could sway their employment choices, the survey disclosed. "An employer's BYOD environment is becoming a factor, and it could affect recruitment," Witeck said.

Universal and unfettered Wi-Fi access, meantime, remains more myth than reality, the iPass report said. Most mobile workers say they are within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot the majority of their business days, but spotty coverage renders them unproductive at least 10% of the time. Access fees are another hurdle, with almost 60% saying they've paid more than $20 for one-time use of Wi-Fi, and 24% saying they've paid more than $30.

"The typical mobile worker doesn't see technology as a barrier; it's the cost and availability," Witeck said. "The vast majority will research Wi-Fi availability before they travel, especially with caps and restrictions on cellular usage."

Other highlights of the iPass study:

  • Mobile workers spend their remote work time in a range of places. The most likely locations are their homes or some type of office, but 75% also work remotely from hotels; 40% report working from airplanes and coffee shops, and 29% report working on public transportation, such as trains, buses and subways.
  • iPhones and iPads are the most popular mobile devices, with Windows tablets showing momentum.
  • Mobile workers say they are more productive when they're at home or at some type of office; productivity drops dramatically where Wi-Fi access isn't readily accessible or is overly expensive.

The iPass survey was based on information from 1,148 worldwide responses, and was collected between March 28 and April 19.

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