More people using private electronics for work | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 21.12.2012
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More people using private electronics for work

More people are using their own phones, tablet PCs and other devices at work than ever. And companies are taking advantage of the trend to maximize the productivity of their employees.

Man sits at computer while talking on moblie phone (Photo:Mirko Raatz)

Workers using their own electronic devices is extremely advantageous for companies

About ten years ago, most people only had a desktop computer at home and at work. Today, a lot of people in Germany have a laptop, a smartphone, an e-reader and a tablet PC.

Depending on their work, some people may also have a mobile phone, a laptop and a desktop computer in the office. So a business trip can be a hassle, especially when someone needs both his private and work devices.

That’s why more people are using their own devices for work. In Germany, more employers are allowing their staff to bring and use their private electronics with official "bring your own device" (BYOD) policies.

More work-life flexibility

BYOD has been around for years – ever since cell phones became commonplace. But it really took off in 2008 when Apple made it possible to use email from other service providers on iPhones, says Ted Schadler, a consumer technology analyst at Forrester Research.

A lot of companies work with Microsoft programming, and Apple wanted a piece of the market share, he adds.

"[Users] said 'if I could use the sync to get email on my iPhone at home, then I don't have to use my BlackBerry,'" he notes.

A woman holds her baby as she works at a computer (Photo: Tim Brakemeier)

This is what the work-life flexibility looks like for some

More than 40 percent of Germans use their private phones for work, according to a Forrester Research study. The figure is even higher in the US, where it is almost half of employees. And this could be an advantage for companies.

If a worker is judged by his output, it is easier much easier for him to have work-life flexibility by being able to use technology when it’s convenient for him, Schadler says.

Disasters show advantages of BYOD

With more people using their private electronics at work, there are signs that work culture is changing.

The boundary between private and business life is disappearing, Schadler notes.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

"This is an employee-led phenomenon. Our data says it doesn't come from frustration and a desire to have flexibility in work life," Schadler says.

Natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy have also shown the advantages of BYOD. Several New Yorkers used their own laptops and worked from cafes because they were unable to reach their offices in the aftermath of the storm.

A car goes through the high water as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast (Photo:Alex Brandon/AP/dapd)

A lot of people couldn't get to work during Hurricane Sandy

Last year, German software company SAP allowed its employees in Japan to work from home in the wake of one of the country’s most devastating tsunamis.

Since then, BYOD has taken on in other SAP offices around the world. And employees like being able to use their own devices, says Oliver Bussmann, SAP's chief information officer.

According to the company’s figures, one in ten employees use their own devices – that's 4500 private phones, tablet and computers around the world. And the number could double by the end of 2012, Bussmann says.

But BYOD also comes with risks despite increasing employee output. Many people don't take security risks like viruses very seriously on personal devices. And that could harm a company, Bussmann notes.

Still, the benefits of BYOD seem to prevail. It is gaining popularity in companies and changing how we work.

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