Are smartphones too personal for work?

Discussion
Photo: @tonyrecena via Twenty20
Mar 22, 2019
Tom Ryan

A survey from WorkJam, a digital workplace management firm, found that when given a choice, 66 percent of hourly retail employees would use their personal mobile devices to access information about scheduling changes and/or corporate training materials.

Twenty-six percent of the retail workers surveyed indicated they would not want to use their smartphones and eight percent had no preference.

The survey of over 1,000 U.S.-based hourly employees across service industries found a similar openness to using personal mobile devices across other sectors. These include hospitality (75 percent), logistics (65 percent), healthcare (66 percent) and banking (56 percent).

The study indicated Americans spend “up to five hours” a day on their smartphones. Although research now puts average smartphone usage between three to four hours daily, some research shows teens can spend much more time on their devices playing games, watching videos and connecting with their peers across diverse social media platforms.

WorkJam said consolidating communications around schedules, company announcements, training and employee feedback on a single mobile platform can support a more engaged and productive workforce. Of the survey respondents, 69 percent of those who would like to use their personal mobile device for work indicated they believe that with the right application they would have an easier time picking up shifts that accommodate their schedules, allowing them to increase their income.

Other studies have pointed to cost benefits for companies that allow BYOD as well as the employee goodwill and productivity gains by enabling employees to work remotely via their own devices. Risks include potential productivity challenges as employees could more easily text friends or play games on company time. The louder concerns are voiced around ensuring the security of company data.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more benefits than risks in letting retail associates use their own mobile phone devices on selling floors? What guidelines do you think are critical when implementing and enforcing BYOD policies?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Properly constructed, BYOD is a terrific initiative that improves customer service, is cost effective, and further engenders trust with your workforce."
"Freedom of choice is always a good thing from the employee’s perspective. Being given that flexibility by your employer is even better."
"It comes down to data risks versus higher in-store cost structure. The National Law Review article clearly states the legal vs. risk debate and helps inform the decision."

Join the Discussion!

12 Comments on "Are smartphones too personal for work?"


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Art Suriano
BrainTrust
Allowing store associates to use their smartphones has many benefits, and it will become the norm within the next few years. The issue is controlling what employees do with their phones when on the job. Employers are not going to want their employees to be spending company time on personal needs like emailing, texting, and phone calls when there is work to be done. However, providing the store associate applications they can use for their jobs such as product information, training, or scheduling will have tremendous benefits. The challenge becomes controlling what the employee can do with their phone, and I would imagine software providers will develop a monitoring application that will do just that. Then we’ll have to deal with the legal issues such as, is it right for the employee to use their phone without extra compensation? What if the employee does not want to use their smartphone, would the employer provide one? All of these challenges lie ahead, but as we get to 5G technology and smartphones continue to get faster and… Read more »
Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

Any issues related to employee productivity being affected by devices started with computers and access to the internet. If associates are so distracted they can’t do their job there are other more serious issues. On the flip side, activities like checking in on kids can give peace of mind to focus on work. Most retail associates are “digital natives” that literally run their lives on their phones. It’s very hard to change ingrained behavior. The challenge for retailers how to leverage BYOD to better engage and serve customers.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust
The underlying question is, what other than for work related things are the employees going to use their own devices for while on the selling floor? Giving them access to information they need makes sense. However, once you say you can BYOD to work how then do you control how it is used? We have all seen the associates who are so busy looking at their phone that they are ignoring the customers in the store. The question is, is what they are looking at work related? IMHO the odds are far greater that they are not. The alternative makes it more difficult however. Having a work phone does not mean that they are not going to use their personal device any less. What is needed is a clear policy on what is and what is not acceptable. This gets more and more difficult to enforce as phone addiction grows. Personal rant: the more connected we are are through our phones the less connected we are to the people, including customers, who are around us.
Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
3 months 25 days ago

It comes down to data risks versus higher in-store cost structure. The National Law Review article clearly states the legal vs. risk debate and helps inform the decision.

Consider the data type and perishability of the information you are making available to your store associates while quantifying the financial risks of any loss. In some ways, retailers need to address company data “privacy” in terms of delivering the best possible customer experience and doing it with high efficiency and effectiveness. Properly constructed, BYOD is a terrific initiative that improves customer service, is cost effective, and further engenders trust with your workforce.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Vice President, Retail Marketing, enVista
3 months 25 days ago

We will likely see more retailers encouraging employees to BYOD. With the pervasiveness of smartphones, it makes financial sense, as it is a compelling cost savings for retailer to leverage employees’ phones. However, I think it is only fair for employers to pass some of that savings to the employee by providing them a monthly phone allowance to help offset their data plan costs. Retailers will still benefit from avoiding the cost of purchasing extra devices and maintaining them in the store.

Managing employees’ personal use on a smartphone is an issue, whether it is their own phone or a store phone, unless you disable internet browsers on the store phone. Even if you choose to use store devices, employees will still carry their personal device and you need to have policies that prevent excessive use of personal communications during work hours.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Retailers will more and more turn to BYOD as so many other businesses have already done. Their store associates are largely already digital natives and savvy users of their smartphones just as so many of their customers are, too. Trying to block or circumvent this behavior will only lead to unhappy associates. The real issue is whether associates are getting the job done that needs to be done. If the answer isn’t yes, then there are other issues that go beyond BYOD or not. This will become more a question of how to control the usage of retailer apps to ensure data security than it will be a behavioral issue in the future.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Anecdotally, I have the choice of whether I use my own device or an employer-provided one. Several years ago, I turned in my corporate phone and invested in my own. The intranet security software my employer provides is rock-solid. Freedom of choice is always a good thing from the employee’s perspective. Being given that flexibility by your employer is even better.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Barring security and ensuring devices are used for work purposes during work time, I see no significant issues with this if it is what employees want to do. That said, it would be nice if retailers provided their employees with some benefits such as a small amount of compensation or discounts on buying new devices. That only seems fair in exchange for people using their personal property for work purposes.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Never understood why BYOD didn’t happen from the get-go. I see no real risks and lots of opportunity.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

More risks than benefits. Far more. Far, far, fa…. Well you get the idea. And given that “…staring down at their phones…” is perhaps the most common complaint we hear nowadays about customer service — or lack of it — it hardly seems like a theoretical issue.

As for the (alleged) benefits: given that this is a retail site, is “enabling employees to work remotely” even a benefit that’s relevant?

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

This really scares me. The real problem is that no one can control whether it is personal or business usage. It becomes obvious to a customer that is not acknowledged and sees a person on the phone instead of acknowledging them, that it is personal usage, and therefore feels disappointed in the service — in only a few seconds. Are there not stores who issue devices that access store information and inventories, etc.? BYOD scars me to death.

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust

No retail salesperson should ever look at their cell phone while on the sales floor.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Properly constructed, BYOD is a terrific initiative that improves customer service, is cost effective, and further engenders trust with your workforce."
"Freedom of choice is always a good thing from the employee’s perspective. Being given that flexibility by your employer is even better."
"It comes down to data risks versus higher in-store cost structure. The National Law Review article clearly states the legal vs. risk debate and helps inform the decision."

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