The last decade has seen a monumental shift in the nature of work. Tangible elements like the near-ubiquitous access to high-speed Internet, affordable but powerful personal technology, and a plethora of entrepreneurial zeal have produced what’s called the gig economy, the sharing economy, or the freelance economy. This new notion of work attracts a lot of attention. It was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, it routinely makes headlines in newspapers and it’s the envy of the Instagram world.
It is exciting. Centuries of established work practices are changing, producing new opportunities and reimagining old ones. However, as big as this transition is, and it is big, traditional work arrangements remain the norm. In June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its first analysis of the gig economy and found, as The New York Times helpfully distilled, “The old-fashioned job remains king.”
It remains a practical way to earn an income, to receive tangible benefits like health care, and to obtain other intangibles like affirmation, interaction and support. However, given the transitional period for work, it shouldn’t be surprising that even traditional office jobs are changing as well. Employees are now more on the go, more mobile and more tech-centric.
In other words, the autonomous ethos that is quickly emerging among independents is creeping into companies as well. This is perhaps best expressed in employees changing attitudes toward the devices they work on. Today, more employees are bringing their own devices to work than ever before.
BYOD Encroaches on the Workforce
People tend to have specific tastes and desires when it comes to their technology. Some are adamant “Apple people,” while others will always prefer a Microsoft or Samsung device. Some prefer desktop computers, while others are more comfortable working on tablets, and an increasingly high number of people work from their phones. In addition, with employees more mobile and on the go than ever, the best tools are often already in their pockets and in their bags.
This dynamic can be difficult for companies to accommodate, but employees are less concerned about the technology that their companies can provide — they are bringing and using their own devices anyway.
A report by Forrester Research indicated that:
Of course, when working on these devices, employees are accessing companies’ most sensitive information and infrastructure. Nearly all employees who bring their own devices to work – a staggering 86% – use their devices to access company email and almost 70% use it to work on collaborative documents. Broad adoption of cloud computing means that it’s standard for employees to access company databases and other file systems as well.
While this transition creates opportunities for companies, it also presents several challenges that will have to be addressed if this practice is going to thrive. Most importantly, by adopting the latest and most appropriate technology, companies can mitigate these risks while empowering employees to work on whichever device they choose.
The Opportunities and Challenges of BYOD
Companies are investing a significant percentage of their revenue on their IT and technological infrastructure that propels their platform into the digital age. According to a Deloitte study [note: link opens a PDF], 57% of companies’ IT budgets are spent on business operations, which include employees’ technology.
Therefore, employees who are willing to spend their own money to procure their own devices can be a boom for their bottom line. In some ways, this is a perfect arrangement. Employees get to use their chosen device, which can improve productivity and morale while saving companies money.
However, many experts caution that these changes in norms enable new problems that companies will have to mitigate. For instance, the Society for Human Resource Management, a professional organization advising HR professionals, notes, “On the employer side, the primary apprehension is related to security.”
It’s difficult for companies to manage employee-owned devices, so they can’t account for things like updated virus software, malware protection, and other protective strategies that can secure companies’ sensitive information.
Moreover, employees are more likely to use their personal devices on unsecured wireless networks, to allow other people to use them, or to leave company information on the device when they ultimately dispense with their device.
In some ways, companies can issue and enforce acceptable use policies and other education-oriented priorities to try and ensure that employees adequately protect their devices and secure sensitive company. Unfortunately, accidents and ignorance make this plan inefficient at best.
But by implementing the best technology, companies can secure their resources while continuing to provide their employees with the flexibility and independence that they crave.
Blockchain for BYOD
The blockchain is quickly becoming a go-to technology for enterprise initiatives. With companies like IBM and Microsoft leading the charge and a flurry of startups producing innovative new platforms, blockchain technology is reshaping the ways companies think about their technology, its capabilities, and its security. The blockchain’s decentralized network, permissioned access, and tokenized exchanges make it a uniquely enticing technology for IT departments considering a BYOD initiative.
First, companies can effectively manage their employee guidelines and expectations regarding a BYOD policy by using the blockchain to record user agreements, which can create parity and provide accountability for managing personal devices.
The blockchain is helpful on a technical level, too. For example, it can allow companies to effectively balance information accessibility and data security. Furthermore, blockchain-support digital identity access protocols can equip employees to effectively manage their digital identities without accidentally or inadvertently compromising by providing sensitive information to hackers or other bad actors.
By storing their data on the blockchain, it can be accessible anytime and anywhere, but employers can control access through a permissioned system. The implementation of multi-signature access adds an additional layer of protection to sensitive company information.
This arrangement allows users to access to companies’ network or data while ensuring that companies maintain control of that data and restrict or eliminate permissions as circumstances warrant.
Ultimately, companies across virtually every industry are looking into blockchain adoption, and this use case is just another incentive to do so. It’s a new technology that accommodates a fresh understanding of work and the technological peculiarities that come with it. As more people bring their own devices to work, companies embracing blockchain can ensure that the infrastructure is secure and their employees are accommodated.
About Alastair Johnson
Alastair Johnson is the founder & CEO of Nuggets, an e-commerce payments and ID platform. It stores your personal and payment data securely in the blockchain, so you never have to share it with anyone – not even Nuggets.