Companies always talk about their desire to have more productive and efficient workers. But what they don’t talk about enough is how to enable staff in their own desire and ambition to succeed.

This disconnect has been increasingly apparent over the past several years with development of mobile and cloud technologies upending the traditional relationship between staff and their employers.

Technology was once viewed as a workplace tool that dictated new rules and structures. Today, companies that achieve greater results are those that provide freedom and flexibility for their workers. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the realm of mobile devices.

The number of mobile devices that have been bought since the iPhone was launched in 2007 would have been unthinkable back ten years ago. And for IT managers the term Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) would have seemed like a joke from a Gilbert cartoon. Likewise, for HR and other managers, the acronym WFH (work from home) would have seemed similarly foreign.

Yet both trends are very real indeed, and only becoming more important for today’s IT managers, as mobile devices continue to push the limits of speed, capacity and compatibility. This, along with cloud and mobile apps is creating still more opportunities for workers to communicate and share information.

Why is it important to have robust BYOD management policies today?

In a late 2016 interview with TechTarget, Michael Mathews, CIO of Oral Roberts University, Oklahoma, says, “One of the key risks of trying to ‘control’ device usage, is that it can breed a degree of anarchy within an organisation.”

“When a corporate-issued device doesn’t do what an employee… needs it to do, they will use email, thumb drives and whatever else they need to use. You multiply security risks if you force them to use something.”

On the other hand, you also risk hobbling productivity and precluding new opportunities if you don’t enable staff to work and communicate with optimal ease and efficiency.

In other words, you need to let them work the way they use digital tools in their personal lives. If you fail in this regard forfeiting productivity and efficiency may not be the worst outcome. Staff will become frustrated, even unhappy. Millennials may even walk out the door.

Employees want employee productivity too

Enabling staff to bring their own devices to work and then carry out their tasks in ways that best suit their work style and circumstances, provides many business benefits.

This flexibility increases communication and collaboration, which removes corporate silos, and allows staff to work more efficiently by creating new ways to work.

A 2015 study by CITO Research Tech Orchard found enterprises with more advanced mobile programs – including those that make more mobile business apps available to staff – reported a 23 percent lift in staff productivity, and 30 percent more efficient processes.

There have been countless studies showing staff enabled to work from home actually put in more hours if they don’t have to commute. Reduced sick days and less time away from work for things like medical appointments also has positive business benefits.

IT managers need to see BYOD as more than being about technology: It’s about people

In this new mobile environment, IT managers are beginning to encroach on the traditional territory of the HR department: looking after people.

How users work is no longer a HR function, it’s an IT function.

The tools that the IT team give to their end users has a big impact on how they communicate with each other and the core business systems that underpin the business itself.

CIOs and IT managers at the most progressive and successful companies now make it their responsibility – and a top-priority – to provide proper frameworks for BYOD and WFH, that strike the right balance between usability, as well as security and control.

Mobile devices left unchecked – freedom can lead to all manner of vulnerabilities at the network perimeter, and even within core technology environments. But as we note above with Oral Roberts University’s, Michael Mathews, imposing control too forcefully can lead to anarchy.

In the next blog for this series we take a more in-depth look at the specific security challenges facing IT managers grappling with BYOD and WFH, and how the relate to the arrival of Australia’s landmark ‘data breach notification’ laws.