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Do organizations need a BYOD reimbursement policy?

UC expert Michael Finneran explains why organizations should consider a BYOD reimbursement policy for employee use of mobile devices.

Bring your own device (BYOD) creates a more flexible workplace as employees are able to perform their duties any time on any device. For employees who work on their own devices and cellular plans, do their employers owe them some kind of financial BYOD reimbursement?

According to a California court, they do, said Michael Finneran at the Enterprise Connect panel "Getting BYOD right." In the case of Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service, the court determined if employees had to use their cell phones to communicate something regarding the company, they must be reimbursed.

While reimbursement can be complicated with cellular plans that include unlimited talk and text, employers owe a "reasonable percentage" of the bill, according to the ruling.

BYOD has become a big human resources issue, Finneran said. While organizations can save money with BYOD, "are we talking about saving money or transferring cost from the organization to the employees?" he asked.

Organizations are split concerning BYOD reimbursement, Finneran said, citing an InformationWeek survey on mobile security. According to the survey, 39% of organizations don't offer BYOD reimbursement, while 40% of organizations pay a partial reimbursement. Just 10% of organizations pay employees back in full.

For organizations that do offer some kind of reimbursement, the challenge becomes figuring out how to pay employees. Some organizations reimburse employees through their paychecks, while others use things like expense vouchers or a stipend. Organizations also need to consider special cases like additional mobile costs during international travel for work, Finneran said.

While the ruling in Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service applies only in California, similar cases could pop up in other states. As more organizations adopt BYOD, developing a reimbursement policy should be a serious consideration.

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Does your organization offer any BYOD reimbursement?
When BYOD was new, we happily provided compensation. A monthly equipment "rental" if you will. But as the months/years of BYOD have gone on, the payments have grown less frequent and are now mostly gone except a few exceptions for exceptional equipment.

I think workers would pay us for the right to bring their own devices. They know the gear they own, they're comfortable working with it, all the resources they need are right at hand. Now that no one expect extra compensation, it's win/win for everyone.
My company currently does not offer reimbursement for personal devices. It's a bit of a process to get a personal phone get set up for corporate email, and it involves signing away some of your privacy. Basically, the company needs to wipe your personal phone if you leave the company. I'm not willing to do that, and if I were asked to, then I think that it would be the right thing to do to offer reimbursement.
You both bring up great points. Do you think that organizations should offer some kind of reimbursement for special circumstances, like when an employee needs to travel internationally and buys a global data plan?
We pay some part of every bill. Of course we do. We expect everyone to be working on the phone, we expect everyone to access data and view videos.

The amount we'll compensate is based on the job that's being done. And the percentage we'll cover ranges from 25% to 100%. There are no nickle-dime discussions. We have no nits to pick. Just some percentage of the full amount. End discussion.

Payphones are a distant memory, and it makes no sense to provide short-term company phones. So I can't see a viable alternative. Just makes sense to cover the costs.
I'm for this as long as it is part of the job. In other words, if the employee is expected to check emails in-line at the dentist, and the company doesn't provide a cell phone, then pay my cell phone bill, etc.

When I was at Socialtext, that we pretty much how the company operated, with up to $100/month telecommunication reimbursed, we could cover our internet, our cell phones, or /almost/ both. The company also gave new employees a budget for equipment, so you could buy your own hardware. Overall, a pretty good deal.

My company currently doesn't do this, but I think it's a wonderful idea. To some mid-level managers and up, they will provide a phone. However, there are plenty more employees who have their company email set up on their personal phones. To do so, they have to turn their device over to the Helpdesk to get set up, and sign certain agreements regarding the use of their device (which is their own!). After all this, you'd think that it would be the right thing to do to partially reimburse those employees for the costs of their devices.

I, for one, am going to keep my personal device personal, unless I am told that I need to be accessible during off hours, at which point I would insist on a company phone, or being reimbursed for using my own.