Using Your Own Tech At A Startup

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Using Your Own Tech At A Startup

Having worked for both large businesses and smaller ones, I’ve started to see a few similarities and differences emerging in how employers expect employees to contribute towards technology, such as using their personal iPhone to receive emails.

I remember working for a large bank back in 2007, the year of the iPhone launch, and not thinking too much about this new device. A few colleagues were excited but virtually the entire industry was using a Blackberry.

Blackberries were the king of work mobile devices at the time. Software was either Outlook (Microsoft) or Lotus Notes (IBM) powering the main source of employee communication: email. When emailing your boss, who at the time was allowed to take employer-funded golf holidays to Portrush, you had to remember to keep emails Blackberry compatible ie no images.

The benefits to having a Blackberry seemed obvious. You no longer had to wait in the office for a single email to arrive. You could leave the office, go home, or to the pub, and check your Blackberry. When the email arrived, you could forward it on, without ever having to be in the office.

Then over time, technology solutions improved. VPN, which allows you to work from home and log in to work, become affordable and it actually worked most of the time. This enabled flexible working for those who needed to work from home – remember we still had desktop computers rather than laptops. Combined with the Blackberry, you could go home at a reasonable hour, and log on to finish work just before you went to bed.

On the one hand, you could see the time saved from not having to wait on colleagues, clients, or suppliers who may have different working patterns and priorities. However, on the other, you could also start to see the intrusion work was having into your own world.

When iPhones become readily available and senior managers had them for their own use, they quickly started to see the benefits. Reading images and PDF documents, armed with finger pinch zoom, became substantially easier. Soon managers were requesting iPhones over Blackberries. At the same time, desktop computers were replaced with laptops and Google released G-Suite for business.

Then there was a sudden switch. Mobile phones became more expensive and employers were unwilling to pay £500 more for a mobile device for each employee. Software, including G-Suite, made it easy to link different pieces of technology. You could have multiple email accounts on your phone, and work started to entwine with your personal life to a greater degree. Employers and managers started messaging on Whatsapp, we lost the ability and desire to call people, and soon a lot of work information was sent via non-approved routes by a simple copy and paste on a mobile device.

For employees there are 2 big concerns:

  1. Do you want to be switched on 24/7 with your employer? Evidence shows this is not healthy, and in the long run drains your productivity.
  2. Are you aware of any legal risks this presents?

The legal risk is an interesting one, and not something many people consider. Have a read of your employment contract and you may find something like this in the section about company data:

Company information – you should not have any company information stored remotely, if you do please delete with immediate effect.

The problem with this is that you now have employers expecting employees to bring a personal device into the workplace and then be responsible for deleting any company data on it. If you fail to do so and that data becomes readily available to the public, you face the risk of disciplinary action, dismissal, or even legal action against you.

My personal feeling here is that if information does end up on your personal device, then you should not have to worry about the consequences from your employer. As an employee you should be rewarded for supplying a device, not punished. If employees want 24/7 access to you, they should provide you with the right technology to enable this. Sometimes, such as in the case of WhatsApp messages, it may not be possible to delete the information.

Finally, be aware that some employees also use communication systems that include location trackers or systems that monitor your use and behaviour on devices.                                                                                           

The Company reserves the right to monitor, intercept, review and access your telephone log, internet usage, voicemail, e-mail and all other equipment and communication/telecommunication facilities provided by the Company which you may use during your employment. 

In other words … be careful what you install onto your own devices!

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