Technology is a disrupting force, continuously bringing a wave of both good and bad to businesses, our personal lives and everything in between — whether we want it to or not.
Pokémon Go levied questions about workplace productivity; while smart watches, cloud computing and employees bringing their own technology devices into the workplace raise concerns about cybersecurity and data safety.
Stephanie Quincy, chair of Quarles & Brady LLP’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, says safety from technology starts with rules that are enforced, not just made, particularly when it comes to BYOD (bring your own device) policies.
If a firm implements a rule that doesn’t allow employees to bring their own computers to work on or that they can’t chase or capture Pokémon around the office, then it must be enforced.
“If you don’t follow it, you’ve built the noose you have been hung by,” Quincy says.
Another tip to protect your business against the woes of technology is writing office or workplace policies in plain English, she says. If an employee understands the rule by just reading it, problems can be avoided.
Having employees sign off on some specific rules also helps protect a firm against potential risks and issues, Quincy says. Having an employee manually sign off — not only for the entire rule book, but for specific rules that could potentially get your company in hot water — certainly helps, she says.
This helps negate the, “I didn’t know excuse,” from an employee, she says.
So, what are some big issues employers can run into with mobile technology? Here are a just few examples:
Pokémon Go and augmented reality
The Pokémon Go phenomenon came, and sort of went, but what it really did was begin the popularization of augmented technology, which will only get increasingly popular as time moves on.
Quincy says employees who like to capture Pokémon on the clock (and by proxy, engage in augmented tech at the workplace) can pose several problems. If the employee gets in an accident while they’re playing at the office, that can lead to a worker’s compensation claim, she says.
Many people find it hard to imagine someone would want to play Pokémon Go while they’re driving, but it happens. Employers need to make sure employees who drive aren’t playing the game, otherwise any accident they get into could make the employer responsible, Quincy says.
Issues with mobile working
Pavneet Uppal, regional managing partner at Fisher & Phillips in Phoenix, is focused on many cases involving the protection of trade secrets and confidential information.
Uppal says with the rise of the mobile workforce, companies need to have safeguards and procedures in place to make sure confidential or vital information doesn’t walk out the door on an employee’s mobile device.
“Fortune 50 companies down to small start-ups are increasingly recognizing that they need to have policies and procedures in place to protect their trade secrets and confidential information from walking out the door,” Uppal says.
According to Uppal, forms of protection, like company agreements and procedures, should be based off of the structure of the company and its resources, and how much attention the company gives to issues regarding data protection.
Hiring a technology consultant to evaluate where risk lives within a firm’s technology setup can go a long way with helping a business shape its data protection policies, Uppal says.
When it comes to the use of personal computers in the workplace, Uppal says that the safest route to protecting company data is to restrict employees from downloading information onto their own devices. The safest bet is to not allow employees to even bring their own devices into the office, he notes, which means employers should provide them with the right technology and resources to do the job on the go.
“There are trade secrets in just about every company, and that type of information should reside on a restricted database that is encrypted, that is password protected, for which there are additional protections in place,” he continued, “including, in all probability, not allowing employees to download that to a local hard drive.”
More control over the device
John Balitis, a member of the employment and labor relations practice group at Fennemore Craig, believes that the loss of trade secrets is an epidemic and many company secrets are getting lost because of the use and exploitation of technology.
“The statistics for the value of trade secrets that are being lost are staggering,” Balitis says.
If keeping an employee from bringing in his or her own device isn’t realistic for a firm, there are alternatives, experts say. Baits says a proper technology usage policy coupled with good device-management software can protect company data while simultaneously allowing the use of employee-owned devices in the workplace.
“The employee acknowledges through the policy that the employer is going to load the software on the device,” Balitis says, “and that the software is going to allow the employer to do certain things with that device remotely.”
In addition to coupling an effective technology usage policy with good device-management software, Balitis says employers should require employees to:
- Protect their devices with passwords
- Lock their devices after a certain length of inactivity
- Report lost or stolen devices within a short period of time
- And enable tracking services on devices that allow individuals to track them.
Balitis says a usage policy should also prohibit employees from saving data to the cloud. He believes that all files should reside on devices simply to look at it and employees should not be saving files or transferring files to other locations.
By Alyssa Hesketh and Jesse A. Millard, Az Business magazine