I don’t think there has ever been a generation of workers so connected, so available at a moment’s notice, who can do their jobs from literally anywhere, thanks to personal mobile devices.

This BYOD or “bring your own device” mentality is the type of situation any sophisticated company should be happy to embrace, right?

Well, yes. And no.

We’re using our mobile phones and tablets to work from anywhere: train, plane or automobile. We hold meetings, communicate with customers, we create spreadsheets and financial models and literally run our businesses from wherever we are, day or night – just the way our growing workforce of millennials and others like it. Still, BYOD can sometimes be tough for a company to swallow.

Benefits and challenges of BYOD

BYOD has plenty of proven benefits. Studies have shown that employee satisfaction and productivity both increase when workers use their own devices for work. Mobile apps allow workers to review and modify documents, read and respond to emails, get messages and review calendars to see what’s planned for the day. And is there an employer out there who would shun a more productive workforce?

Yes – when the problems of BYOD arise. Remember Sony Pictures? The North Korean hack that caused Sony so much trouble happened largely because Sony workers were slapping their user credentials everywhere – on so many devices and so many apps – and no one was managing the vulnerabilities.

This doesn’t mean companies should stop allowing employees to use their own devices for work. It does mean companies need to be smart about BYOD by being prepared. How? The following recommendations can help.

Preparing for BYOD in your workplace:

  1. Determine what you’re up against. First, survey your employees about the types of devices they want to bring to work, so IT can be prepared for them – whatever they might be.
  2. Decide what you will support and won’t. If there’s a problem with access on a mobile phone, should IT support it? That’s something you’ll need to decide. Set up a policy and discuss the types of devices and apps that make sense for your IT team to support. And realize that you may not be able to support everything.
  3. PCs, too? If phones are fine but laptops are a problem, consider developing a limited BYOD policy that restricts the type of personal devices employees can use for work.
  4. Provide employees with mobile devices. While it doesn’t save money on hardware, providing mobile devices to employees may make it easier for both workers and IT teams to stay productive.
  5. Consider a cloud or virtual desktop option. One of the easiest ways to make work available to your employees anytime and anywhere is by giving them a virtual or cloud desktop instead. Look for options and providers that make security a priority to ensure sensitive data stays safe.
  6. Invest in management applications to control the security side. With so many devices and apps to manage, we recommend a security management tool like AirWatch Mobile Device Management, which enables businesses to manage a diverse fleet of Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, Mac OS, Symbian, Windows Mobile, Windows PC/RT and Windows Phone devices from a single management console.
  7. Limit user-based vulnerabilities by training employees. Have honest conversations with your employees about BYOD and be proactive about the solutions. Arm them with as much information as possible and perform occasional audits to make them accountable.

It’s not just millennials – across the board, workers today are becoming more comfortable and more productive with BYOD than with the old, archaic desktop-based tools we used to rely on. Employers don’t have time to be ignorant or blind to BYOD – or foolish enough to think that BYOD can be completely eliminated from the workplace.

The answer? Work with BYOD. Appreciate and embrace it and let it work for you, too.

Allow work to live in a worker’s pocket or backpack so he or she can have the flexibility to dive in and work whenever the time is right. Because, frankly, if my own employees are more engaged, more productive, actively doing their jobs and giving me their best results because they’re working on their tablet while on a train, why would I want to stop that?