Welcome to the BYOD party

Work when and where you are most productive. 

That philosophy is the guiding principle behind “Work Aways” – a policy I instituted at my company a few months ago. The concept is simple: For at least half a day, once a week, each Geben Communication employee is required to work from somewhere other than the office. A coffee shop, living room, park – wherever each person will uncover a burst of intense concentration and productivity.

My team loves their Work Away time. But, it’s only possible because we’re a BYOD office. That’s right, BYOD– as in Bring Your Own Device.

As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, most positions don’t require an individual to be chained to their desk for 40-plus hours a week. In fact, the integration of personal and work technology is a rapidly growing trend: more than 70 million virtual desktops will be connected and 90 percent of organizations will allow work applications on personal devices, according to Cisco.

Technology Makes it Possible

Being a BYOD office isn’t as simple as telling people to bring their own phones and laptops to work. Instead, you need to give them access to the right tools.

In addition to being incredibly affordable, many of these tools are services people are already familiar with– meaning employees can spend less time figuring out new technology and more time getting to work. In our office, the following tools/services support our BYOD culture:

Dropbox– Dropbox is a free or low-cost service (depending on how many users and storage space you need). In my office, it serves as our server. All our company documents –everything from documents and  images to proposals and contracts– is housed in this one location. A cloud-based service, my team can access their files from anywhere, including their laptops, apps on their iPhone or Android phones, as well as through the main website.

Google Mail– Our email is powered through Google Apps. That doesn’t mean we have an @gmail.com address, but it does mean we can access our email through Google’s website, as well as through a number of apps on our phones.

Google Voice– If someone doesn’t want to share their personal cell phone with contacts, they can create a Google Voice number to use on business cards and in email signatures. (Not familiar with Google Voice? This will help you get started.)

Evernote– Another cloud-based service, Evernote provides a central location for note-taking; saving links, photos or articles; and capturing random ideas. (You know, the brilliant ones that come in line at the grocery store or when you’re in your car!) Evernote offers lots of organizational flexibility and a slick quick-search feature. Personally, I organize my notes into folders by client, plus I have a notebook for potential blog post topics and another for articles or resources I need to reference at a later date.

Work-Life Integration, Powered by BYOD

The 9 to 5, 40-hour workweek is virtually non-existent. But instead of longing for the “good old days,” companies should highlight the perks of work-life integration afforded by BYOD policies.

For example, employees should be empowered to design their own days (within reason, of course). If they need to leave in the middle of the day to take the dog to the vet, visit a sick family member or get fitted for a bridesmaid dress (three things recently affecting three of my employees), they should have the flexibility to do what needs to be done.

But the additional freedom comes with responsibility: Even though they were out of the office, they were still accessible in case a client needed something, and when they returned home later that day, they hopped online to catch up on a few emails and ensure all project deadlines were met. Even though they weren’t physically in the office, they had their devices and didn’t miss a beat.

While BYOD increases productivity, responsiveness and efficiency, there is a potential downside: Having your work and personal technology so closely intertwined means it’s virtually impossible to escape. Employees and employers need to establish some boundaries. Know when to disconnect. Take a vacation. Go offline. Read a book. Just put down your phone for a couple hours to relax with friends and family.

Decreasing costs while increasing employee satisfaction is good for business. Thanks to BYOD, you can take advantage of today’s technology to support innovation, creativity, employee satisfaction and loyalty and work-life integration. So, who’s ready to join the BYOD party?