Posted by: mobilitycloud | June 16, 2011

Who pays for smartphones (and tablets) on the job is evolving

Who pays for smartphones on the job is evolving
By Marcia Heroux Pounds
Wed Jun 15 2011 5:09 PM

For many workers, smartphones and iPads are everyday tools for their jobs. Yet employees often are paying for the device, even if it required for their jobs in the field or traveling. Some companies chip in for usage costs.

Workers often buy their own smartphones, but are asking employers for remote access to read emails and work on electronic files. Some employers agree maybe it’s time to budget for mobile devices like any other expense.

“Progressive companies are realizing the mobile device is just part of doing your job,” says Bob Leonard, chief executive of iMobile3 in Jacksonville, which provides companies in South Florida with mobile consulting services.

Leonard said employers are going through the same paradigm change as they did with the desktop computer and Web revolution. Before employers recognized the value of the Internet, they debated whether to allow employees free access or to restrict it.

For Leonard, who has about 50 workers, the decision to provide mobile devices was simple. “I just buy the device, buy the plan and put my employees to work.”

Other firms are more cautious, wanting both to give workers flexibility and choice, but also to protect the company.

At NCCI Holdings Inc. in Boca Raton workers buy their own smartphones or tablets. Those whose jobs require their use receive $40 monthly to help cover their data use, says Andrea Corsi, director of human resources.

The company is evaluating whether to pay for the phone, Corsi says. “We want to be sure that we provide flexibility to our staff since devices are a very personal choice,” she says.

Currently, employees can only get remote access to company email if they use certain BlackBerry phones or an iPhone or iPad.

Joanne Barbour, who oversees information technology at NCCI, says she limits devices that employees can use to access email for security reasons.

One potential danger for the NCCI employee who loses his smartphone: Besides being out $200-plus, information from the phone will be wiped to ensure security, Barbour says.

Here are a few tips to improve your experience with digital devices at work:

Make the case to your employer. Kevin McCarthy, 26, lives by his BlackBerry and iPad. As vice president of national accounts for insurance research firm Risk Metrics Corp., McCarthy purchased his own BlackBerry. His employer pays for the smartphone service.

He doesn’t have to detail his personal and work calls. “You have to look at time constraints,” McCarthy says. “We’d rather have someone out generating revenue.”

Then the iPad came out, and McCarthy had to have one. He asked, and his employer footed the then-$800 bill for the new iPad. “I travel a good amount. I love it,” McCarthy says. On a conference call, for example, he pulls up the professional networking site LinkedIn to check out who he’s talking with on a conference call.

Check your bill on a regular basis. Even if your employer doesn’t pay for your smartphone, you may be eligible for a discount of 5 percent or more. Check with your employer or the provider before you buy.

The biggest mistakes consumers make is not checking their bill for voice or text overages, says Bobra Bush, president of Telcom Corp., a Boca Raton firm that specializes in telephone bill auditing. An unlimited plan may be more expensive, but individual texts add up at 10 cents to 20 cents each.

Also check whether you’re paying for more service than you use: You only text 100 times a month but are paying for twice as much, for example.

And watch your bill for unauthorized mobile downloads, which can be expensive, Bush says. “You enter a contest and you have three $20 mobile downloads on your phone. You can get it taken off, but you still have to call.”

Remember your mobile device is not private, no matter who pays for it. If you use your smartphone or tablet for work, assume that it is not private — even if you pay for the device and service, says Mark Neuberger, a lawyer for Foley & Lardner in South Florida.

The employer may not own the phone or tablet, but the company owns the intellectual property contained in an email or company file that is accessed by the worker on the device, he explains.

Neuberger often recommends employers buy mobile devices for employees. “It eliminates doubt as to ownership and eliminates a claim by the employee that whatever they are doing on the device is personal, private or outside the scope of their employment,” he says.

Employees concerned about privacy may want to carry two devices, a personal smartphone and, if available, a company-issued device.

But keeping work and personal business separate can be tricky business. “The problem is people can’t keep this stuff straight,” Neuberger says. or 561-243-6650


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