2021 Trend #2: Bring your own technology (BYOT)
Author Philip Ross  | 

BC – Before Covid-  the world was just beginning to appreciate the benefits and entertainment of the sharing economy. From Air BnB and Turo to co-working, we seem to have embraced ethos and principles of a world where we played well with others and were happy to share home, cars and workspaces. Naturally with the emergence of Covid, the sharing economy has been one of the hardest hit. For now at least while we all shelter in place – travel and workplace almost forgotten tokens of 2019. But its not all doom and gloom, the global vaccine rollout brings renewed hope to us that all is not lost in the sharing economy; Sure, we will be more cautious but its not goodbye to sharing forever.

Saying that, as consultants who work with clients all over the world, one area where sharing looks set to be challenged is with technology. As we suggested last week in our first trend of the 2021: we hypothesise that workplace will shift to a preference for touchless spaces –accelerating a trend that pre-existed the pandemic. In that article we noted that personal devices would be critical to activating such a vision. Not only can personal devices be used to control the space around us but where touchless spaces are not available, the fact that devices are personal to individuals provide another semblance of confidence.

Like touchless spaces, Bring-Your-Own technology (BYOT) is not a particularly new phenomenon. Prior to the pandemic, many IT departments had already begun rolling out such initiatives to empower workforces and decrease the number of issued corporate devices. Most often this has manifested itself in personal tablets and cell phones which employees utilise to enhance their work. However, post-pandemic, we feel this shift may be somewhat more radical with a surge in BYOT initiatives across workplaces.

Part of this trend is underpinned by a potential shift towards hybrid working (which we discuss in more detail next week) which will see employees work part of their week at home, and the remainder in the office – activities split by the agility of the task, with most collaborative conducted in office with peers and low collaborative tasks such as emails and processing completed from home. BYOT will therefore become a critical part of the experience toolkit. Given the challenges surrounding regulating and monitoring a hybrid workplace and unassigned seating, if the technology between home and office is at least seamless, employers will win half the battle. By bringing their own devices, employees can work seamlessly between home and work, with corporate safeguards such as virtual desktops and regulation balancing the battle between corporate protection and employee empowerment. That employees are more likely to periodically refresh their own personal technology also means that technology is more up to date and less prone to breakdown.

At UnWork we have been evangelising about the importance of workplace diversity; not just in demographics but also in tools, culture, and space and technology. On technology, it is important for employers to understand and appreciate that one size does not fit all: each individual employee had vastly different technological capability and with four generations in the same workplace now, diversity in technology is critical. According to statistics, workers lose 22 minutes per workday to technology issues, which amounts to 2 weeks per annum. With BYOT, employees are free to choose which flavour of technology they prefer which unlocks additional productivity and contentment.

Further afield, we predict that that peripherals will also become personally ‘owned’ devices with employees leaving wireless keyboards, mice, and other peripherals in lockers for storage. Many lockers are even now technologically enabled to allow for safe charging within. What is certain is that, in the short term at least, shared peripheral will need to go on hiatus.

IT departments may wish to deploy laptops to all employees but given the potential savings and safety that can be supported by BYOT, we hypothesise a greater use of such initiatives. This is not to say BYOT is a silver bullet; there will still be employees who prefer not to use personal devices and there are ongoing regulatory concerns regarding corporate privacy and an IT departments ability to support and service differing flavours of technology. However, despite these potential obstacles, an opportunity to save costs, empower employees and improve morale may prove all alluring.