Two Smart Phones, Too Smart?
For those of us fortunate enough to be issued corporate smart phones, dropping your personal cell phone coverage may seem enticing. It’s practical; one phone to update, charge and lug around -- not to mention the benefit of no monthly cell bill. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal survey indicated 25% of participants use their work device “primarily” for personal use. But before cutting your personal cell carrier loose to piggyback on the corporate buck; there are a few things you should consider. Namely, work-life balance, corporate policies regarding your smart phones usage, and privacy.
Work Life Balance
To begin, bringing corporate smart phones into our personal life doesn’t just blur the line between work and life, it obliterates it. It’s hard enough to leave work at work, but when your work email is never outside of arm’s reach, things may have gone too far. And don’t try to convince yourself you will only check your work email from the smart phone on work hours, it simply isn’t true. According to the Pew Internet Research Project, 50% of us check our work email at home on the weekends, even when it is not strapped to our hip.
Moreover, consider the following scenario:--and you can check the homework -- as long as you keep your usage under 800 minutes and 500 texts a month your employer will be none the wiser. You share your “new” phone number throughout your social network. Your friends, family, baby sitter and car mechanic all know they can reach you through your work cell. Then it happens, your employer changes your number, your device gets taken away, or -- worst of all -- you get fired. Not only do you have to reorient your social universe, you have to do it without a phone.
Corporate Smartphone Usage Policies
Next, before you pick up your work smart phone and begin blasting your feelings about the latest political gaffes, check your corporate policies. Remember, as personal as you may feel the device is, your employer owns the smart phones they distribute. Many employers make this clear by having their employees sign an agreement prior to issuance of their device, or simply by including usage language in the employee manual. If this is the case, you are on notice and can be punished for not adhering to the corporate policies.
However, many companies simply look the other way. That is, until they receive a hefty data charge for 120 hours you spent streaming the Taylor Swift channel on Pandora last month. At best they will make you pay for the overage at worst you will get the axe. Remember, even if you do know your company policies, you may not know the limits of your corporate plan. And you may find the company less than forthcoming if you try to find those limits. Essentially, by asking, you are admitting intent to commit the offense.
Privacy and the Law
Finally, when it comes to privacy the law is clear: messages sent via your work smart phone can be viewed by your boss. In 2010 a California police officer sued his employer for searching text messages sent over his department-issued device. His argument was that the department had violated his constitutional right to privacy. Unfortunately for him, the Supreme Court did not agree. They held that the search of employer provided smart phones was reasonable. This decision sets a precedent that trickles down to you; if you want your messages to remain private, don’t use your work smart phone.
Pew Internet: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2008/Networked-Workers/4-Internet-and-Email-Use-for-Work/01-Whether-at-home-or-work-more-internet-users-are-going-online-more-often.aspx
The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/community/groups/question-day-229/topics/do-you-use-your-work-issued