Company laptops are ours, say mobile workers

Vodafone UK has revealed that people view their work mobiles and laptops differently when out of the office, potentially exposing a business to security threats.

Personal use of laptops and mobile devices goes unregulated once out of the office and can lead to a change in behaviour from the employee, following research sampling more than 1000 business people.

Nearly half of people surveyed possessed a work laptop with internet access that is used regularly outside of work. The findings suggest that business and IT managers need to balance management, security and use of company property outside of working hours with employees’ increasing expectation that personal use of company mobile devices is acceptable in an always on, always contactable world.

One in two employees consider their work-issued laptops or mobile devices their own property once away from the office, with 68% stating that using a work-supplied laptop outside working hours is a ‘fair exchange’ in the work-life balance equation.

Organisations must also consider what potential risks employees expose devices to, during this downtime. With 49.6% of employees using their own mobile broadband connection and 29.6% using WiFi to facilitate use of their company mobile device when at home, businesses are at risk of malware attacks, other security threats, and legal liability. It can also affect performance issues across the company network as devices are used to store personal music, photos, videos and other downloaded content.

Altogether, 65% of senior managers surveyed agreed that it is acceptable for employees to use work-supplied laptops for their own purposes outside of work. Managers feel that, as recession bites and traditional forms of reward such as pay rises and bonuses are harder to deliver, small perks become more important in retaining key staff.

Mike Banwell, head of business services at Vodafone UK, explained: “Whilst it is right that businesses need to keep a close eye on company assets such as netbooks, laptops and other mobile devices to prevent inappropriate, illegal or irresponsible use, we don’t want to get to a situation where attitudes change to such an extent that policies and procedures become so restrictive that employees actively circumvent them, or that the devices become so unfriendly that the benefits employees and businesses are obtaining from mobile working are severely reduced.”

The research was conducted by Opinion Matters in June 2008 from a sample of 1,116 UK workers.