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Create a mobile BYOD policy for the coronavirus pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing organizations to support remote work whenever possible. Organization can follow a few key steps to enable productive remote work on mobile devices.

Many organizations already have a BYOD policy for mobile devices and allow employees to use their own devices -- mostly smartphones -- with certain restrictions.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, has forced organizations to ramp up work from home (WFH) implementations. Some organizations with BYOD policies in place have even modified them to include new employee roles and different devices not previously supported.

Organizations should evaluate their BYOD programs -- or lack thereof -- to see if they're extensive enough to handle the influx of WFH demand due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Some level of a BYOD coronavirus policy is a must

Organizations that don't already have a BYOD policy in place must create one. Managers and executives can't simply tell employees that everything is fine and they can use any mobile device for work purposes. There must be a policy to ensure these devices are secure enough to access company data.

A BYOD policy for the coronavirus pandemic should still include what devices IT can support, what apps are available to remote users, what collaboration tools are available to the users and what access restrictions are necessary. These restrictions could include VPN connections, downloads of sensitive data and which apps IT supports.

IT pros can't simply assume that employees will implement all these measures on their own. Asking users to implement security measures will put the organizations at a major risk for security breaches and malware attacks. IT needs to deploy all aspects of the UEM and security controls to ensure they work properly. Many smaller organizations are at risk of going out of business after just one data breach.

Which types of devices fit within a BYOD coronavirus policy?

IT professionals must also assess whether employees can access devices that work with an organization's BYOD policies.

Users who don't currently have a personal mobile device that fits the organization's device guidelines will need IT pros to select a device for them based on their roles within the organization. An executive, for example, may have far different requirements than a design engineer or an accountant.

Compute-intensive users may not be able to fulfill their work needs with a mobile device and could need a capable laptop. Users without the same data and compute-intensive needs may be able to work with a smartphone or even a Google Chromebook endpoint. IT departments should quickly develop a plan of how to obtain and deploy these devices to the users to maintain their productivity while working from home.

No BYOD mobile device should connect to corporate systems without UEM control.

No device in the BYOD program should connect to corporate systems without UEM control. For users with their own devices, IT should enforce all policies with a unified endpoint management (UEM) platform that can manage connectivity and security-related issues. IT has numerous tools at its disposal, including mobile VPNs, data encryption, corporate app selection and separation of corporate and personal workspaces and data.

Enabling WFH capabilities goes beyond device security, however, because admins must ensure that remote users have an adequate and secure connection to the internet. Slow and unreliable connections make for a very difficult work setup. If the users don't already have a capable internet connection, organizations may need to procure one for them. However, this is less of an issue with smartphones than with PCs as smartphones can rely on a wireless internet connection.

Supporting BYOD staff while they WFH

Organizations will need to beef up their support for working from home, as most corporate support systems do not have the quantity or quality of tools necessary to support a fully BYOD setup. IT should expect the number of help desk calls to increase dramatically.

Support personnel need to understand the tools and different methods they can use to provide remote support compared to in-person support. Help desk staff should maintain a calm disposition when dealing with the frustrations of some users getting used to WFH. Along with a capable UEM controls, admins must also ensure that they have adequate remote access troubleshooting tools. Organizations must keep in mind that not all UEM platforms have this capability built in.

BYOD policies and working from home are not just IT-focused issues. Other groups such as HR, legal and accounting should all contribute components of the WFH strategy. It's critical that IT and managers communicate with all employees so they fully understand the BYOD policy dos and don'ts during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this time of WFH driven by the pandemic, it's critical that organizations maintain a rational approach to BYOD, coronavirus and WFH that keeps employees productive and the organization running. Implementing an effective policy now means an organization will be more prepared for any potential worldwide crises in the future.

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