Employer-Provided Wireless Devices Benefit or Electronic Leashes

By Staff Report

Apr. 8, 2009

Employees view receiving mobile devices, such as BlackBerrys, from their companies as a benefit, but at a large price, according to a recent survey of 627 employees commissioned by WorldatWork.

One-third of employees surveyed said that they view receiving wireless devices from their companies as part of their total rewards package. Half of employees surveyed said they felt that these devices signify their status or importance at the company.

But at the same time, 42 percent of employees said they believe that by getting the devices, they are expected to always be available. Three out of four respondents said they never turn their devices off. Most employees surveyed said they use their wireless devices between one and five hours per day during what they consider nonwork time.

“Basically employees view this as a double-edged sword,” said Kathie Lingle, director of the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance for Work-Life Progress, a division of WorldatWork.

On one hand, employees seem to value receiving the devices from their companies, she says. On the other hand, the devices make them feel “like they have a noose tied around their necks,” Lingle said.

To address this, companies need to put policies in place, she said. For example, accounting firm Ernst & Young has a policy that says employees are not expected to look at their e-mail on weekends.

“They are very concerned about overwork and making sure that employees know that there are some boundaries,” Lingle said.

However, such corporate policies are pretty rare, she noted.

“I suspect that it’s more common for companies to hand out these devices than to create policies around their usage,” Lingle said.

And given the current economic climate, Lingle doubts that employees are going to approach their HR managers anytime soon about creating such a policy.

“Employees are worried about losing their jobs, so they aren’t about to bring this up,” she said.

—Jessica Marquez

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