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Many companies today are offering their employees company cell phones. This allows the company to manage expenses, and have everyone using the same hardware and software. However, most employees don’t enjoy carrying around two phones so they might want to use the company phone for personal use.
You can use the company phone for personal use but take some privacy precautions. You don’t want to store your private information on a company phone. You also want a phone that can mute work communications on your off days while still able to operate your personal communications.
In the rest of the article, I will present to you the most important things you need to know when using a company cell phone for personal use, such as when to use it, is it being monitored, etc.
If you decide to use the company phone for personal use, then there are factors you have to consider. Remember, when you quit or get fired, you have to return the phone. Sometimes you get no notice of your impending dismissal.
There’s a story of an employee from one top global tech company who got fired for some internal violations. The employee reports that her company-issued phone just went blank even before she knew she was fired.
The employee ended up losing important personal and professional contacts, personal photos, documents saved on the phone, and much more personal data. The company’s IT department even refused to help her on how she could retrieve her data.
Employees are celebrating employer-issued gadgets as part of their benefits and perks. However, some cannot keep in mind that the gadgets remain company property even after you stop working there.
On the other hand, employers find that it makes business sense to provide employees with company phones. An Oxford Economics study commissioned by Samsung found that almost 80% of employers feel their staff can’t perform their duties without mobile phones.
Companies rely on mobile phones to reach remote staff, connect employees to email, and protect critical business applications on shared platforms.
So what can you do to safely use the company phone for personal use? First, I would suggest using a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system that allows you to switch off work applications when you’re off duty.
You can still receive work calls but you won’t get notifications for emails and other workflow processes.
Second, you can use an app like Fongo to migrate calls from your personal line to your company phone. This way you don’t have to carry around more than one phone.
Third, I would recommend regularly backing up all your personal content to a cloud-based server. Save your photos, personal emails, contacts, and calendar events on a cloud service that you can access from any other device.
Fourth, if privacy is a genuine issue with your employer, then discuss with them about getting on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) plan. That way, the phone is yours but the company pays for some of your usage.
Last, you can have your personal phone on a basic plan and use the company phone as a hotspot. That way, your personal phone has access to company-paid internet without compromising your data.
Right after high school, I used to work part time as a dog groomer. Sometimes a client would walk in and request that I handle their pets and they would ask to talk to me. I didn’t mind these calls, and always tried to be helpful.
Sometime later, during college, I was working at a popular fast food joint. I hated all work calls and would respond to as few as I could get away with. In both jobs, they would call my personal line, as they hadn’t provided me with a work phone.
There are many instances where the workflow may depend on your input. Business development and sales personnel need to have company-issued mobile phones.
So do IT personnel and departmental heads. For janitors, it may be unfair to have them on call past working hours.
For most people, it is okay to answer your work phone on your off days. It all depends on whether the calls are within reason and whether your role is critical to the ongoing work.
For instance, for most people in the medical field, it is common to receive work calls at all hours of the day or night. In such cases, a phone call could be a matter of life and death.
Yet other non-essential jobs too may need some level of off-duty interactions. Say you’re a bookkeeper who shares a computer with workmates. Colleagues may have to call you for passwords and access to secure documents. There are many scenarios where it would be okay to respond to a work call on your off day.
You want to support management and colleagues. However, if the calls are too much or seem unnecessary, consider having a discussion with your boss.
Those you work with need to understand that you need relaxation on your off days, so on your work days you can perform at your best.
Even when if the phone is a work phone rather than a personal phone, colleagues and management need to respect your need for space.
To preserve your sanity, you may even have to switch off the work phone or block all work-related numbers when you’re off duty.
According to the Oxford Economics study mentioned previously, more and more employers are increasing how much they spend on employee mobile phones.
For instance, both employer-issued and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mobile phone plans have increased. More firms are taking a proactive role in taking up employee mobile phone expenditures beyond the cost of acquisition.
According to the study, 31% of US companies today pay the entire monthly cost for employee phone plans. 20% of companies pay the monthly service bill and a portion of the device cost.
The study cites the average mobile phone stipend for BYOD employees at $36.13 per month or $430 per year. This means that for a mid-sized company with 5,000 employees, the company could pay out an annual average of $2.17M in stipends.
The average mobile phone stipend is higher for BYOD employees than for employees operating an employer-issued device.
Additionally, the BYOD employees have more control on the Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions they use and are paid more for installing MDM software.
Many employers view employee-monitoring as a valuable investment. As a rule of thumb, if you’re using a corporate-issued phone then the company likely can spy on you.
According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, employers put programs in place to rate employee performance, track security risks, curb fraud, and monitor sexual harassment.
This means that your company is capable of location tracking, email filtering, keystroke logging, and instant message archiving.
Some industries that are most notorious for privacy-invasive surveillance on their employee’s phones are:
- Financial services.
- Government agencies.
- Auto engineering.
- IT companies.
Even if you’re using a personal account to receive emails, as long as it passes through your work phone the email may be passing through your work server. That means all your emails will be accessible to the server admins and your employer.
Although the law protects people in some areas, companies still track the numbers dialed and time spent on the phone. Some companies also record phone conversations while others review voicemail recordings.
Companies can track your social media activity if you use company phones to log into your social media accounts.
So next time you choose to view your personal emails through a company phone or to book your doctor’s appointment, keep in mind that your employer might be watching.
Companies resort to monitoring company phones to avoid risks associated with personal use. Some risks involved include:
Employees may not be careful handling company files if the same phone is used for personal use.
Users download all kinds of files and apps. Some may pose data security threats to the phone and company network.
Leaking of sensitive information may lead to a loss of revenue, compromise of intellectual property, or loss of reputation.
It’s easier to lose a phone if it’s used for personal uses. Losing a company phone can expose the firm to hacking and data loss.
Many jurisdictions don’t require employers to disclose that they are monitoring employee communications. You may never know you’re being monitored until a major scandal breaks.
According to USA Today both iOS and Android enable employers to monitor company-issued phones. Both Apple and Google have taken steps to help users identify whether their phones are being monitored.
For iPhone users, you should:
- Got to Settings.
- Device Management.
- There you might find a listing of monitoring software.
It’s quite difficult to install monitoring apps on an iOS device. In most cases, the company will first have to jailbreak the device. To jailbreak an apple phone they may have to install the Cydia app. So if you spot the Cydia app it is likely your activity is under scrutiny.
For android users, the employer has to set up Google’s G-suite enterprise software. Google then helps employers to:
- Restrict access to device settings.
- Restrict access to features such as Wi-Fi access and taking screenshots.
- Monitor compliance with company policies.
- Create reports about device users.
It’s much more difficult to tell if your Android phone is being monitored compared to an iOS phone. Employers may remove restrictions and gain super user access by rooting your android device.
Even though most tracking software work through stealth, there are tell-tale signs that signal whether your phone is being tracked.
Since the monitoring software has to send regular reports, you will experience high data usage.
Apps that actively send usage reports will use up lots of phone resources. High activity may lead to overheating of the device.
Some monitoring tools give off strange noises when your calls connect and disconnect.
Spy apps will consume batteries fast, even while working in the background.
Spy apps work through stealth, so in most cases the app will not leave an icon on the screen. Also, in the app manager, the app may disguise as an important system service.
If you think your employer is monitoring your phone activity, go to the apps manager and manually remove the spy app.
Like all other apps, spy software relies on compatibility with the phone’s operating system to work properly. OS updates may cause the app not working properly. With iPhones, updating iOS with iTunes will remove the jailbreaking and any incompatible apps.
As a last resort, you can restore your phone to factory settings. This method is risky as you may permanently lose all your data. With a factory reset, you’re assured that all apps and data come anew. No chance of reinstalling the spyware.
You can protect your privacy by installing antivirus, anti-malware, or anti-spyware app. These should automatically detect any monitoring software installed on your phone. The antivirus can routinely check and block malicious apps and inform you about how to block and delete them.
Most employees are quite okay with using a company phone for their personal use. Especially where the company doesn’t outright forbid personal use. However, employees should know if they’re fired they could lose all their data.
Employees should also take note that many companies monitor phone usage. If your privacy is important to you, it’s probably not the best idea to use company phones for personal use.