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BYOD stipends may soon go away (if IT gets its way)

Tom Kaneshige | June 24, 2014
Reimbursements for employees who bring their own mobile devices to work have gone through rapid-fire changes in just a few years. The most recent changes definitely don't favor workers. In fact, IT decision makers at companies envision the day when payments go away completely.

For employees, nothing gets more personal than money. So when companies began doling out payments to offset Bring Your Own Device wireless service bills, employees cheered.

Those cries of joy, however, may turn to tears of sorrow. The BYOD payment has undergone multiple facelifts over the last couple of years -- from expense reimbursements to paycheck stipends to wireless bill credits -- and might soon evolve itself right out of existence.

In fact, IT decision makers at companies supporting BYOD anticipate the day when payments go away. "As with any large expenditure, I think everyone has this on their radar screen," says Jim Gay, vice president of information delivery at insurance giant Nationwide.

BYOD payments are already starting to disappear in areas of the country where jobs are sparse and companies aren't under pressure to provide perks. Some industry watchers predict BYOD payments will follow in the footsteps of home Wi-Fi reimbursements, which, for the most part, employees no longer receive even though they use their home Wi-Fi for work purposes.

For the average employee, the BYOD payment is a decent chunk of change every month that can add up quickly. The average BYOD employee receives $70 a month, or $849 a year, to cover a portion of the wireless bill. Most BYOD programs today offer some form of employee payment. Given the high rates of a smartphone bill, employees will no doubt notice its loss.

Your Phone, Your Phone Bill

Much like Wi-Fi in homes, BYOD's march toward ubiquity will no doubt spell the end of payments. Once enough people are on a BYOD program and get use to carrying a single device for both work and personal purposes, companies can slowly reduce the payment until it disappears. In other words, once BYOD reaches an economy of scale, individuals won't be able to push back effectively.

However, slow adoption might slow down the payment's demise. This month, conflicting reports on BYOD adoption surfaced: a CompTIA survey found as many as half of large companies are not doing BYOD at all, while an Aruba Networks survey found that more than half of organizations have already fully embraced employee BYOD or implemented new policies to support it.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the end of the BYOD payment. After all, it has undergone considerable changes in its short time in the corporate world.

Companies have faced hurdle after hurdle trying to provide the employee payment for BYOD smartphones, pivoting on how it's delivered nearly every year, and thus would like to see its end -- not to mention the money it would save companies.

In the earliest days, employees filed expense reports to get the BYOD payment, or reimbursement. It was a method riddled with problems. For instance, a globetrotting executive might file an expense report chock full of international roaming charges that add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Some employees expensed entire family plans. Others signed up for and expensed maximum data plans even though they didn't need them.


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