For some companies, providing a company-owned cell phone can be a wonderful investment; for others, not so much. What works for one company may not work for another. Evaluating the pros and cons can help your company make an informed decision on what's best for your specific team.

What Are Work Phones?

Work phones, at their most basic definition, are phones used for work-related activities. For the purpose of this article however the discussion will be limited to basic cell phones and smartphones only.

There are two options when it comes to providing your employees with work cell phones: the company cell phone plan and the cell phone reimbursement policy. Each comes with its own fair share of pros and cons, which will be explored further below.

Company Cell Phone Plan

The first option is the company cell phone plan. This plan provides every employee with a company-owned cell phone or smartphone. Through the carrier an employer can purchase a business plan and add the  lines they need. Different plans allow for more or fewer lines, as well as data allocations for mobile internet access. Bigger companies may need a business unlimited plan

Employers can also install any apps, contacts, or other important information needed for work. It is important to note however that employers are often expected to provide full support if devices are accidentally damaged.

Cell-Phone Reimbursement Policy

A cell-phone reimbursement policy is a second possible avenue to explore, and potentially a more sensible one. With 96% of Americans owning a cell phone as of 2019, it is reasonable to assume that your employees have their own phones. A reimbursement policy helps compensate employees for using their personal phones for work purposes, rather than adding the full expense of purchasing a new device and plan for every employee.

However, discrepancies could arise between individual employees' phone plans. While one employee may be paying for an unlimited phone plan, another could be budgeting for a carrier's lowest priced option. A third employee could be on a family plan. Employers would have to figure out what plans they can reimburse, how much they can reimburse for each plan, and so forth.

 

Pros of Work Phones

Below are the pros associated with work phones:

Working remotely - Company-owned cell phones enable employees to work remotely. This is useful for companies with work-from-home privileges, for employees who need to be on-call, or for life’s unexpected events — such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compatibility - Providing your employees with a work phone puts everyone on the same software and hardware,  enabling compatibility among devices.

Round the clock access - Employees that need to be on-call could benefit from having a company cell phone. A phone preloaded with the right software and contacts gives employees 24/7 access to everything they may need. 

Hiring tactic - Offering your employees cell phones could be an incentive for people to apply to your company, especially those facing socio-economic barriers to purchasing their own phone. 

Monitoring - Company work phones allow employers to monitor their employees’ cell phone usage through security and protection products. While this may help catch or reduce employee time theft, it may also present the biggest con — lack of privacy. 

Cost savings - The more lines you have on a plan, the more money you can save. This is one major pro associated with having a cell phone company plan. Reimbursing employees for business use of their personal cell phones may cost a lot more than the former option. 

 

Cons of Work Phones

Below are the cons associated with work phones: 

Carrying multiple phones - Since the vast majority of Americans today already have a cell phone, receiving a second phone for work could become a nuisance. People don’t usually want to carry around two phones all of the time — and those same people may be hesitant to cancel their personal phone plan. 

Privacy - Perhaps the biggest con is that employees may not be so keen about storing all of their personal information on a work phone. Concerns over privacy may lead to employees carrying around two phones instead. 

More work for IT - Any problems that arise with work phones must be dealt with by your IT department. In other words, the company is expected to maintain them, not the employees. 

Upgrade costs - Cell phone technology changes rapidly. What’s deemed a fast and reliable phone today may not be so four years from now. Employers providing cell phones to their employees should expect to upgrade them every 2 years or so. 

Employees taking advantage - Company cell phones provided for work-related activities only may be taken advantage of by employees. These risks would need to be curtailed by effective company cell phone policy. 

Expenses - For companies still in their start-up phase offering a cell phone to every employee may be too expensive. Especially when factoring in costs that’ll occur later down the road, new companies with tight profit margins may be better off waiting.  

 

Importance of Creating a Company Cell Phone Policy

If you decide to give out company-owned cell phones, you'll want to establish a company cell phone policy and protocol. Creating clear expectations for employees can help diminish any risks associated with the use of work phones. Lastly, make sure to craft a policy that works with your company's needs.

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