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November 9, 2010

Workers and bosses clash over mobile policy: study

Cisco survey reveals disconnect over mobile devices and social media access

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There is a worrying disconnect between businesses and workers when it comes to mobile devices and social networks and policies governing their use, according to new research from networking giant Cisco.

A survey of 2,600 workers and IT professionals from 13 countries revealed that over two-thirds believed their companies’ IT policies could be improved, while nearly half admitted to breaking policies to meet their needs.

Worryingly for IT departments 24% of employees are unaware of company policies, while a similar figure claim their company does not have IT policies on acceptable device usage.

Of the workers that admitted breaking IT policies, 41% said their actions were due to the need to access and run restricted apps needed to get work done rather than any malicious reasons. Many workers also feel that policies could be updated to reflect real-world needs and work styles.

The survey also revealed that workers are much more likely to be banned from using social media sites than personal mobile devices. Just 18% are banned from using iPods at work, while the same figure applies to the use of personal laptops and mobiles. Only 15% were restricted from using iPads.

However, more employees (41%) said they are restricted from using Facebook at work while 35% are restricted from using Twitter at work or on work devices. 28% are not allowed to use instant messaging and one in five workers are not allowed to send personal emails on work machines or during work hours.

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The vast majority (66%) believe they should be able to connect freely with any device – personal or company-issued – and access the applications and information that they need around the clock. Whether a company has policies in place or not, employees will use personal devices and find their way around restrictions, so the advice to businesses seems to be that updating policies to reflect a more modern approach to working is the way forward.

"The time spent between work and personal lives has blurred. Employees expect to access networks, applications and information anywhere, at any time, on any device. With the expansion of diverse devices in the workplace, along with the growth of video as a favoured mode of communication, IT organisations are facing many policy and management demands on their networking infrastructure," said Marie Hattar, vice president, Borderless Networks, Cisco.

"While most companies have IT policies, employees are not always aware of or knowledgeable about them. For those employees who are cognizant, policies are not always considered up-to-date or reflective of real-world business and lifestyle expectations, and as a result they are broken many times," added Nasrin Rezai, senior director, Cisco Security.

"The Cisco Connected World Report spotlights the disconnect between IT, employees and policies. As workforces become more distributed and the consumerization of IT becomes a fact of mainstream life, the importance of updating appropriate policies to accommodate employee needs while balancing risk and security becomes critical," Rezai added.

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