Using your personal phone for work: to mute or not to mute

With changes in workplace culture, usage of mobile phones during work hours is becoming less taboo. We break down the pros and cons.

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An increasing number of businesses either formally or informally expect employees to use their personal phones for work purposes. This could be to establish a personalised connection with clients, or to jump onto a quick must-answer email from the boss before you head into the office. And, not all companies will offer a business mobile contract to their staff, meaning an increased expectation to balance work and personal comms on the same device.

Whether it’s using a personal phone during the working day, or needing to use it for work purposes in the evenings or weekends, the ‘always on’ approach can quickly become part of your working culture. One thing’s for sure – personal phones are no longer something that should be strictly tucked away in your bag as you work.

In this guide, we’ll talk you through some of the right and wrong ways to encourage staff to use their personal phones for work, whether they can refuse to do so, and the essential need-to-knows about safe and secure device usage.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is when employees are afforded the flexibility to use their personal devices for work-related tasks. It’s mainly centred around laptops, particularly within the context of contractors who need specialised tools for design software or web engineering (think MacBook Pros). But, it can effectively extend to smartphones if staff are expected to use their own mobiles for fielding work calls and handling business comms.

A BYOD policy fosters convenience and familiarity, making it easier for employees to be productive while reducing the burden on companies to provide hardware. The main issues arise from security concerns, because robust protocols need to be adopted to safeguard sensitive company data.

Pros and cons of using a personal phone for work

Answering an email or Slack message on a personal phone can take mere moments. However, it’s not all upside. Here are the risks and rewards to consider if you want staff to keep tabs on their work using their own devices:


  • Convenience and accessibility: all of your essential comms and documents are readily available, allowing you to promptly reply to emails or leaf through a PDF deck on your commute.
  • Cost effectiveness: BYOD policies reduce hardware expenses. From an employer’s perspective, this can feel like a win. However, staff may have growing expectations of a business mobile to support their work.
  • Familiarity with a personal device: using a personal phone for work capitalises on familiarity with the device. There’s no learning curve for new hardware, and you know where all your work and personal apps are.
  • Boosted productivity: having essential contacts only a tap away facilitates quick communication and collaboration. This can potentially accelerate project timelines and decision-making processes.


  • Work-life balance in jeopardy: Expecting staff to use their own phone for work can lead to constant availability expectations, even during evenings and weekends, which can put a strain on their work-life balance. This can also blur the distinction between personal and professional identities.
  • Data loss implications: personal devices are more susceptible to data breaches and loss, posing significant security risks to sensitive company information should the device be compromised or stolen. This can raise legal and compliance issues regarding data protection, privacy regulations, and intellectual property rights.
  • Security risks: personal phones may lack the specialised functionality and security features of work-issued devices. For instance, a work-issued device may have extra VPN settings for secure browsing.
  • File safety: just because staff can access a business file from their iPhone, it doesn’t mean you should want them to. There’s a data management risk if staff are downloading a PDF full of company trading updates, or, worse still, customer contact details that should only be accessed in a secure environment.
  • HR ramifications: HR teams might find themselves having to manage inappropriate behaviour when staff can contact each other on their personal devices. There’s a fine line between banter and bullying in digital communications. What can begin with an essential work message or two on WhatsApp can quickly devolve into unwelcome communication.
Did you know?

According to our Business Communications survey, 54% of mobile phone-using respondents state that they respond to work-related communication outside of work. This reveals evidence of an ‘always-on’ culture among small-business senior leaders.

Can I refuse to use my personal phone for work?

In the UK, whether an employer can refuse to use their personal phone for work largely depends on the circumstances, company policies, and additional legal considerations.

Let’s not dance around it – refusing to use your personal phone for work can be a potentially awkward conversation with a line manager. The good news is that workplace culture is beginning to catch up with trends in work-life balance, particularly after the pandemic and the rise of flexible working. This can mean that for an employee, the power is increasingly in their hands when standing their ground over being expected to use a personal phone for work.

Of course, that flexible work trend has led to an increased likelihood of staff using personal phones for quick comms and other tasks while working remotely.

There’s a big difference, though, between refusing to use a personal phone for work, and refusing to use any mobile phone for work. An employer can offer the employee access to a business mobile when handling client calls. This will help keep work and any sensitive data separated from a personal device.

Staff that are not in a sales role and a manager suggests (or insists) that a work email or Slack is added to a personal phone, there are some ways of pushing back.

Again, arguing a case for a business mobile may be fruitful. If this is deemed unnecessary for the staff’s role and the level of work comms expected to do on a mobile, then the HR team may become involved in any discussions. Staff are encouraged to offer constructive criticism while remaining non-combative.

While there is no specific law prohibiting employers from requiring employees to use their personal phones for work purposes, certain factors can provide grounds to do so:

  • Contractual agreements: if the employment contract explicitly says that employees need to use their personal phones for work, refusal could constitute a breach of contract.
  • Reasonable request: requiring the use of personal phones for work should be justified by legitimate business needs, such as enhancing communication or productivity, rather than simply shifting costs or responsibilities onto employees.
  • Data protection and privacy: employees have rights under the Data Protection Bill (which has replaced GDPR in the UK) regarding the processing of personal data. This includes data stored on personal devices. Employers must ensure that any personal information accessed or stored on employees’ personal phones is handled in compliance with data protection laws.
  • Health and safety: in some cases, using personal phones for work may pose health and safety risks, such as distraction while driving or ergonomic issues from prolonged use. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees, which may require providing alternative means of communication or work devices.

Safe and secure BYOD strategies

While BYOD policies are now commonplace due to the flexibility and accessibility they provide, rolling out this approach needs to be done carefully.

We break down some best practices to follow for both companies and employees to maximise the utility of BYOD strategies:

Company perspective

  1. Implement clear BYOD policies and guidelines: clear guidelines on acceptable use, security protocols, and employee responsibilities are essential. Communicate expectations regarding data protection, device management, and acceptable usage.
  2. Provide security software and training: equip employees with robust security software or apps, such as mobile device management (MDM) solutions; VPNs or antivirus programs, helping safeguard against threats like malware and data breaches. Offer regular training sessions to educate employees on best practices for securing their devices and data, including password management and recognising phishing attempts.
  3. Reimbursement programs for work-related expenses: recognise the financial investment employees make when using their personal devices for work by implementing reimbursement programs for work-related expenses. This can include covering costs associated with data plans, software licences, or device upgrades.

Employee perspective

  1. Set boundaries and work hours: make sure to delineate clear boundaries between your work and personal life. Avoid responding to work-related messages or emails outside of these hours to prevent burnout.
  2. Use separate work profiles or apps: compartmentalise work-related activities and personal use however you can. This separation helps minimise the risk of accidental data exposure and ensures better privacy protection.
  3. Don’t download sensitive docs to your device: exercise caution when downloading and storing sensitive documents on your device. Whenever possible, access sensitive information through secure company networks or cloud-based platforms rather than storing it locally on your device.
  4. Implement strong passwords and security measures: strengthen the security of your device and work-related accounts by implementing strong, unique passwords and enabling additional security measures such as biometric authentication or two-factor login.
  5. Backup data regularly: protect against data loss by regularly backing up important work-related data stored on your device. Use cloud storage solutions to ensure redundancy and resilience in case of device failure or loss.
  6. Report lost or stolen devices immediately: prompt reporting enables quick mitigation measures, such as remote device wiping. This can prevent unauthorised access to sensitive information.
  7. Be conscious of contacting other employees: respect your colleagues’ privacy and work-life boundaries by being mindful of when and how you contact them outside of work hours.

Alternatives to using your personal phone for work

If you’re not convinced of using your personal phone for work, whether as an employee or employer, there’s always the option of using company-issued devices. This ensures a clear distinction between work and personal life while offering equipment that comes with tailored features and security protocols.

For those who prefer to stick with their personal devices, a mobile phone allowance provides a fair compromise. This arrangement allows employees to claim expenses associated with using their own device, mitigating the financial burden while acknowledging their contribution to the company.


Using personal mobile phones is attached to a number of downsides, as employees might find themselves drifting towards an ‘always-on’ culture. This can be synonymous with burnout and decreased staff morale.

Nevertheless, if the right guidelines are adopted and a work-life balance is strongly upheld, the benefits can outweigh the limitations.

While being able to answer business messages from anywhere at any time is definitely tempting from a productivity perspective, it’s important to remember that everything is about balance. Understand that employees are entitled to their own private life and time.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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