I already use the work profile on my personal phone to get work emails and messages. But there's also a new option where my company will fully pay for a phone and the associated plan. Should I start keeping 2 phones, getting a new company phone and making the other one fully personal? My major concerns are with company having access to my personal texts and email (it's not prohibited). Can they really monitor my personal Google accounts even though I'm using the separate work profile in Android?
If given a choice:
- two phones: one paid for by work; and one paid for by me
- One phone that I use for work and for personal use.
I will always choose two phones. Therefore work is responsible for the work phone. They pay for it, they can dictate applications, they can wipe it. They can see all the texts, and downloads. Also when you leave you return the phone to them and never have to worry about people from your old job contacting you.
Yes some of this can be done with two profiles, but that work profile is still taking up storage, ram, and CPU cycles while running in the background.
Even if the software always keeps the data separate, the company profile and requirements will be impacting your phone.
Lots of good answers, but a major point that hasn't been raised is you can switch a Company phone off(*) if you are on holiday, during the weekend, or even just you've finished for the day. Enforcing that downtime is a really good idea and my main reason for having two phones.
(*) Assuming you're not on call or otherwise contractually obliged to be available.
I wanted to throw one more answer in here as former administrator of company provided cell phones. Of course, this is a very subjective topic as one company may want to see everything on a company phone while other companies simply provide them as perks and could care less what users do on them.
Myself? I jumped on the opportunity to have my company pay for my cell phone - it was one less bill for me. I've had to have this discussion with users before as to what we see when we "manage" devices - and the honest answer is not much. I've worked through a few MDM applications, but the most personal thing I could see would be what apps were installed. Other than that, I couldn't read messages, couldn't see call history, couldn't go through the photos or anything like that. I could however remotely wipe the device in its entirety.
The power to remotely wipe a device comes directly from email access, if you add company email to a phone they can wipe it remotely to protect their intellectual property. This is actually a product of Exchange - I can count on one hand the amount of times I've been asked to do this. This power could also come from an MDM application itself as they are usually agent based. The "work folders" Android configuration essentially fences off your work/personal life - Apple doesn't really have a similar feature but it was getting there.
Last point, and again a semi-anecdotal one, is nobody cares what you do on your phone as long as you're not breaking the law with it. I never spent my days going through the huge list of devices to see who had what apps installed - besides not caring it offered no real value to me. Modern MDM solutions, like Intune, are getting so powerful that it's getting even easier to segment the work and personal sides of devices.
So long story short, take the free phone and use it as both your work/personal. Most IT professionals don't care what you do on the device as long as you're not downloading viruses or running a criminal empire from it.
*Edited for clarity
My major concerns are with company having access to my personal texts and email (it's not prohibited). Can they really monitor my personal Google accounts even though I'm using the separate work profile in Android?
If you allow your company to install anything on your personal phone, you need to assume that they now have total control over your phone and can see and/or do anything to anything on your phone.
If you are comfortable with this arrangement then you can continue using your personal phone for work, otherwise I would opt for a company provided phone.
It's a personal choice, in the end.
I have kept a seperate private phone for around 20 years now (despite company phones provided during most of those years), and haven't regretted it. Yes, it costs me extra, yes there is some inconvenience in carrying around 2 phones, but:
- I always know if an incoming call is a work or a private call
- I can switch off and put away my work phone on weekends
- I go to holidays and leave my work phone at home
- I keep my private phone and phone number when I switch jobs
- I can pick whatever phone I want, not what company policy allows
For me, these advantages are more than worth it. But as I said, for someone else, they may not.
I would hate to have to carry two phones. I'd rather use my private phone for a bit of work than having a second phone.
On the other hand, I use it very little for work. There is a 2FA app running on it (so I do something on my works computer and I have to press a button on my phone). And some things are connected through 2FA to my phone number. No problem either. My phone is not set up to read company email, or slack, that's what the computer is for. Some people have my private phone number, and my second private email address, for emergencies. (And things like messages from payroll should go to my private phone IMO).
It really depends on usage. If people get your private phone number who don't know the difference between "emergency" and "not emergency", then the company has to pay for a second phone. And if it's not obvious: No control over my phone will be given to the company. Ever.
Carrying around two phones is indeed a bit more of a hassle, but there are a lot of benefits for doing so:
- You can use whatever type/model phone you want and upgrade it whenever you want. You're not limited to a platform that's compatible with your company's systems.
- No risk of your company's IT department remotely wiping your personal data off of your phone.
- Your company can't access your call logs, email, and other personal communications, so you can interview for new jobs without alerting your current employer.
- Most of the time, accessing work systems on your phone requires you to authorize your employer to run a piece of software that has administrator rights over your device. Such a program can technically access anything on the device, regardless of profiles. It's a creepy overreach, and it can prevent you from doing things like rooting your phone, installing certain security software, etc. You should be in full control of your own device, don't give your IT department a backdoor into your system.
- Separate phones make it significantly easier to protect confidential information. Having no company information on your personal device means that you can use whatever apps you want, even apps like social media that harvest your contact list (including any confidential information stored there). Similarly, you can have your personal device back up all your info to the cloud without risk of company information getting copied along with it. Profiles are supposed to protect against a lot of this but they aren't perfect. Assume any software on your phone will have access to all of your phone's contents.
- While at work, you can put your personal device on vibrate and leave the ringer on for your work phone. While not at work, vice versa.
- Vacations become a lot more restful when coworkers know you leave your work phone in your desk when you go on vacation. They try to call you, can hear your desk ringing, and it reinforces the point that you're off the clock. Or, you can leave your phone with a coworker and they can seamlessly handle any customer calls while you're gone.
- Your personal and work phones can be on completely separate carriers/networks. If you get stuck in a dead spot, you can always use the other phone in a pinch. Very useful for people who work at customer sites and not in the same office every day.
- Stuck on an annoying call that you can't get out of? "Hey, my work phone is ringing, I have to go". My sister uses that one every time I call her.
- Doing your taxes gets simpler. You no longer have to figure out what you paid that's a work-related expense, what taxes you have to pay on your company's phone plan reimbursement, etc. Separate devices for separate purposes will eliminate all of that.
- If you travel internationally for work, your company can pay for the more expensive plan that includes international access. Even if your company currently pays for your phone plan, upgrading plans often requires a long-term contract. If you leave the company, you're now stuck paying out the rest of that expensive international plan yourself.
- Have small kids? You can let them use your personal phone to watch a video or play a game without worrying that they'll accidentally delete those important emails that you really need.
- A separate work phone makes it a lot harder to forget what profile you're currently using and accidentally send that embarrassing tweet from the company's official account.
- Your personal email and text messages contain lots of information that most locales consider "sensitive" and protected: medical information, family details, etc. Using a single phone often means this information will be exposed to your employer. Even if it's technically illegal for them to discriminate against you based on that information, don't even give them the temptation to do so. Keep your work and personal stuff isolated on separate devices.
- Having a separate work phone number is enough of a benefit in and of itself:
- Only give your personal number out to the coworkers that you really like. When you leave the company, those annoying coworkers can't contact you.
- Some office phone systems can link your work number to both your mobile and your desk phone. When you're in the office, that number rings your desk phone. When you're out of the office, it rings your work mobile. That can't typically be done with a personal number.
- After you switch jobs, your old phone/number can be assigned to another team member. This makes transitions easier. Your customers will call the same number but instead of getting you, they'll get the new person in charge of the account. Much easier than hoping everyone updates their records and doesn't have an old business card laying around somewhere.
- Similarly, you won't have customers calling you after you leave the company. Not only is that annoying, it can potentially have legal consequences. If you leave to work for a competitor, having old clients call you (even unknowingly) could be interpreted as trying to poach customers. Many contracts and non-compete agreements specifically prohibit this but even when they don't, it's considered unethical in many places. Leaving the old number behind means you walk away clean and it's hard to accuse you of doing anything improper.
- Many apps and services use text messages for two-factor authentication. TFA codes for personal use shouldn't be sent to a number that the company controls, since you can't predict or control who else can see those codes.
I don't have a separate mobile phone for work (I don't use my phone for work at all), but I know a lot of people that do. Exactly zero of them regret it. Several of them do it even though they have to pay for the work phone themselves. It takes a few weeks to get accustomed to carrying around two phones, but it's completely worth it.
Firstly, it's a personal decision. There are trade-offs either way.
Without knowing your specific set-up it's difficult to know what the balance is, but to answer the specific question you are asking it is unlikely that your company can access your personal data - with a few caveats.
Potentially a detailed question could be more fully answered in the Android or Security StackExchanges, but a common way for companies to implement this is to use Google Workspaces on an Android phone which sets up a Work Profile. These have access to specific subset of data on your personal phone, which in brief, is meta-data about your phone. You also have the option to turn off this work profile including on a schedule if you don't want to be disturbed by work at certain times, or increasing your privacy during more sensitive times such as medical appointments.
As long as your phone is kept patched with the latest security updates this is all your company could see.
There may however be more invasive software that you do not want that your company may enforce on to your phone which you may want to investigate in more detail.
No one I know (software consulting business) has 2 phones except those at annoying companies who don't allow personal devices. The problem with 2 phones is that no one who knows you from work will be able to find you again after you leave. If you work in an industry where people know each other, there is a huge value in keeping the same phone number over time.
The problem with people knowing everything about you is Google and Apple, not your company. They can't see your google email by allowing an office account on the phone.
Carry 2 phones if you want, but I don't see the value.
Having two phones is usually more inconvenient, as you need to juggle two devices at the same time to access both your personal and your work life.
However this inconvenience can also be a benefit. Having two devices mean that
- It's easier to separate your work from your personal stuff, which can lead to a better work-life balance
- There is no way the company can access your personal phone's content
- Once you leave the company you don't need to worry about what work related stuff might have been left on your personal phone
- Sometimes you can get/buy the company phone when you leave (or the phone gets replaced) which might leave you with a better phone that you can use afterwards or give to your friends and family
Occasionally it can have drawbacks, especially if you need to have both of your phones with you at the same time, for example if you are the on-call support person over the weekend or similar.
You have two decide whether the inconvenience of having two phones is more of a benefit to you or more of a drawback. If you do decide that one phone is easier to handle then however make sure to use whatever tool is available on that phone to separate your personal and work life:
- Never allow yourself to access company resources with your personal phone's personal profile. Use features like Samsung's Secure Folder or Huawei's PrivateSpace to separate your work profile from your personal one. These both add an extra layer of security to access your work profile and make sure that your company can also only access this part of your device
- If the above is not available, Google's Work Profile, or simply setting up a new separate user account on your phone is definitely the minimum. Again these tools will make sure that the company will only be able to access things that are on your work profile, given you make sure nothing of your personal stuff gets mixed with your work stuff
- (If you get a work SIM card as well) make sure you get a dual-SIM phone so you can use both your work and personal SIM cards at the same time. There's no point in having a single device if you need to swap sim cards every time
There is also the hybrid option of having one phone with two subscriptions. Many modern phones support dual SIM (or SIM + eSIM). You still have one device (that you own for example), have your private subscription on one SIM (or eSIM) and get a SIM card from your employer to no have to pay for work related calls. You separate - you just return the SIM card.
What to do with the messages and data in the device is a separate matter.
Big, fat YES, use two phones.
Unless it is your or your mom's business, your employer may turn hostile to you in a hearthbeat. Bad things do happen.
What's more, even if you are on generally good terms with your boss, there will be a whole command chain over yout phone and the safety of its personal content.
Your company sysadmin, HR clerk, your immediate manager and probably some other people can wipe, lock, terminate the cell contract or in some cases browse the contents of your phone even by mistake. Mistakes do happen.
And then, phones do break sometimes. Having some kind of backup that you decide when to use is good.
Personally, I have my private and work phone separated mainly due to your existing concern: with company having access to my personal texts and email
It depends on jurisdiction, but in a good deal of cases, a work phone would be considered company property, and any connection to your personal accounts would be open to them whether they intentionally access it or not.
If you want things kept private - you keep your private stuff on a device that you and only you have full control over.
The main concern is also the reason why I have separate private/work phones even though they both have the dual SIM feature.
The second reason to use separate phones may be for tax reasons. In my case (Denmark) you'd be charged a tax each month from your pay if you use a work phone privately.
OK, all answers are about having two phones, I will throw mine which is about having only one.
I always have had one phone since 1998 when I got my first one. It has always been a company phone.
This was because:
- Android now has a separate work and personal profile
- I know what the company is having access to
- I live in a country with strong privacy laws
- I work for an ethical company
- I know that if I was leaving, I could get my number with me
- I can change phones to better ones more often
There are plenty of good aspects that are much more compelling than the bad ones.
I need and want to be able to answer work-related calls anytime because if someone calls me it is important.
I will not read company emails on vacation (except if I need to), and I do not get any notification when they arrive.
This is a specific, comfortable situation and I would hate to have to carry two phones.
Thank you for all the responses. Based on all the answers here, it is pretty clear that this is subjective and an individual choice that depends on so many variables. The responses here help and educate people like me to make that choice.
I requested for a separate device and a new number, which made the most sense for my situation. This gives me the option to selectively use the work phone, rather than fully adding work profile to my personal phone.
In my situation, work/life balance is not a concern. I'm not worried about getting work phone calls outside of business hours. If anything, in my role I want to get those notifications real time rather than walking into a bigger unfavorable situation on Monday morning.
My company has a written policy that they will not access personal data on the phone. However, I do know that if they have a reason to suspect anything, they can and will go thru the emails and text messages. My interpretation is that once I port over my personal number to the company, that becomes company paid property which they can review anytime without notice. In that case it doesn't restrict them from reviewing personal messages regardless of what that policy says. I don't even think they would need access to my phone to do any of that.
So my plan is to keep two phones. Keep my current personal phone and number, but move to a cheaper plan. Get the new phone and number from the company, and use that primarily. My major drawback is that I would have to charge and carry two phones everywhere. What I'm still in the process of researching is whether company can see other personal emails and apps outside of the Android work profile. If that is safe (I know I should assume company can see everything), I would use the new company phone for apps like navigation and forward my personal calls to the new company number, so then I don't have to carry two phones everywhere. I still have the option to detach anytime.