Should You Provide Employees a Work Cell Phone or Get Them a Second Line?

should businesses provide work cell phone for employees or second line phone

Nearly half of Americans spend at least an hour a day handling work-related calls and emails on their cell phones. More than half of Americans tote their phones into restrooms to avoid missing crucial calls.

As these numbers show, both employers and employees agree that staying connected is critical to success. Opinions vary on how to best achieve that connectedness, however. The debate between work cell phones and second lines is fierce.

Keep reading to get the scoop on this controversial mobile phone issue. 

Work Cell Phones vs Second Lines

It has long been standard practice for companies to issue employees a company cell phone. In situations where employees must use mobile phones for work, it is almost expected. There are many benefits to this practice, particularly for employers.

In recent years, however, an increasing number of employers have begun to adopt the practice of simply adding second lines to personal employee phones instead. This change has been driven by: 

  • New technology that makes second lines practical and affordable
  • Employee backlash against carrying dual phones

When deciding which option is right for your company, it's important to look at all the factors involved.

Pros of Issuing Work Cell Phones

There's no denying that company-issued cell phones come with a host of benefits. Each company's specific cost-benefit ratio will ultimately vary, but the results can be compelling.


Issuing work phones to employees can provide cost savings on several fronts. Specifically: 

  • You pay a lower rate for a business account through a sole provider 
  • Billing and administrative costs are streamlined
  • Paying bulk equipment costs for phones, batteries, and accessories saves money 

Consistency and Compatibility

Distributing work mobiles ensures that employees have the right tools for their jobs. It also ensures that all employees have the same programs and capabilities. This improves workforce consistency and coordination.

Uniform work devices also simplify and streamline the demands on your IT department. This can reduce support costs and time lost to malfunctioning devices.

Additionally, employees are less likely to add or remove apps on a work device. This reduces the chance of security and privacy breaches. 

Security and Control

Companies that issue work phones have complete control over those devices. This increases the security of those devices in crucial ways.

For example, companies can choose virus protection and encryption programming. They also keep all safety features up-to-date.

Employees treat company-issued phones differently, as well. They generally do not use them for personal business. They also do not share the phones or their passwords with friends or family.

This protects proprietary company information. Finally, work phones can be wiped without the risk of ugly complications. 

Cons of Issuing Work Cell Phones

At first glance, the list of pros of issuing work cell phones might make the question of their value seem like an open and shut case. But company-issued cell phones have very real drawbacks, as well.


Although there are arguments to be made for the places your company can save money by issuing phones, there's no getting around the fact that work mobiles aren't cheap. Employers have to shell out for:

  • Hardware (phones, batteries, etc.)
  • Hardware insurance
  • Software (apps, security programming, etc.)
  • IT support 
  • Phone plans

All of these costs add up. IT support, in particular, can become extremely costly very quickly. IT departments typically become responsible for:
  • Issuing phones
  • Phone set up
  • Trouble-shooting and maintenance
Additionally, companies often find they must provide costly 24/7 support because any loss of functionality in the phones negatively impacts employees' ability to do their jobs. Finally, companies face the often hefty costs of regularly upgrading and replacing equipment.  

Employee Backlash

A high percentage of employees despise carrying work phones. Many cite managing dual phones as annoying, frustrating, and inconvenient.

Companies may be tempted to write off these complaints. Yet employee satisfaction is critical to talent retention. In today's economic environment, competition for good workers is strong.

Insisting on second phones that employees do not want can cost companies a great deal. It increases their likelihood of losing good talent and lowers their ability to attract good workers.

Pros of Second Lines

The alternative to issuing a company cell phone, of course, is setting up a second line on employees' personal phones. Setting up a second line on iPhone or Android devices can be quick, easy, and offer its own competitive array of benefits. 

Happy Employees

The majority of employees dislike carrying dual phones. Often, their feelings on the subject are very strong. They may even turn down jobs where they must carry a second phone.

Getting paid to use their personal phones for business, however, is often viewed as an attractive perk. In 2011, the IRS made these payments non-taxable. The ruling only increased the popularity of such payments for employees.

Using workers' personal phones makes them happy in other ways, as well. For example, it allows each employee to work with their preferred operating system.

This increases employee satisfaction. It may also boost their productivity.

Accommodating these expectations and preferences improving employee satisfaction and retention. In today's market, it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of happy employees and the cost savings associated with talent retention.

Remote Access 

Second lines installed on employee phones can be managed entirely remotely. This enables company IT support to perform all necessary maintenance on work-related apps and security without the need to have the device in front of them. 

Lower Costs 

Adding second lines to employees' own phones eliminates the need for companies to pay for devices, accessories, phone plans, device insurance, and most other costs. This can result in enormous savings. 

Companies also save time, money, and hassle in that employees using personal phones can reach out to their providers and providers' tech support to address common issues and complaints. This reduces the burden on company IT departments. 

Cons of Second Lines  

As popular and practical as they are, second lines are not without a few drawbacks. Keep these potential complications in line when making an informed decision. 

Work-Life Balance

Some employees may find it more difficult to achieve work-life balance with their work calls and emails being routed through their personal phones at all hours. When installing second lines, it's important to make sure employees know how to manage their second lines in healthy and productive ways. 

Incompatibility and Inconsistency Issues

The diversity in makes, models, and operating systems among employees' personal devices and plans can create inconsistencies and incompatibility challenges. Employees may not all have the same reliability, access, or functionality with various tasks. How much of a problem this presents can vary widely from company to company. 

Potential Complications

Several major companies using second-line technologies, such as Google, have run into issues upon employee termination. Specifically, wiping company data from personal phones also led the corruption and loss of private data. While this is not legally a concern as employees have no grounds to sue, it can cause public relations challenges. 

Employers opting for second lines should make sure they are using reliable second line services to prevent such problems.

Making the Best Choice for Your Company

With a clear understanding of the pros and cons of work cell phones and second-line options, you are in a much better position to make informed choices for your company. 

Browse the rest of our tech-savvy articles to keep improving your understanding of the best ways to help your company thrive in our high-tech world. Visit the Tech section of our Bootstrap Business Blog to learn more about work cell phones, telecommunications, Wi-Fi, smartphones, and much more!

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