More staff are hooking up their own gadgets - such as iPhones and laptops - to networks at their workplace, research shows.

The bring-your-own trend is creating security risks for businesses but also the potential to boost productivity, says Brett Hodgson, managing director for Unisys New Zealand.

Research, commissioned by Unisys and done by technology research firm IDC, found 96 per cent of employees in this country are using at least one self-purchased device at work.

Hodgson said employees were bringing in devices including phones, GPS, cameras, netbooks and music and video devices.

Around the world more than 3.5 billion devices were connected to networks, said Hodgson, with that figure expected to double in the next two years.

"The consumerisation of IT is happening," he said.

"What I think is of concern is there is a gap between what employees and employers actually think what is happening in their work environment. That's creating a level of security risk for organisations if they don't get their head around that."

The study found a gap between what employees were using technology for and what employers were aware of.

For example, 53 per cent of employees said they could attach personal devices to their workplace network while only 45 per cent of employers said it was allowable.

Downloading audio files not related to work was acceptable according to 37 per cent of employees, but only 25 per cent of employers said it was permitted.

Hodgson said organisations needed to close that gap and create a more secure environment.

"Employees have a knack of working around policies and procedures that don't work."

Hodgson said organisations needed to talk to staff and find out what is being used and why. It was an opportunity for organisations to find out what technologies staff were comfortable using and whether there were productivity and communications gains to be made.

The study found firms were connecting to social media outlets, such as Twitter but around a third of companies had no policy on social media use in the workplace.