Should we be using WhatsApp in the office?

WhatsApp is a social programme used by nearly everyone to be in constant contact with family and friends. It is used to share news, jokes, photos and videos, you can even...

WhatsApp is a social programme used by nearly everyone to be in constant contact with family and friends. It is used to share news, jokes, photos and videos, you can even audio call and video call. WhatsApp is rivalling all other types of communication in the form of texting, emailing, skyping and phone calls. It is not a surprise that WhatsApp has infiltrated the workplace, it is free, readily available and familiar. We have investigated the benefits and detriments to using WhatsApp and have listed our findings below.

Let’s start with the challenges we are presented with.

  • It looks unprofessional. WhatsApp is a casual app that uses profile pictures, emojis and GIFS to express emotions and feelings. It is hard to distinguish the difference when messaging a spouse and a client at the same time.
  • Some companies have banned the app to remain compliant with GDPR legislation. This can cause issues with employees using the app for personal uses. It is also hard to manage unless all staff are issued with company phones and therefore are required to follow the rules. Once added to a group all members can see your mobile number. If this is your personal number, you may not want everyone to have access to it. However, there are currently no ways around this and if you wish to be a part of the group, it is a nuisance.
  • There is also no way to decline an invitation. Once you are added to a group, it is your personal choice to leave. This can cause negative connotations of not being a ‘team player’ and not wanting to go ‘the extra mile’. It can also make you look unsociable.
  • Although it is popular, not all employees will want to participate or even use it at home. This can exclude these employees who will miss out on important information that is shared and any office ‘banter’ which can alienate them from the rest of the group.
  • WhatsApp is available 24/7. This can be an issue when it is time to clock off for the day. If you partake in a group chat, others can see your availability and may wish to send you a quick message. Everyone is different on how they would react to this. Some may reply straightaway and are effectively working out of hours for free, and others may wait to reply until they are officially on the clock. This can be awkward for staff who may wish to be left alone but are being hounded for answers outside of work which is unacceptable. Because it is so accessible, it is more widely regarded as tolerable to be sending employees messages in their own time.
  • WhatsApp messages can be used in evidence in court cases and tribunals. As WhatsApp is used casually as well as in the workplace, inappropriate behaviour and language can be used without thinking of the consequences. An example of this is ranking or criticizing female colleagues in a work WhatsApp group has made the press a few times in 2019 leading to instant dismissal for gross misconduct. Where should the line be drawn?

whatsapp

The benefits to using WhatsApp are as follows;

  • It is an easy way to manage a remote team. With the rise of flexible working, some employees who work from home would benefit from a work group chat to be kept in the loop with any small updates. Email or a phone call is the traditional way, however a group chat is quicker and more relaxed.
  • It can also give a social element to working from home which can sometimes be lonely and isolating. Checking in with colleagues and general chit chat can make the employee feel more part of the team as opposed to official check in emails.
  • Sending of a quick message can be much faster than sending a lengthy official email. If you need a quick answer or a solution this may be the best form of action. This can be especially helpful when out on the road as notifications come through to your home screen.

How to set boundaries

According to a recent study, on average we are checking our phones 55 times a day. This time is spent catching up on social media posts, messages, articles and emails. Why wouldn’t you just quickly reply to your boss or colleague?

We encourage all WhatsApp or other messaging service users to set boundaries to relieve the pressure of constantly being on alert. Of course, the seniority of your role will depend how available you wish to be or even need to be, it will do your physical and mental health a favour by switching off from work to recharge.

We recommend introducing or updating your company’s social media policy. This can include the likes of; you need to give your permission to be added to a work group chat and the acceptable hours you are able to be contacted. A balance is key to ensuring the group is managed appropriately and used when essential. Key points that can be sent in an email or wait until staff are back in the office can ensure the chat isn’t succumbed to unimportant information employees are expected to read on their day off.

If you have any more questions on instant messaging in the workplace or wish to update your social media policy, please give our consultants a call on 01206 700 690 or email us at info@hrelite.co.uk