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Should WhatsApp be a business communications tool?

Should WhatsApp be a business communications tool?

Tools like WhatsApp are made for convenience and ease of use, which explains their popularity in our personal lives. The problem arises when they start to creep into professional settings. If you’re one of the many startup leaders or HR teams who allow your staff to use WhatsApp casually at work, then it may be time for a reality check. What makes WhatsApp so downright inappropriate for employee communication? Here’s what to know and a few good pointers on doing better.

Why is using WhatsApp at work problematic?

First, a quick intro for those unfamiliar with this app: WhatsApp is a mobile messaging app that allows users to send and receive text messages, photos, videos, calls, and voice messages using their phone’s internet or data connections.

Sounds ideal, right? It might be great for personal use, especially if most of your friends and relations do. However, this app also includes several features that make it extremely ill-suited to professional dialogue:

  1. Your staff might struggle to switch between casual and professional modes of communication when they’re using the same tool they chat with family and friends on. This blurring of lines can complicate mental boundaries.
  2. WhatsApp’s ability for any user to create groups can lead to cliquish behaviour in the workplace. People can exclude certain coworkers, which might open your organisation up to accusations of discrimination or bullying.
  3. WhatsApp groups can be used to exclude senior management and leadership, making them prone to becoming cesspools of inappropriate conversation.
  4. Privacy concerns arise when adding an outsider, such as a client or potential partner, to a group. This act exposes their phone number to everyone on the team without consent—a clear violation of GDPR regulations.

How can companies solve the WhatsApp problem?

One challenge is that, despite its faults, WhatsApp does something right. If it wasn’t so beloved, people wouldn’t use it so extensively. As its casual, easy chatting function has replaced other messaging types, it has likely earned a place in your workers’ hearts. Suddenly forbidding its use might negatively impact morale.

However, you can address the WhatsApp issue without seeming authoritarian:

  • Establish Clear Guidelines: Treat WhatsApp like other personal device use and set a clear policy. For instance, using WhatsApp should be akin to chatting on your phone: acceptable during designated breaks.
  • Provide Alternative Communication Tools: If your team is resorting to WhatsApp for business discussions, offer them a more appropriate platform. Consider using Slack, organizing email threads for better readability, or subscribing to Microsoft Teams. These applications have a proven business track record. Many also offer both free and paid versions, so you can experiment until you find the best fit.
  • Develop Your Own Tool: If your company specializes in tech, consider developing a proprietary communication application. This can promote a sense of ownership in the workplace and ensure your new platform integrates seamlessly with existing business systems.

Build a better business communication system

Effective people management involves including the people being managed in the decision-making process. Before adopting a new communication tool, solicit feedback from your teams regarding desired features. Understand what attracted them to WhatsApp initially. Conducting thorough research before implementing a new policy can enhance the chances of its successful adoption.

Want insights into your workplace communication challenges, be it inappropriate app use or questionable conversations? Consider consulting with a Lodge Court specialist.