What’s Up with using WhatsApp at work?

July 10, 2017

Companies are always looking for different ways to engage their teams and encourage them to interact with the brand. Social media is a great platform for this, and company Facebook and Twitter presences are increasingly the norm.

However, what is the role of other forms of social media in the wider engagement game? And, how can they be a force for good and potential for evil…?

In this two part blog, our experienced HR Partners consider emerging social media: Becky Mee looks at Snapchat, whilst here, Laura Rigby looks at WhatsApp from an HR perspective.

By Laura Rigby

Following on from my colleague Becky’s blog on Snapchat, I’m taking a look at the use of WhatsApp Groups at work. Are they a useful tool for engagement and communication or do the risks outweigh the benefits?

The Pro’s…

Much like Snapchat, WhatsApp is a useful interactive tool that allows images to be shared without any associated cost. WhatsApp also has the added benefit of being able to share documents of up to 100MB, which is undoubtedly useful when you’re out and about and need to share a file with a group of colleagues, who may not have access to their emails.

Great for SMEs

WhatsApp groups can include up to 256 contacts, meaning SMEs can have a WhatsApp group which includes every single member of the team. Naturally, this can lead to greater productivity with internal communication with everyone is kept well-informed.

Group communication can drive connectivity and allow for interaction at all levels, which in turn will enable the creation/development of positive relationships between management and staff.

A WhatsApp group is also a really useful tool to encourage creativity, ideas and suggestions from all team members.

How secure is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp’s messages and calls are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that they are kept private between the sender and the reader(s).

WhatsApp doesn’t store the messages on its servers once delivered and doesn’t enable third parties to listen into phone calls that are made via the app.

So on the one hand, this is good for privacy, it also throws up questions about ownership and data protection…


The Cons…

In a nutshell, WhatsApp does not provide the security, encryption, data compliance required by businesses and currently will not meet requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), due to come into force May 2018.

Data ownership blurred by social media

Most employers will impose a clause within their employment contracts or have a policy in place that outlines what is defined as company property. Ideas, blueprints and proposals, for example, made by employees within the context of their employment, will be owned by the company. As WhatsApp encrypts everything, this has the potential to blur the definition of ownership.

Businesses also have no control over the data and content shared via WhatsApp or indeed the data and content shared by WhatsApp with its parent company (Facebook). This means that data theft cannot be prevented. WhatsApp also doesn’t protect against data loss, which can be bad news if a super important conversation is lost and therefore is irretrievable.

Data breach?

Moreover, by having a WhatsApp group, you may as the Employer be in breach of your own data protection policy as you should be protecting employees’ personal details and the very nature of having a group message on WhatsApp means that all staff will have access to everyone’s phone numbers. This could also lead to a handful of other problems, including potential harassment!

And there’s more…

As well as all of these Cons there are other general concerns, such as how to monitor and discourage personal use of WhatsApp during working hours if business use is allowed, how to prevent a loss of efficiency as a result of employees engaging with the group chat and the impact of communicating via an electronic device.

In other words, you can’t beat an old-fashioned face to face conversation!

To WhatsApp or not to WhatsApp?!

Much like Snapchat, WhatsApp has a time and place and won’t always be culturally appropriate for your company. If you are going to use it, make sure you understand the risks to data protection, privacy and confidentiality that might arise with using this communication platform.

As always, a strong social media and robust communications policy will help outline your expectations for usage, accountability and the impacts in terms of privacy/data protection.

At HR180 we have real life superheroes ready to sort out your HR worries – as well as preventing them in the first place! Take a look at the contact details below – we’d love to hear from you.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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