Whatsapp's impact on the workplace

Whatsapp offers a cheap, simple, fast, and convenient way to message colleagues, create group texts and share images, videos, locations, and documents. This ease of use has led to a large chunk of informal workplace communication taking place over Whatsapp, even serving as a “virtual water-cooler” of sorts.

Research by Guild has shown that over 50% of employees use messaging apps in the workplace with over 38% using them for work-related purposes.

And among frontline employees, who lack corporate email addresses and are always on-the-go, Whatsapp is, in many cases, the only way to communicate in real-time. As per this whitepaper by Google, 53% of frontline workers reported using messaging apps like WhatsApp up to six times a day for work-related communication.

Ideas, opinions, tasks, workplace gossip, team schedules, social activity plans, important files, and more, are all exchanged over the popular app. While this has certainly improved collaboration and engagement in the workplace, it comes with its own set of major concerns for businesses.

WhatsApp is NOT built for business communication

WhatsApp is a consumer app. It was built to help people message friends and family.
It’s also built to help businesses promote their products through direct marketing and to offer real-time conversational support.

But, WhatsApp is not safe for business communication at work.

Hear it from WhatsApp themselves. This is an excerpt from their terms and conditions.

You will not use (or assist others in using) our Services in ways that:
(f)involve any non-personal use of our Services unless otherwise authorized by us.

Facebook understands the risks involved with using WhatsApp for business communication and have safeguarded themselves against this.

It’s also why large organizations such as Deutsche Bank and the Continental have placed company-wide bans on the use of WhatsApp at work.

Top 3 reasons why it’s not safe to use WhatsApp for business communication

1. Critical files are exchanged with no way to prevent a breach

Employees are sharing business-critical documents, especially those containing customer data or financial data, over WhatsApp. But what happens when an employee leaves the organization? Or when he loses his device?

With no way to remotely revoke access or erase files with WhatsApp, a file once shared is on the employee’s device until he manually deletes it from his smartphone. This poses a major information security risk for companies.

With stringent policies like GDPR and PIPEDA in place, businesses are exposing themselves to massive penalties, negative PR, and even bankruptcy in case of a data breach. A highly avoidable mistake.

2. Management and IT have zero visibility into groups or conversations

Anyone can create a group on WhatsApp and add members to it. With no admin controls, management has no way of figuring out how many groups exist, who the members of these groups are, and what kinds of conversations are taking place.

Employees, who are the admins of the groups they create, can easily add members from outside the organization to these groups. There is no way for the IT department to keep track of these activities. There could be customers, vendors, contractors, channel partners, or even former employees, still on some of these groups because the group admin forgot to remove them. They will continue to be part of internal discussions and have access to sensitive business information.

Additionally, a growing number of businesses are rightfully concerned about managing grievances and claims for workplace harassment that involve WhatsApp conversations containing inappropriate language, pictures, or videos.

3. End-to-end encryption doesn’t help as much as you think it does

Messages shared via WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, preventing interception during transmission. But they are decrypted once they reach the device, leaving messages vulnerable to hacks and leaks. The data stays decrypted even when it is backed up to Google Drive or iCloud, thereby continuing to stay vulnerable.

Facebook is notorious for its poor handling of sensitive data. Though Facebook agreed to keep both Facebook and WhatsApp data separate at the time of the acquisition in 2014, they went back on the agreement in 2016, and have subsequently been sharing phone numbers and usage data, at least that’s the extent that we’re aware of.

Here’s an excerpt from WhatsApp’s privacy policy.

“As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies”.

The key point here is that nobody outside Facebook really knows how the messages being shared via WhatsApp are being used by Facebook.

WhatsApp isn’t immune to Malware attacks either. With a massive user base, WhatsApp is a prime target for hackers. In May 2019, Hackers successfully placed remote surveillance spyware on many users’ phones using WhatsApp, collecting phone call records, messages, videos, as well as activating the microphone and camera.

So WhatsApp isn’t safe. Now what?

Employee Communications Applications: a compelling alternative to WhatsApp in the workplace.

Employee communications Applications (ECAs from now on) pack peer messaging, internal communications, employee engagement tools, intranet, and productivity apps over a mobile-first platform while providing enterprise-grade data security and admin controls.

How Employee Communications Apps help

A secure hub for org-wide communication

ECAs provide a highly secured platform for top-down communication, employee networking, file sharing, and more. Admins can remotely revoke access and erase information shared over the network anytime, effectively plugging data breaches.

Enterprise-grade ECAs come with all the required compliance certifications, safeguarding organizations against potential lawsuits.

Puts the company back in control

Good ECAs come with an admin console, are highly flexible, and enable the company to customize the network to suit its structure, policies, culture, and operations. Admins can streamline org-wide conversations with groups, create custom roles with granular privileges, and track app adoption and usage with rich analytics.

Loops in the frontline workforce

According to this whitepaper by Google, 68% of frontline workers said they’d stop using third-party messaging apps such as WhatsApp if they’re given approved internal communications tools. ECAs do just that – provide frontline employees a company approved communications app. Since most frontline workers lack a corporate email address, ECAs use mobile numbers to onboard them, creating a unified network that connects everyone in the organization. To ensure adoption and minimal learning curves, good ECAs have intuitive user interfaces similar to popular consumer apps like WhatsApp.

Fosters workplace engagement

Employee engagement improves the customer experience. Research by Qualtrics has shown that CX leaders (companies whose CX is significantly better than competitors) have 60% more engaged employees. ECAs improve workplace engagement with streamlined internal communications and engagement tools such as employee recognition, surveys, polls, contests, and more.

Enhances workforce productivity

ECAs go beyond communication and are built to improve employee productivity across the organization. With single-point access to enterprise systems, task management, checklists, workflow automation, and AI-powered bots, good ECAs streamline work and deliver higher org-wide productivity.

Looking for a WhatsApp alternative for your business?

Try Groupe.io.

Groupe.io packs all the bells and whistles of an employee communication app over a robust, flexible, and compliant platform. And it’s free for 100 users.

Get Started Today or Schedule a Demo with us anytime.

Groupe.io recognized as an ‘Employee App of Choice’ in the 2020 Employee Apps Report by Clearbox Consulting Get the Report