How Can Businesses Make the Most of Messaging at Work?
Messaging is gaining popularity in the workplace, but as yet, this form of communication is unmanaged and often not legally compliant. British startup Guild, in partnership with Digital Doughnut sister company, London Research, has launched a new study, entitled "Mastering Messaging in the Workplace", which is aimed at helping businesses and professionals understand the opportunities and challenges of using messaging at work.
The guide contains insights from communications experts and explores how organisations can use messaging tools to foster a culture of collaboration, while also navigating security, privacy and compliance pitfalls as more employees use often unsanctioned consumer messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram for business purposes.
Companies are using a whole host of different of different communication channels, and often there is confusion around the different tools, as this includes business-messaging apps, work-based social networks and workflow collaboration tools, as well as consumer messaging apps.
Messaging is gaining popularity
Messaging has gained popularity because of its simplicity, ease-of-use, and ability to enable faster speed of resolution, which gives companies the upper hand in today's fast-paced business environment.
We're seeing the acceleration of the growth of remote communication tools particularly during the ongoing health pandemic, with greater numbers of employees working from home.
Annabelle Dudman, VP Global Head of Business Planning at PlayStation stated: “I think messaging is completely essential. It’s gaining ground due to the rise of flexible working and greater understanding around the importance of work-life balance. It just makes working so much more flexible if people can get in contact using messaging.”
This report highlights the challenges and risks for employers. Companies need to understand the benefits of messaging so that they are able to foster engagement among employees. Open, transparent communication is essential for encouraging a culture of creativity and innovation.
However, as with any technology, there is a law of diminishing returns; technology is useful up until a point, at which there is too much of a good thing.
The potential risks for employers
The risk for businesses with some messaging platforms is the lack of central control. With many consumer messaging apps on employees' phones, often senior management has little or no visibility on the conversations that are occurring during working hours.
Rachel Miller, Director at All Things IC, commented: “The potential risk is for companies not to be close enough to the conversations. If they are all happening in locked environments, it makes knowledge management harder as you can’t see what you know as an organisation. Compliance is an area comms and IT practitioners are mindful of, and need guidance on.”
Mental health issues are another area that employers should be mindful of. A working culture that is "always-on" can leave some employees facing burn-out, as they are unable to switch off after hours.
The right to disconnect
Organisations have a responsibility for maintaining sensible working practices and looking after employee mental health. The ‘right to disconnect’ has been proposed as a human right, with some countries incorporating this into their laws. In 2016, French workers won the legal right to avoid checking their emails out of hours.
The elephant in the room: WhatsApp
According to its own terms of service, the use of WhatsApp is prohibited for work purposes. For businesses, the use of WhatsApp also presents a challenge in terms of security and GDPR compliance.
Jo Vertigan, Managing Director at Obidos Consulting commented: “Most businesses are uncomfortable with the chatter on WhatsApp due to the lack of control around security. Many employees like these sorts of messaging platforms for their utility and their workflow capability. However, in terms of corporate liability, there are a range of corporate governance issues which present something of a challenge. One issue arises from the lack of an effective centralised management system, which is critical for the company’s audit trail.”
The Mastering Messaging in the Workplace report also highlights the need for employers to put guidelines in place to protect employees and the business. A new model for messaging proposed by Guild looks at the criteria that businesses need to take into account to successfully adopt messaging in the workplace.
Ashley Friedlein, Founder and CEO of Guild explained, “At a time when messaging is exploding, there is very little clarity or consensus around what form of messaging to use when, and why, at work. We’ve developed a model to help businesses and professionals think carefully about the role of messaging in their organisation, and come up with ways of working that embrace the power of messaging without the risk of losing control.”
In some ways, messaging feels like the early days of social media. Businesses must examine their own goals and objectives and set policy around messaging accordingly. Understandably, policies will differ according to organisational goals and broader company culture.
As more millennials enter the workforce (closely tailed by Generation Z!), it's clear that the communication tools for work will mirror the platforms that we all use in our personal lives. Messaging isn't going anywhere, so organisations will need to tackle the opportunities and challenges head on.
There are more insights and information about the report's contents, in this blog post.