WhatsApp and other social media messaging services are causing regular workplace disruption due to un-monitored work-related chat.
According to new research conducted by B2B social network Speakap, 53% of frontline workers have admitted to using consumer social messaging tools such as WhatsApp up to six times in the work day. A further 16% stated that their company’s HR department was unaware of such activity.
From a legal standpoint, EU GDPR rules came into effect in May 2018 to eradicate use of unauthorised messaging services in office places. Deutsche Bank, for example, has banned the use of WhatsApp and Snapchat within its offices due to the severe information regulations compliances that the company upholds.
Services such as WhatsApp and the US-centric start-up Signal (founded by controversial front-page mainstay Edward Snowden) are considered to present a greater risk to company security due to their policy of end-to-end message encryption, which essentially means that outside of a specific authorised group or person-to-person connection, the messages are unavailable.
Confidence in end-to-end encryption is such that even members of the White House staff have reportedly used similar services to circulate important information.
GDPR regulations notwithstanding, use of such platform has also been linked with a poor work-life balance due to their ‘always-on’ mentality. Unrestricted availability can lead to inappropriate messages with open expectations outside of the work day – an issue that has plagued various high-profile business personalities in recent months.
Over half (64%) of frontline workers use their personal phone for work-related communications, whilst 30% of respondents expressed concern about maintaining a clear division for work availability.
What is ‘grazing’ culture?
Whilst mobile access to workplace discussion and e-mail systems can pose great advantages in an increasingly remote-working landscape, the ‘always on’ mentality of even the biggest business leaders is extremely problematic.
This week Elon Musk (who has a historic reputation for poor employee conduct) made headlines by sending an e-mail to Tesla employees at 1.20am on Friday night outlining potentially devastating news about job security.
Whether intentional or not, Musk’s actions perpetuate a technological grazing culture in which employees are normalised to checking work e-mails and chats on an almost hourly basis outside of work hours.
According to a study conducted by Razali Salleh and published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 13.4 million lost working days were attributed to stress, anxiety or depression last year, with an estimated 265,000 new cases of stress reported within the last 12 months.
It is also estimated that 80% to 90% of all industrial accidents are related to personal problem and employees’ inability to handle stress. The European Agency for Safety and Health at work reported that about 50% of job absenteeism is caused by stress.
On top of health implications, grazing culture has also been linked to a breakdown of personal relationships. In a recent survey of adults aged 31 to 40, professionals that check work e-mails outside of the office believed that their habit caused little interference with their personal connections, whilst their spouses believed the opposite.
“Employees themselves seem largely unaware of the impact this has on their significant others,” Professior William Becker of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg commented. “They don’t see it as a problem, but their spouses say it really affects the relationship.”
Regardless of the growing stigma around the use of services such as WhatsApp, the app continues to achieve significant growth. 1.5 billion users in 180 countries makes WhatsApp the most-popular messaging app in the world this number is 0.2 billion more than market competitor Facebook Messenger. The app was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for a princely sum of $19billion.