What­sApp at work is use­ful – up to a point

Mail & Guardian - - Business - Thule­bona Mh­langa

Most of us are fa­mil­iar with the in­sis­tent ping of our cell­phones alert­ing us to a mes­sage on our work What­sApp group at un­godly hours. In­deed, the ser­vice is be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly com­mon way to set up meet­ings, send ur­gent mes­sages or bounce off ideas.

Al­though some peo­ple do not mind how the plat­form is man­aged, or even the oc­ca­sional joke from a col­league, oth­ers find it an un­wel­come dis­trac­tion, ac­cord­ing to a so­cial me­dia poll by the Mail & Guardian.

“It is the most an­noy­ing thing ever,” Com­fort Lebese said. “When peo­ple just find the need to send ran­dom chain videos or stupid mes­sages, I gen­er­ally do not like it be­cause it chows my data.”

Lau­ren Oc­to­ber @Lau­ren_ Oc­to­ber con­curred: “There are no rules but I wish there would be. I wish there was a pol­icy of no mes­sag­ing af­ter 7pm, as some­times I get mes­sages when I am in bed al­ready.”

Arthur Gold­stuck, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of World Wide Worx, said What­sApp is widely used in many or­gan­i­sa­tions, schools and other in­sti­tu­tions.

It is al­ready on most peo­ple’s cell­phones and is a con­ve­nient way to co-or­di­nate ac­tiv­i­ties, rang­ing from school sports matches to staff meet­ings.

There is no stan­dard to reg­u­late the use or the choice to opt out of work What­sapp groups, said Gold­stuck, so it is up to groups or or­gan­i­sa­tions us­ing it to set their own rules.

For some, in­clud­ing Hlangepasika Loleka, @hlangepasika on Twit­ter, her work What­sApp group com­pris­ing her­self and 24 other col­leagues, is ef­fec­tive. “We use it for work-re­lated mat­ters only, and we are not al­lowed to post pho­tos, videos or porn.”

Lucky Makhalema @ Luck­yMakhalema says hav­ing a work What­sApp group can be pos­i­tive. “We use it to send ur­gent no­tices among the mem­bers re­gard­ing work,” he said, adding it can also be use­ful for no­ti­fy­ing col­leagues of other is­sues such as traf­fic jams.

But “some­times it gets … abused [by] peo­ple send­ing stuff that is un­be­com­ing of the group or [its] pur­pose.”

Gold­stuck said that, al­though there are cases when in­di­vid­u­als abuse the use of the plat­form, this is usu­ally reg­u­lated by the com­pany’s stan­dard use pol­icy reg­u­lat­ing the use of cell­phones, com­put­ers and other de­vices by in­di­vid­u­als at work. He said com­pa­nies can dic­tate how em­ploy­ees use th­ese de­vices, es­pe­cially if they are con­nected to their in­ter­net server.

“How­ever, there are com­pa­nies that treat any dis­trac­tion as tak­ing away from com­pany time and th­ese tend to have un­happy work­forces, be­cause so­cial in­ter­ac­tion is part of who you are. You can­not ban peo­ple from any form of so­cial ac­tiv­ity,” he said.

Em­ploy­ees should also be care­ful be­cause mes­sages sent in a work group may be used against them if an em­ployer finds out that sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion has been dis­cussed or defam­a­tory re­marks have been made.

Tech­nol­ogy law spe­cial­ist Lisa Thorn­ton agreed. Last year, FNB dis­missed four em­ploy­ees af­ter it found them guilty of gross mis­con­duct for mak­ing po­lit­i­cal com­ments about and in­sult­ing Demo­cratic Al­liance leader Mmusi Maimane on a work What­sApp group.

The Reg­u­la­tion of In­ter­cep­tion of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Pro­vi­sion of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion-Re­lated In­for­ma­tion Act al­lows em­ploy­ers to in­ter­cept elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions, which can in­clude emails and What­sApp groups, un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances, Thorn­ton said.

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