Please Stop Using WhatsApp For Work

The most popular chat app, WhatsApp, is being used by businesses worldwide. Many teams and companies use WhatsApp as a primary means of “fast” communications. This is counterproductive, unpleasant and even dangerous. I want to make a case to stop using WhatsApp for work.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

WhatsApp is the number one instant messaging app in Europe, and a lot of other territories in the world. I still vividly remember the first moment I came into contact with the app. The app released in January 2009. Back then, I had a Blackberry Curve smartphone. Its free proprietary messaging service “Ping” was one of the primary reasons to buy the phone. WhatsApp allowed me to send unlimited messages for free to all smartphone users. Even though the user experience was quite rough, the ability to send unlimited messages, felt like magic. So it’s no real surprise that the app, one of the first of its kind in the smartphone era, grew to be the app most people use today as their primary way to send texts. Forward a few years, and it’s now common practice to use WhatsApp for work. The fast direct-messaging service is available to all, and everybody uses it. So why not use it for work?
Well… Let’s dive into that.

My main question is: Why would you use WhatsApp for work in the first place? The chat app is easy to use, fast and everybody uses it. This is the argumentation I hear when I ask ‘the why question’. The app is available on practically all screens and allows you to be available 24/7. All great benefits compared to more traditional tools like e-mail and memo’s, right?

The flip side of using the Facebook owned platform for work is huge. WhatsApp has been free-ish since the start. As with all digital products that are free, the users are its product. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. Facebook is a company that primarily sells ads on their free-to-use services. Ads are not (yet) widely deployed in WhatsApp. You are providing your data to the Facebook Ad Network. And you can be pretty sure that the app will be monetised in some way in the future. Have you ever read their Terms of Service or the app’s Privacy Policy?

No, me neither.

Facebook, and by extension WhatsApp, is surrounded by controversy. A data-leak here, increasing mental issues there, to the accusations of anticompetitive actions in the market. The Terms of Service and Privacy Policies are constantly changing, and not for the better. We can be fairly certain that the data generated through WhatsApp is used in favour of Facebook’s agenda. Many people I know have stopped using Facebook for similar reasons, but have not stopped using WhatsApp. October 4’s outage of Facebook’s services has shown how dependent we are on WhatsApp.

Here are 4 plus reasons why you should stop using WhatsApp for work.

WhatsApp is not built for business

The chat app was built for consumers, in the early days of the smartphone. Serving the same purpose as today, instant communication between people. The app was never built to use at work, between companies or to communicate to colleagues. Whatsapp misses basically all core features that business need and people should use. There’s no user management, file management or any admin features.

You have no control over any of the data

This is a simple, but important argument. You, the company / employer, have no control over any of the data shared on WhatsApp. As mentioned above, everything will be on Facebook’s servers and might (will) be used for advertising. There is no way to stop sensitive data from being sent to third parties. Since WhatsApp is based on phone numbers, errors might happen where old phone numbers might receive sensitive information. There is no way to track groups and manage users. A complete data nightmare.

Let’s not even get started about the implications of GDPR and other data protection acts.

You are forcing your employees and co-workers to “work” all the time

By using WhatsApp as a default communication tool at your company, you’re forcing your employees to be “always-on”. In other words, they need to respond all the time to work-related inquiries. The company chat group can be fun sometimes, but it’s intrusive and often times stress inducing.

Let’s dissect that for a bit. WhatsApp does not offer a good “snooze” option. You can mute chats, but you still see them when you open the app. And in many cases, muting chats will cause you missing messages. Not optimal. Having WhatsApp open on your computer, trying to respond timely to messages, makes sure people are constantly distracted by notifications. In many cases, this will include private notifications as well. Allowing for permanent distraction.

The competition offers much more valuable features

Simply said, there are way better alternatives to WhatsApp. When it comes to privacy, Signal and Telegram are your best friends. iMessage is arguably the best integrated service, but exclusive to the Apple ecosystem. These three apps feature advanced privacy and security, a variety of integration and messaging options and in my opinion superior UX.

For business, private messaging should not be the default. There are great solutions for companies of all sizes. Slack is your best friend here. Launched in August 2013, Slack has ushered in a new era of internal communications: the instant era. With its great UX, easy to customise features and robust functionality, it’s the best way for company-wide and quick communications. Alternatives include Microsoft Teams, Google Chat and many more. Some better than others, but they all share the same big advantages.

  • They were built for work — they offer advanced features like search, groups, mentions, file sharing and often digital meeting functionalities.
  • The data stays yours — your company stays in charge (to a certain degree) of the information shared through communication.
  • User management — you can decide who has access to what.
  • Multiplatform — dedicated apps for all screens, optimised features for workflows and notifications that work.
  • It’s a dedicated platform — your colleagues / employees have the ability to “turn work off” and pick up when they work again.

Conclusion

Please. Stop. Using. WhatsApp. For. Business.
Your future self, employees and colleagues will thank you. I get it’s though, it’s convenient andeverybody uses it. But SMS / Texting used to be convenient too. Can you imagine SMS’ing all day with your colleagues?

That’s it, let me know your thoughts. Which chat platform do you use at work?

Note: In this blog, I solely focused on using WhatsApp in a team / company context for internal communications. There are many great cases where small businesses use WhatsApp successfully. As a consumer you are aware that you are sending data to a company. I totally support that. When it comes to internal communications, I don’t.

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Strategy Director specialised in/write about social & content marketing, communications, productivity and digital developments.

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Frank van de Koppel

Frank van de Koppel

Strategy Director specialised in/write about social & content marketing, communications, productivity and digital developments.

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