How to make your colleagues quit WhatsApp - five tips

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by Rik

How to make your colleagues quit WhatsApp - five tips

German tire manufacturer Continental - with 235,000 employees worldwide - is taking some serious measures: WhatsApp on work phones is now verboten. The company states that WhatsApp scrapes all kinds of privacy-sensitive information from phones the app is installed on. This way, personal data of customers and business relations can end up at parent company Facebook.

For the time being, this only concerns metadata (such as who communicates with whom, when and where), but there are concerns about the content of messages being compromised as well. Now that the GDPR has entered into force, Continental does not want to risk being held liable for any ensuing privacy issues. The recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal clearly shows what the risks can be.

Most organizations have serious reservations about WhatsApp but don't want to go as far as banning it (yet). In our daily practice of rolling out social intranets and internal communication platforms, we often encounter organizations' desire to reduce the use of WhatsApp for work. But how do you manage this if everyone already uses the app privately anyway and is completely used to it? Five tips.

Tip 1: Voice your concerns and objections

The privacy scandals surrounding Facebook have been widely covered by the media. Your employees have probably also heard about GDPR. So nobody will be surprised to hear that you, as an employer, are not very fond of WhatsApp. Especially because your organization does not have a processors agreement with WhatsApp. Two short articles you can share with your employees to substantiate your concerns:

Tip 2: Emphasize perzonal benefits

Hopefully your employees will understand your concerns. But understanding alone usually doesn't bring about a behavioral change. You need to emphasize the personal benefits of quitting the use of WhatsApp for business communications as well. The most important one is the separation between work and private life: many people don't like to receive work related WhatsApp messages during their time off.

Plek offers the ‘holiday snooze': it blocks all your notifications (in the app and by email) during a self-chosen period.

The upcoming Summer holiday is a great time to make this point: Nobody wants to be disturbed by the weekly team update while relaxing on the beach. Nobody wants to hear that targets have not been met during a beautiful mountain hike. But most people don't want to turn WhatsApp off, since it's their go-to app for communication with travel companions or friends and family at home. But if work messages come in through a different channel, you can simply switch this channel off during your holiday. Plek even offers a 'holiday snooze' for that. It blocks all your notifications (in the app and by email) during a self-chosen period.

Tip 3: Outline management issues

WhatsApp groups at work often arise from the workplace up, due to the lack of a good alternative. It is usually unclear who is in which group and who's the administrator who can add you to the group. This can be very frustrating, especially when you work on different projects all the time.

It sometimes takes new employees weeks or even months to get into the right groups and get access to important information. And who ensures that people who leave the company - and perhaps start working for a competitor - are also removed from the group and do not continue 'lurking'?

Tip 4: Appeal to collegiality

I recently led a work session concerning the new intranet at a construction company. Of course I proposed to use our platform for chat, but people immediately started to chuckle. Did I know about all the dirty images and jokes in the team's WhatsApp group?

We continued talking and found out that not all team members appreciated the jokes. But they could not get out of the group, because it also contains work related information. Conversely, there were ex-team members who loved the jokes and would have liked to stay in the group, but who had to be removed. An alternative channel for work was the solution: business is discussed on Plek by the current team, whereas random conversations and jokes are shared among colleagues and ex-colleagues on WhatsApp.

Tip 5: Offer a true alternative

The above tips have turned out to be successful in practice, but only if one basic condition is met. As an organization, you have to offer a true and complete alternative to WhatsApp. If your ever so understanding employees immediately get stuck while creating a group, or if there are no apps for iPhone and Android, or if employees have to log in via a VPN, then forget it. Then everyone will stay put on WhatsApp.

Make sure to pick an extremely user-friendly social communication tool. Sounds obvious, but things like compatibility with existing systems and familiarity with an existing supplier (often Microsoft) often take precedence. Of course I know these considerations make sense as well, especially when security is involved - so do make sure your chat is encrypted. But if everyone stays put on WhatsApp, you're stuck. 

Pick an extremely user-friendly social communication tool. Sounds obvious, but things like compatibility with existing systems and familiarity with an existing supplier (often Microsoft) often take precedence.

German tire manufacturer Continental - with 235,000 employees worldwide - is taking some serious measures...