WhatsApp for Work: Friend or Foe? Exploring Benefits, Challenges, and Alternative Solutions

Spike Team
By Spike Team, Updated on May 16, 2024, 6 min read

WhatsApp is more than an app. It’s a verb, a noun, a place, and—let’s face it—a welcome distraction. It seamlessly connects you to global contacts using a phone number and an internet connection.

But should you use it at work?

While it’s free, convenient, and easy to navigate, it also carries risks. You don’t have much control over security and privacy, and can’t integrate it with business tools like calendars and email.

This article outlines the top things to know before using WhatsApp at work – the benefits, drawbacks, and alternative workplace messaging platforms.

 

 

Why Brands Are Using WhatsApp for Internal Communication

The majority of remote and hybrid workers use instant messaging platforms. (That’s most of us, right?) Plus, 55% of millennial managers prefer to message their teams, compared to 28% who’d rather email. Chat messages are quick to send, read, and reply to, streamlining workflows.

 

Almost a third of Americans use WhatsApp — that’s about 80 million people. Thanks to its simple and familiar design, many businesses adopt it in the workplace. Plus, it’s free and requires no technical training—an advantage over more feature-heavy, paid apps like Slack.

 

WhatsApp lets you create groups or communities, have 1-to-1 chats, add members using their cellphone numbers, set group descriptions, and assign group admins.

 

Here are the top benefits of chatting with your team on WhatsApp.

  • Send unlimited text messages and files.

  • View chats by contact or group rather than subject lines.

  • Start group audio/video calls with one click.

  • Check who’s read messages using read receipts.

  • Share files instantly, including photos, videos, documents, and audio recordings.

  • Add voice notes for more interactive communication.

  • Set auto-deleting messages (after 24 hours, 7 days, or 90 days).

  • Create group polls in a couple of clicks.

  • Customize group notifications, including sound and vibration options.

  • Export entire chats in a .txt format.

  • Lock specific chats and access them with biometric logins (face or fingerprint).

  • You don’t see other members’ phone numbers in communities unless you saved them or can view them in non-community chats.

  • Work messages are secure with end-to-end encryption.

 

 

The Pitfalls of Using WhatsApp for Work

 

 

Don’t start WhatsApp-ing your team without considering the platform’s pitfalls.

 

 

Data security risks

While WhatsApp has a chat lock feature, admins can’t force users to activate it or see who has. This risks sensitive information, from company intellectual property (IP) to client data.

 

For example, someone might, intentionally or accidentally, see team members’ WhatsApp work texts. Plus, users can easily forward work messages and documents to other WhatsApp chats without admins knowing. And when employees leave the business, they can still access all their work chats’ files and messages.

 

Using WhatsApp as a work communication channel in certain industries or legal jurisdictions might spell legal trouble. For example, healthcare companies must use HIPAA-compliant communication platforms when sharing sensitive patient health data — and WhatsApp isn’t on this list.

 

 

Data storage and availability limits

You can only access your WhatsApp data on personal devices. You can’t, for example, login with a username and password in a web browser. The only way to use WhatsApp on a desktop app or browser is by connecting it to your phone app (for instance, via a QR code).

 

But, if your phone breaks or goes missing, and your app data isn’t backed up, you could lose important company data and documents.

 

 

Employee safety and well-being concerns

In WhatsApp groups, members can view each other’s personal phone numbers. This could lead to unsolicited messaging between colleagues that admins can’t prevent. More generally, some users could perceive WhatsApp as an informal texting channel and share inappropriate messages or resources in work chats.

 

This puts certain colleagues at risk of experiencing harassment or offense. However, it can be difficult to legally sanction employees based on communications on a private messaging app, depending on privacy and employment laws in the countries and states you’re hiring in.

 

 

Productivity losses

Personal texts can distract team members when checking WhatsApp work messages, lowering productivity. Plus, some employees might find unstructured WhatsApp threads overwhelming to navigate on busy days, limiting teams’ energy and attention span.

 

Finally, users can waste time searching for key info like shift availability or project details, due to WhatsApp’s limited search function.

 

 

Limited features

WhatsApp features are relatively basic compared with business messaging apps. For starters, you can’t integrate it with other apps, like your work email and calendar, which would help automate tasks and access more data. You also can’t organize or collaborate on group documents in real time, which limits workflows.

 

In addition, WhatsApp does not:

  • Allow more than 1,024 members per group.

  • Nest reply threads in group messages.

  • Let you pin group or 1-to-1 chats at the top.

  • Include advanced search filters like sender or date.

 

 

How to Minimize the Risks of Using WhatsApp at Work

Should you pick WhatsApp as your work chat, protect your IP, staff, and reputation with the following strategies.

  • Create general chat guidelines and policies. Write 1-2 A4 pages including examples of professional and unacceptable language, privacy and security requirements (such as locking work chats), and the consequences of breaking the rules. Pin it as a document in your groups for easy access.

  • List chat-specific boundaries. For example, your “watercooler” group chat might allow GIFs and (appropriate) memes, while your scheduling chat only contains admin polls and shift requests. Delete messages that don’t adhere to boundaries.

  • Train your team on effective communication strategies. Run an in-person or remote workshop that includes constructive team feedback, message clarity and concision, and expectation setting.

  • Provide advice on preventing burnout. Tips include muting work chats after hours, checking critical work chats hourly and non-critical ones daily, and calling or direct-messaging coworkers for urgent requests.

 

 

Spike Conversational Email: Enjoy the Benefits of Chat Without the Distractions

 

 

Spike is a WhatsApp alternative that combines instant communication with task productivity. Here’s how it supports dynamic teams.

 

 

Check your emails and messages in one place

Spike’s conversational interface is as simple as WhatsApp, but with a twist. First, you get emails and chat messages in one place—grouped by 1-to-1 or team conversations. The priority inbox pins your mission-critical messages at the top and a super-search tool finds key messages, files, and conversations without delay.

 

And the cherry on the cake? Spike’s Magic AI helps you craft polite, effective, error-free messages to your colleagues, so you reach your team goals faster.

 

 

Coordinate secure, multimedia channels and groups

You can create Spike public channels (for instance, for general updates) and private groups (say, for project teams). With unlimited encrypted messages, voice notes, and previewable team files (including email attachments), you have all your essential comms in one place. Plus, you can start audio and video calls with one click.

 

On Spike, work chats don’t mix with personal messages, plus you can add new users with just their email—no Spike account or phone number required. Spike users are also safer thanks to management access and monitoring controls.

 

 

Collaborate on tasks, docs, and calendars

You don’t need to leave Spike to tick off list items or RSVP to invites. Integrate multiple calendars—like Gmail and Outlook—and manage team schedules collaboratively. You can also create and track team tasks (including descriptions, deadlines, and owners) and edit shared documents with coworkers in real time, finishing jobs faster.

 

 

Wrapping Up: Should You Use WhatsApp at Work?

WhatsApp offers encrypted messaging, quick file sharing, chat locking, and more for free. It’s a sweet deal. However, it may not suit teams that need to add over 1,024 group members, use advanced search, or restrict off-group member communications. Plus, in industries like healthcare, you may run into legal issues by using WhatsApp at work.

 

Alternatives like Spike let you control and customize your work chats while avoiding personal messaging distractions. Spike offers a conversational email and chat combo with shared collaborative files and tasks, and audio/video calls at your fingertips. Plus, generative AI tools help you communicate effectively, raising team productivity.

Learn more—try Spike for free today.

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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