What’s Up With WhatsApp and Workplace?
Why Deskless Workers Need Better Internal Comms Solutions
The historic Facebook outage on Monday, October 4th really got us thinking. Becoming known as an effective “snow day”, this was every internal communicator’s nightmare scenario. What if a critical message needed to be sent out to all teams via Workplace from Facebook? What about the frontline teams that don’t have any comms channels and, therefore, rely on WhatsApp to reach their teams? How did that impact their shifts? What did that one day of down comms do to the business? It gave us a lot to think about. But what stood out to us wasn’t just that channel reliability is important—because of course it is—but why are so many teams relying on these tools in the first place?
In this blog, we’re going to break down why we think using WhatsApp or Workplace aren’t a reliability issue, but a strategic misstep.
What’s Up with WhatsApp?
We saw tweets on the day of the outage from NHS managers who had no way to reach their teams. And that’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it? That people working in healthcare might not have a way to communicate with their teams. We can only imagine how dangerous this could be in logistics or manufacturing where compliance with safety literally saves lives.
But, why are those line managers using WhatsApp in the first place? It’s possible that some companies selected that tool intentionally for the frontline, but we know that the reality is that it’s probably Shadow IT. This is basically when individuals go rogue in the organization and seek out the tools they need when they aren’t provided. And this is often a big cybersecurity risk since it’s not approved or monitored by IT.
But, of course, there are strategic issues with allowing teams to rely on tools like this:
- Internal Comms has no control. If your teams really are going rogue, then you likely don’t see what’s being shared, can’t measure the impact, and can’t share your own messages, which often are priority.
- It’s risky business. We know that some organizations are worried about employees even being able to comment on posts because they’re worried about inappropriate behavior (which FYI, we’ve never seen an employee misuse this power). But communication happening peer-to-peer on an external system makes it impossible to keep an eye on your teams. And we know that people are much more likely to be on good behavior when they know everyone is watching than they might be in a one-to-one chat, raising your risk.
- It creates micro-cultures. If your field teams are communicating separately and independently from the organization, it’s a lot harder to get everyone singing the same tune and feeling a connection to the larger company.
There are many other reasons why reliance on WhatsApp can be problematic for your business. But these are some of the big reasons why you might want to find a better solution.
What’s Wrong With Workplace?
Workplace from Facebook does have a lot of functionality, but we wonder if it’s the right functionality for deskless teams. Sometimes too many bells and whistles makes it harder for workers who need to find things fast, like a nurse who barely has time to check his phone during her shift or a dock worker who only has time on her break to see the latest updates.
A big draw of Workplace for some people is the chat functionality. But the reality is that this can come with some risk and the use-case for chat during a shift is actually pretty negligible in healthcare, logistics, and manufacturing. Since these teams are all working together on shift, they don’t have the same need as a hybrid, remote, or office-based worker to use chat for collaboration. If anything, it can actually be a dangerous distraction.
They also boast live video broadcasting. But what about people on third shift that are sleeping when that goes out?
And integrations with the drive or dropbox. But your frontline teams don’t have access to those systems.
And then there are a variety of newsfeeds and groups and chat rooms and…
What frontline worker really has the time for that? Workplace From Facebook really seems to be a tool designed for a deskbound or remote worker. And that’s totally fine. People were all excited for “internal social media” when really deskless workers need easy, direct access to the messages and resources they need right now. Engagement is great, but not if you can’t activate your employees and help them do their jobs safely first.
The Tools You Use Matter
We’re not saying that there isn’t a time and a place for these tools. There totally is. But choosing the right channels is of paramount importance. Really think about the features and functionality that your teams need or will need. Think about what it’s like to be working third shift or on a long twelve-hour stint at the hospital—what does that employee need? Our guess is that a lot of tools, not just WhatsApp and Workplace, might not check all the boxes as well as you think.