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What employers need to know about messaging apps and work

90 per cent of workers have experience of using such apps regularly

It is becoming more and more popular for companies to use messaging apps as a key communication tool to complement or even replace email. It has been reported that approximately 90 per cent of workers have experience of using such apps regularly; however, many have reported issues of bullying and negative messages from colleagues.

Recent studies have suggested that up to one in five workers in the UK have experienced bullying of varying degrees via messaging apps, with many of these keeping the problem quiet. Traditional SMS has been joined by apps such as WhatsApp, Slack, Telegram and Facebook Messenger, all of which will do a similar job in connecting those who may wish to send negative messages.

It is not just work-related themes that are the basis of the bullying, with many highlighting personal appearance or circumstances, performance and even gender or sexual orientation issues. The reasons for such silence when faced with these problems vary from case to case; however, a common theme is that choosing to ignore it is the standard initial approach. Many decide to avoid a potential confrontation, fearing exacerbating the situation or fuelling further or more hurtful attention.

Rather than tackling the bully head-on, some victims are choosing to highlight the issue with their line manager or HR to follow the formal process of reporting abuse. Alternatively, and more unfortunately, others simply decide to move on from a role or company they may love to avoid going through further problems.

Even companies that have not embraced such apps or have actively tried to limit the use of them during working hours can be exposed to potential issues. Workers communicating out of normal office hours can still see negative or abusive messages heading their way from those intent on doing so.

Business or personal?

With the prevalence of jovial group chats with friends and family, many workers are finding it difficult not to use a similar theme when using the same apps with colleagues. With these apps making it really easy to share memes, viral videos and jokes in an instant, even the most careful workers could let their guard down and hit the share button without thinking whether the content is going to be offensive to their colleague.

Think before you type

Most workers would admit that sending a message on a smartphone app is usually not drafted or thoughtfully measured in the same way as a business email, with business meetings and face-to-face conversations even more measured. This inevitably leads to regrettable messages being sent and, as many will have experienced, it only takes a quick screenshot for the evidence to mount.

Use it wisely

The popularity of messaging apps in work proves that it is not all bad. Used in the right way, group chats can help to build morale, let workers get to know each other away from business-only conversations, and remove some of the unnecessary formality of meetings or emails.

Apps make it easier to quickly organise social events, offer a tool to quickly ask colleagues for help with a problem, and provide a way to discuss personal matters that people may not like to discuss at the watercooler.

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