Work WhatsApp Groups by Gcina Mthembu

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The Global Web Index report 2018 indicates that internet usage has grown to over 4 Billion users. That’s just over half the world’s population now using and communicating through digital mediums. Furthermore; the average user spends about 6 hours a day on internet-powered devices and services. Africa has also seen a strong growth rate in digital; increasing by over 20% year on year.

The most popular and commonly used social media networks in South Africa are WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. There are currently more than 1.5 billion WhatsApp users worldwide and about 10 million users in South Africa alone. It is therefore not surprising that employers would take advantage of this medium of communication for business purposes. It is cheap, easy to use, faster and very convenient.

However; it is crucial to step back and take stock of the pros and cons for employers in taking advantage of this medium of communication. The main purpose for most employers in using WhatsApp is to simultaneously distribute important information to a group of people to whom the information is relevant. This is part of the modern workspace. It allows one to send quick voice notes or simple texts to employees at any time of the day. Immediately employees are then compelled to get onto their work mode mentally by receiving that message; even on a Sunday morning.

One can then ask; to what extent are work WhatsApp groups affecting our personal lives now? Is it not interfering with our resting period or is it adding in increasing our productivity? The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) is there to give effect to the right to fair labour practices. It dictates a daily rest period of 12 consecutive hours and a weekly rest period of 36 consecutive hours, which must include Sunday, unless otherwise agreed. However; WhatsApp messages interrupts this prescribed consecutive rest period of the employee. This then compels for regulation of the interaction on the work WhatsApp groups so as to ensure compliance with the labour acts.

Charl Vollgraaff drew the following list of things to consider; in aiding with regulating the interaction on work WhatsApp group:

  1. State whether or not it is a requirement to be on the group for operational reasons and if you are not then it will be at your own peril should lawful instructions so communicated not be adhered to.
  2. Post your message in one single text message, don’t post every word or sentence in a new message.
  3. Limit the number of participants to those whom the group is targeted at and keep the participants to directly affected employees.
  4. Do not have one-on-one conversations in the group. Switch to private messages.
  5. Do not post in any group between 19:00 and 07:00 unless it is an all-out emergency.
  6. If a message asks for a positive response like “who is available”, don’t reply in the negative. Only say if you are able to attend to what is required.
  7. If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer don’t respond with “I don’t know”. Just wait for someone who knows the answer to reply. If no answer is forthcoming it would be polite to make enquiries with those close by so as to assist the requestor.
  8. Don’t send “thank you” messages unless circumstances dictate it appropriate. If you feel gratitude towards someone – tell them in a private message. The group does not exist to inflate your employer’s opinion of you or of your colleague.
  9. No arguing and heated opinions will be allowed. Any post that includes racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ethnically divisive remarks or any other topic that offends and disturbs the fragile tranquillity of the workplace should be avoided. This may lead to disciplinary action being taken.
  10. Never use a group to berate someone else or air grievances. If you have an issue address it with the relevant person or management directly.
  11. Don’t send data-insensitive messages.
  12. Employees should avoid discussing details of a sensitive crisis, which the employer is still resolving.
  13. “Mute” is allowed on your WhatsApp group after hours (unless you’re part of an emergency response group).
  14. Ask yourself these 3 questions before you post:
    1. Is this relevant? Is this necessary? Is this a good time to post?

It is highly recommended that employers put a policy in place to govern the usage of the group. This will not only protect the company brand but also ensure harmony between employer and employee as well as improve productivity.

 

 

Gcina Mthembu

Eskom

Assistant Officer HR


 

Bibliography

https://www.helloyes.co.za/digital-statistics-south-africa-2018/

http://afaconsultants.co.za/2017/05/30/work-whatsapp-group-hero-foe/

http://www.seesa.co.za/employers-guide-to-whatsapp-groups-in-the-workplace/