India is home to WhatsApp’s largest consumer base which comes as no surprise since it allows for instant messaging to occur free of cost and does not have any advertisements peppered between conversations. Set against this backdrop, it has become a popular mode of communication even on the professional front. However, the way that it is designed and its primary role as personal messaging app prevent it from being an effective workplace tool.
Video calls for the hybrid workplace
The need to use video calls has surged in popularity over the course of the pandemic since people are now working from home for the most part. Not only can you see who you are communicating with courtesy of a video call, but you can better assess the intonation of their voice, read their expressions better and feel as though you are part of a team rather than a robot behind a computer.
Despite a move towards building WhatsApp for Business, the platform only allows a maximum of eight participants to participate in a video call. In comparison, workplace communication applications like Slack facilitate up to 15 participants.
Is screen sharing a possibility?
The ability to showcase any information such as a presentation to group call participants is not directly offered by WhatsApp. On the flip side, apps like Zoom, Google Meets and Slack allow for participants to share their screens during a video call which allows people to see what exactly is being spoken about.
Sending official documentation
The possibilities for needing to send and receive official documentation in an organization are countless. Efficient communication platforms, therefore, are vital. With WhatsApp, however, sending official documentation becomes difficult for several reasons some of which have been listed below.
There’s a limit on the shareable file sizes
While WhatsApp permits files of any type to be shared, there still exists a size limit of 16 MB in place. This makes it hard to share large files.
Metadata is shared with Facebook
Unless you opt-out for this in your WhatsApp settings, your messaging metadata will be shared with Facebook. Moreover, should you use the same number on WhatsApp and Facebook, your profiles can be linked with ease. This makes the divide between personal and professional boundaries less prominent.
Showing a paper trail is not as easy
With web conferencing software applications like Slack, it is easier to showcase a paper trail and draw attention to official documentation shared in comparison to WhatsApp.
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Keeping the remote workspace organized
Although WhatsApp Business is designed to keep business accounts organized, applications like Slack are more efficient. This is owed to the fact that the latter uses its space with greater efficiency. Conversations are divided into public and private channels along with direct messages. WhatsApp on the other hand offers only individual chats and group chats.
With WhatsApp, you can never really sign out of your account. As a result, are likely to be inundated with notifications constantly. It is also harder to establish personal and professional boundaries with colleagues. They can access your WhatsApp photograph, see your status, and can tell whether or not you’ve read their message provided you have receipts turned on. Each of these features makes it harder for you to create a professional boundary for yourself and your colleagues. Switching between professional and personal messages can also be a cause for confusion and chaos with a higher likelihood of distraction.
In contrast, applications like Slack allow you to sign out of your account at the end of your workday and customize the notifications you receive. Once you clock out, you create a distance between yourself and your work. Since there is no overlap between personal and professional communication on applications like Slack, should you feature a photograph, it is professional. Statuses made available here also relate exclusively to your work thereby not sending any mixed signals to your colleagues.
Alternative web conferencing and communication apps
Keeping the aforementioned features in mind, WhatsApp and its business offerings, fall short in terms of professional communication. Slack, Cisco Webex and Google Hangouts among others are better designed for professional web conferencing.
When looking at Slack, it is a winner for a number of reasons:
It’s well integrated with a number of tools. These include but aren’t limited to Trello, GitHub and Dropbox.
You can drag and drop files in channels, it's functional and supports multiple teams.
Messages can be edited with ease and inline link previews are available.
The local time of each participant is made clear, and diagrams can be drawn with ease.
Although it offers a premium plan, most services on offer can be availed of with ease.
Organizations that depend on WhatsApp to get work done need to rethink their communication strategy as it may be indirectly affecting productivity levels by not allowing employees to draw work-life boundaries.
Apps that were built for professional communication within an organizational structure will allow for a much more structured workflow with lower means for distraction and enable employees to establish better boundaries when it comes to work.