Half of Brits using shadow communications at work

shadow communications at work

Over half of Brits use personal messaging for work tasks as businesses grapple with the adoption of shadow communications. 

British companies are being urged to reassess the way they communicate as new research into the use of personal communications in the workplace shows that 55% use some type of personal electronic messaging for work purposes.

The trend towards using ‘shadow communications’ such as WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and personal email is being driven by the entry of increasing numbers of digital natives into employment. Almost two thirds (64%) of 18-34 year olds admitted to using personal messaging services for work.

Convenience (34%), rather than urgency (19%) was the main driving factor for respondents, suggesting that many firms are not meeting the expectations of their workforces when it comes to how they should be communicating with their colleagues and contacts.

The risk to businesses if they fail to address this is made clear by the fact that more than one in ten staff surveyed (11%) said they have used a personal email or messaging service to share business-sensitive information such as trading data, internal documents, or contact details (notably, men were almost twice as likely to have done this). 

And with implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) less than a year away and the government considering a ban to the end-to-end encryption of messages, the financial and reputation cost of shadow communications could become even more significant.

The research was produced by Yapster, a London startup providing private mobile messaging for large, multi-site organisations. The Yapster platform has been developed in collaboration with a number of other leading employers, including SuperDry. Other key findings include:

  • More than one in five (22%) say they receive or send messages about work on personal platforms outside of core work hours multiple times a week

  • A similar proportion (23%) say they use them every day and 44% use them at least once a week

  • Personal email (29%), WhatsApp (24%) and Facebook Messenger (20%) were the three most popular channels

“It’s not hard to imagine how shadow communications could cause headaches for large companies, but we also see it as a missed opportunity” said Rob Liddiard, CEO of Yapster. “If your employees are choosing to have conversations about work on their personal networks, you have no chance of joining that conversation. So organisations that embrace new ways of communicating and provide ‘safe spaces’ for this to take place can access a wealth of data and insight that can improve performance and encourage innovation.

Jenni Field, Director of Redefining Communications and Chair of CIPR Inside, added: “Internal communicators are always trying to find new technologies to enable conversations and, with the rise of ‘shadow IT’ and ‘shadow communications’, listening to the research and finding solutions to the challenge of communicating with front-line teams is so important. Working with our internal stakeholders to find the right solutions has to be the answer, rather than doing it in the shadows.”

By Rob Liddiard