‘Mastering Messaging in the Workplace’ report reveals growth in ‘Shadow Comms’ and adaption opportunities


A new, free-to-download 50-page report has identified the challenges and opportunities of workplace messaging.

The ‘Mastering Messaging in the Workplace‘ report by Guild in partnership with London Research, aims to answer questions around how businesses can adapt to using messaging tools amongst a growing number of digital communications channels.

The digital, governance, operations and communications experts interviewed for the report include Marc Wright, Simplycommunicate, Andrew Hubbard, National Grid, Annabelle Dudman, PlayStation, Eva Appelbaum, Arc and Rachel Miller, AllThingsIC.

‘Mastering Messaging in the Workplace’ reveals that unsanctioned use of consumer messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Signal in the workplace are challenging for IT, HR, corporate governance and compliance teams in the face of GDPR and CCPA compliance.

But it also explores how organisations can use messaging tools positively to foster a culture of collaboration, while navigating security, privacy and compliance pitfalls.

In the report, close attention is paid to the growth of ‘Shadow Comms’, a term coined by Internal Communications expert Rachel Miller in 2017.

‘Shadow Comms’ is the unsanctioned use of communications channels that employees have created themselves to solve a gap in an organisation’s channels matrix.

Worrying WhatsApp use

The financial and reputation cost of employee misuse of shadow communications messaging channels such as WhatsApp could become significant.

The report reveals specifically how consumer messaging app WhatsApp’s use for business purposes has become an underlying issue for many organisations. It also highlights examples where employees in highly regulated sectors have been suspended for using consumer messaging apps.

Research commissioned by Guild revealed a staggering 41% of UK workers admit to using WhatsApp for work purposes, despite WhatsApp prohibiting non-personal use in its legal terms.

This figure rises to 53% for the under 45’s, and in Greater London the percentage using WhatsApp professionally hits 58%.

Research reveals that 41% of UK workers admit to using WhatsApp for work purposes

For businesses, consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp pose even greater challenges as they do not comply with privacy and data legislation like GDPR nor other legal requirements around record keeping.

Marc Wright, Founder of Simplycommunicate, said: “The elephant in the room is WhatsApp. Our audits have shown that a large chunk of management within organisations are using WhatsApp for work, particularly in East Asia. It’s very difficult to get them off it, and this is a major problem for large organisations.”

Confusion around workplace messaging platforms

The research reveals there is confusion around workplace messaging platforms and explains the differences between business messaging apps (Guild, Hospify, Symphony), work-based social networks (Yammer), workflow communications tools (Slack, MS Teams) and consumer messaging apps (WhatsApp, Signal, Messenger, Telegram).

It covers use cases for messaging in the workplace, the rapidly evolving market for business messaging, and some of the vendors offering different types of messaging platforms.

Time for guidance and new communications models?

The report highlights the need for guidelines to be put in place around the use of messaging apps within the workplace – both to protect employees and the business.

Report contributor Eva Appelbaum from Arc suggests a strong stance on consumer apps and that conventions around messaging could be woven into the company’s broader HR policies that cover email, calls and social media:

“In many sectors, businesses should be telling employees – point blank – that they’re not allowed to use messaging channels that do not comply with GDPR for any work conversations. In addition, we all should be mindful of our behaviour and etiquette when messaging at work as it tends to be more unfiltered compared to other business channels. But anything that crosses the line should be covered by existing HR policies.”

The criteria for successful adoption of messaging in the workplace is outlined and a new communications model is proposed – the ‘Hierarchy of Messaging’© – for businesses to use and adapt to create their own guidelines and policies.

A new communications model ‘Hierarchy of Messaging’© is proposed by Guild as a framework for the role of messaging within organisations.

Ashley Friedlein, Founder and CEO of Guild explained: “At a time when messaging is exploding, there is very little clarity or consensus around what form of messaging to use when, and why, at work.

We’ve developed a model to help businesses and professionals think carefully about the role of messaging in their organisation, and come up with ways of working that embrace the power of messaging without the risk of losing control.

We encourage you to share and adapt this model for your business. We also welcome feedback so we can update and refine it.”

The 50-page report is free to download (no firewall or sign-up required) here.