Messaging Apps: The Modern Approach to Face-to-Face

May 22nd, 2024 - Lucy Fisher

The workplace has seamlessly embraced messaging apps and platforms, enabling swift and convenient communication among colleagues. However, in their haste to adopt these tools, some employers may have overlooked a critical aspect of their implementation - establishing clear policies and guidelines.

A general policy may not be very effective in policing and controlling how employees use messaging apps. Employers should review their policies and procedures and keep them up to date to meet their obligations and ensure that processes are in place if something does go wrong.

Employers grapple with a significant challenge in the workplace: messaging apps blur the lines between professional and social interactions. Traditionally, emails served as the primary communication method, emphasising formality and professionalism. In contrast, text-based messaging and app-based communication exist in the social sphere, where emojis and casual language prevail. Navigating these boundaries can be tricky for employees, especially when determining acceptable language.

These platforms can inadvertently fuel gossip and inappropriate behaviour. In certain situations, if employees use it to speak negatively or inappropriately about colleagues, it could amount to bullying and harassment. It should be recognized that these apps are not private or personal; they serve as work tools and are within the employer’s control, so an employer can check and review the messages. The apps should only be used for work-related discussions and behavioural expectations should remain consistent regardless of the communication method. Ultimately, it falls upon employers to establish clear guidelines regarding appropriate communication in the workplace.

Steps an employer should take to ensure that these apps don’t foster an unhealthy work environment:

  • Implement policies and procedures.

  • Go through these policies and procedures with employees. Make the expectations clear so that employees are aware.

  • Don’t over monitor employees. The employment relationship is considered a special relationship that is built of trust and confidence. Over monitoring employees inherently undermines that trust and confidence, an employer should trust that its employees will follow the policies and procedures.

  • If an employer becomes aware of breaches of those policies or procedures, ensure that a fair process is followed.

    • One of the mistakes that employers make is jumping the gun in terms of disciplinary process. Often employers will have the actual messages or copies of the messages, but an employer must still give the employee an opportunity to provide explanations before the employer jumps to a disciplinary and takes the messages as read.

Employers must ensure that their policies outline a fair process to follow when addressing performance or disciplinary matters. It is crucial to establish this process from the outset rather than attempting to rectify a flawed one later. Buckettlaw offers guidance on the correct procedures for employers, emphasizing that a fair process should be tailored to the specific circumstances rather than taking a blanket approach across all cases.

Don’t wait until a problem situation arises, contact Buckettlaw for a comprehensive review or implementation of policies and procedures.

Note: BuckettLaw takes no responsibility for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of our articles. Any views expressed or comments made in an article are the writers option only. The content in our articles does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal or expert advice you should obtain specific advice about your case or matter from a professional. For legal advice based on your individual situation please contact us to speak with one of our expert lawyers.

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Lucy Fisher

Lucy holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Otago University.  

Her employment law expertise is complemented by her background in media and communications, equipping her to navigate the complex dynamics between employees and employers effectively.

Lucy provides clear, strategic advice and has a commitment to assisting clients to achieve positive outcomes. Lucy has established herself as a burgeoning expert in employment law, honing her skills in mediation and negotiation to effectively resolve disputes.  

Outside of work Lucy enjoys cooking, travelling and socialising with friends.

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