Sunday 19 November 2017

Sending WhatsApp or Facebook messages at work? Your boss could be reading


Cara McGoogan

Instant messaging in the workplace is par for the course in many modern offices. One of the dangers of chat-based company cultures is that employees forget that they're under the watchful eye of their employer.

New research shows that UK employees send around 100 private messages a day from their desk or place of work.

The fact that employers can read the content of the personal and professional messages that staff send throughout the day has not stopped British workers from continuing to chat while they work.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in January that bosses can monitor their employees' emails, and make career-changing decisions based on the snooping. 

Bogdan Mihai Barbulescu, a Romanian engineer, appealed to the Court after he was fired for sending private messages to his fiancee on Yahoo instant messaging. It upheld the employer's decision, ruling that Barbulescu had violated the company-wide ban on private messaging during work. 

"It's really important for individuals to understand how their use of email and social media fits with their employer's policies," said David Evans, director of policy at BCS - the Chartered Institute for IT.

"It is also important for managers to treat employees with respect, and not monitoring their employees more than is needed to manage the business risks."

Nearly 70 per cent of workers in the UK admitted that they regularly send private WhatsApp, Facebook, and other instant messages during the work day, according to the research from Dice.

The figure is much higher among young employees with 90pc of 16 to 24-year-olds messaging during the day. 

Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 40pc said they have sent messages about new job opportunities and 9pc have flirted with a colleague. While 31pc have spent time online shopping in the office. 

"It's clear that many people aren't aware of their workplace policies around private messaging and internet use," said Jamie Bowler, marketing director at Dice. "We'd always advise people to be careful about their communication in the workplace. Let's face it, we've all had that feeling of dread when we've sent the wrong person the wrong email."

How to avoid your boss' prying eyes

Before you panic about the private messages you've sent today, let alone last week, check your company's policy.

Some companies don't have access to their workers' personal messages, or may only have the ability to snoop under specific circumstance. 

The worst case scenario is that your employer has access to all messages sent on personal devices and from personal accounts during working hours. If your employer regards this as their property, it would be wise to save your personal communications for the evenings and weekends.

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