The world of communications is evolving at a fast pace and those changes have a huge impact both in the private domain and in the working environment. We have always been aware of the necessity of privacy in our modern times, and have consequently built a communication platform that has privacy as a core value. We also often think about the workplace of tomorrow, as far as communications go. We observe, as most of you probably do, that the balance between work and private life has significantly changed and we expect it will continue to evolve in the future.
Two major communication channels are at play in almost every workplace today - with the exception of good old phone calls that will not be taken into exam today, the present discussion being focused over communicating systems that favor the exchange of written information.
E-mail vs. instant messengers
The main difference between e-mails and chats lays in the speed a certain message is conveyed and is responded by a designated recipient. Emails have been around for more than two decades and owe their success to the ease with which they make it possible to organize workflows, trace important information back in time, spread and forward the same message to as many people or institutions desired. Due to its qualities email is also generally more formal than instant messages.
On the other hand, instant messaging for work, despite the informality vs email, is now so well-integrated and widespread that even chat applications that were not originally designed for business are being used in the workplace. The use of messaging apps for work may well speed up some processes and help people stay connected during working hours, however for some people it has felt like an invasion of their private lives, the constant connection now being seen by many as a source of increased level of stress.
Without doubt, our way of communicating has been impacted deeply by technology. Our habits and behaviors are different from what they were just 10 years ago. Today we rely so much on technology that we are not able to resist the urge to check our phones from the moment we open our eyes each morning. One of the first actions most of us perform in the morning - right after waking up - is to check our notification list, email inbox, and social media feeds. This habit is driven by our fear of missing out on something important while sleeping.
We find ourselves continuously connected to the internet and more than willing to check our smartphones multiple times per hour. Instant messages get often answered near real time - far quicker than emails - and are ideal for the exchange of back-and-forth information. It has by now been proven by research that people are driven to reply to messages as soon as they get a notification. This is due to the little buzz/noise the device makes when we receive a new message. The message alert then releases enough dopamine to trigger curiosity in our brain, which makes us feel good about ourselves. So basically, you are not addicted to all that chatting: it’s just an ego thing, where you are driven to reinforce your importance to yourself and others.
The pervasiveness of chat apps in the workplace will be even more widespread as time goes on; once Generation Z starts working, their personal messaging habits will surely follow them to the workplace. Generation Z was born into the digital revolution so smartphones and fast communication have always been part of their daily experience. Their minds are shaped by social media and are accustomed to getting information as fast as they can type/vocalize a question to a search engine. Gen Z will be intolerant to any delay or imperfections that can come from the tools they use.
What is more, younger generations have experienced chat apps since they were little kids and are far less accustomed to sending emails - especially formal ones. This is for sure an element that has to be taken into account when we try to imagine the workplace of tomorrow.
If instant messengers are the future of working environments, what are the questions that companies should be asking themselves to improve the use of messaging applications for work and count on them not only as the fastest tools available for communications, but also as platforms respectful of the data and privacy of their users?
Encryption: private and secure?
Among the issues chat apps have to face there are security risks and privacy concerns for users.
We have all heard of encrypted messages. Encryption is one of the tools many messaging apps use for security purposes. When a message is protected by encryption it should be secure, or at least that is what you are led to believe. Once the message is sent it can only be decrypted after it has been received on the recipient’s device. Unless you have the decryption key of course…
That’s why encryption does not always mean that sensitive data cannot be intercepted by third parties. For example, if you’ve logged in to the chat app you use at work on both your smartphone and personal computer and synchronized your chats, your messages may have lost encryption leaving conversation details exposed.
As companies and the technologies behind companies continue to evolve faster and faster, it becomes more and more of a necessity for them to provide their employees with the right tools to perform their job efficiently and quickly. This raises another proper ethical question concerning the privacy of professionals themselves in the workplace of the future.
Many messaging applications have an advantage over email solutions in that they show whether a person is online for a real time conversation or not. This results in a much faster exchange of information among teams which are all online at the same time. This gives a feeling of virtual presence despite not physically sitting in the same room. Brainstorming activities and useful back and forth communications are performed in less time than it would require via email. A big improvement for efficiency in the workplace, indeed.
The other side of the coin, you will find, is that it can be difficult for both employees and freelancers to detach from the use of that same messaging app outside working hours. Think about how many times you felt the urge to respond to minor work-related issues late at night just because you’ve got a notification from one of your co-workers? How many times have clients dropped a message to you outside working hours with no regard to your private life? When you are honest with yourself you will find that notifications condition your mind to always be ready to work. Did you answer to please that colleague or client or rather because you felt the pressure to answer as they knew you checked your message?
In the long term, receiving messages about work after work can be highly tiring and can lead to unhappiness and discontent. In order to keep high efficiency in the fast-evolving workplace of tomorrow, employees and professionals should be granted respect for their spare time, free from any notification they may get on their devices (outside of emergencies of course).
The future is already here
One of the things we always keep in mind every time we come up with new features for Wafer Messenger is that privacy is a precious treasure in a world that wants to keep you always wired, connected and ready for action. That’s why one of our latest updates includes a feature that allows you to appear invisible to any contact you select.
We will never cease to stress the importance of data privacy. In the workplace of tomorrow this will become an even more important topic. When using instant-messaging apps the line between private and company is so blurred that everyone - businesses and individuals alike - should start worrying about how their data are being used. Ever since the conception of Wafer Messenger we have spared no effort to support a zero-tolerance policy against data mining - we believe that what is said in your company and your private conversations should remain private.
When we think about the workplace of tomorrow, we imagine a digital space that evolves fast, but is also respectful of the people that make the evolution possible. At Wafer Messenger we aim to achieve a messaging solution that brings value and happiness to the lives of our users, and at the same time makes sure to provide those users with a space of their own in which they can be ready for work challenges or completely at ease.
For more information on the privacy topic and how we treat user privacy at Wafer Messenger, we invite you to read more on our website or to reach out to us in any of our social media pages.