‘Work Warriors’, ‘Colleagues and Cocktails’, ‘Energised Employees’ – all cute WhatsApp work group names that hide something very, very ugly: your time is no longer yours.
In an article in the Sunday Times (26 June 2016), Nivashni Nair writes that ‘South African employees are being held hostage by company WhatsApp groups and demanding bosses who threaten disciplinary action for unanswered messages.’ It’s a reality many South Africans face daily, one in which they aren’t able to clock out of work and are available for work demands long after the office has been closed.
Forget trying to make a quiet exit from the group, as WhatsApp makes a loud ‘CINDY MOOLMAN HAS LEFT THE GROUP’ announcement. You’ll now forever be known as that non-committal colleague who doesn’t value ‘teamwork’ and ‘communication’.
Don’t get me wrong, WhatsApp work groups do have value. People are able to get things done faster and carry on with work plans more efficiently. The problem comes when the expectation is to drop one’s life and act on any messages sent by colleagues or superiors immediately, all the time. You’re with family and friends, distracted by the messages on your phone that could probably wait until the next day. Hell, you could be by yourself enjoying your well-deserved quiet time.
Some of the groups have no established ground rules, which means anything and everything is sent at any time. Perhaps a code of conduct of sorts is needed to help ease anxiety and any guilt that may emerge because people aren’t always able to respond.
Here are some suggested WhatsApp work rules:
1 No WhatsApp messages after 7pm.
2 If you want to send that joke meme at 10pm, don’t.
3 If the conversation is between two people only, take it somewhere else.
4 If you want to leave the group, have a word with your boss first.
5 If you do not get a response, don’t get mad.
If none of this is possible for you, make sure you take yourself to a spa as often as you can to decrease stress levels.