Studies show that frontline workers are feeling more disconnected from their companies than ever before. Facebook’s (Meta) Workplace aims to bridge that gap with an upcoming WhatsApp integration.
Workplace by Meta announced plans to roll out an integration with WhatsApp this year to better support frontline workers whose technology needs often take a back seat in many companies. When the pandemic hit in 2020, many companies struggled to reach their field staff because they didn’t have the traditional lines of communication within their organization. According to Meta’s published report, Deskless Not Voiceless: The 2021 Frontline Barometer-which examined the views of 7000 frontline workers and 1,360 executives in seven countries-only 55 percent of frontline workers surveyed felt connected to corporate headquarters. 70% of those surveyed said they did not fully trust their company for transparency of information and updates.
Ujjwal Singh, product manager at Workplace, said most of these workers don’t receive an email address or laptop when they join a company, which means phone-based messaging apps are usually their only way to stay in touch with colleagues. “If the company doesn’t provide a good collaboration and community platform, employees will find their own way to communicate, feel connected and drive productivity,” said Wayne Kurtzman, IDC research director for social and collaboration solutions. “One of those solutions that is frequently found, especially among frontline workers, is WhatsApp.”
Communication tools: a necessity for all businesses
Workplace’s research found that 85% of these workers believe access to communication technologies should be standard, with 55% specifying that they plan to move to another frontline role for better tools that support their daily work. Meanwhile, 92% of IT managers and business leaders said they should give frontline technology the same priority as desktop technology. In addition, Ujjwal Singh reported that 60% of frontline workers said they wanted access to additional tools that would allow them to be better connected with the rest of the company and share information and data.
The planned Workplace integration will do just that. It will allow companies to share messages from their Workplace environment directly into WhatsApp, allowing workers in the field, who may not have time to scroll through multiple messages, to find relevant information. “We believe that by connecting them and giving them information, companies can help improve their ability to engage with these people to make employees happier, and actually provide better service to consumers,” said U. Singh. “One of the reasons why integrating WhatsApp is so important is that we already know that frontline workers use WhatsApp in many countries around the world. We want to meet workers where they already are, with the tools they already use.”
Whatsapp – between private and professional life
WhatsApp is primarily known and used as a consumer product; throughout the pandemic, many IT professionals have warned that WhatsApp is not an appropriate backup tool when official collaboration platforms go offline, as it rarely complies with corporate policies. Workplace’s product manager added that these issues are being addressed. Fundamentally, “we want to give companies control over the information and control over how they use this particular integration,” he said. “A lot of the functionality you’re talking about – around control and how what gets sent to WhatsApp, how people access that information – is still in development,” he said.
The integration is expected to arrive in the first half of 2022 and be rolled out thereafter. “It’s not something we’re doing in a hurry because we want to do it carefully, given some of the constraints that…the use of consumer tools that exist,” said Singh. Kurtzman also noted that WhatsApp is a well-known tool for field workers, especially when no strong community or collaboration software has been provided. He believes that when the new integration is released, IT should find it easy to address their compliance and governance needs with it within Workplace. Kurtzman notes that IDC research shows that 55% of all collaborative applications start as an unauthorized application. “The need to work from anywhere has prompted many to turn to enterprise-approved solutions. That hasn’t always been the case for field workers,” he concludes.