How WhatsApp Can Make Life Easy For Employees Who’re Using It At Work

Note: Your reading experience is going to be better on a laptop/desktop/tab

Ever since the pandemic began, I am sorta annoyed by the barrage of work related messages I receive on WhatsApp. I feel that the right place to send work messages is Slack. But somehow, people find it more convenient to send messages to a personal messenger. Reasons for this phenomenon could be many.

  1. Probably, people think that others would get things done faster if they invaded private lives.
  2. Or, for some people, there is no life outside work.
  3. It’s too convenient to keep track of all messages on one app.

(3) is probably the most plausible or common reason. It’s important to note that WhatsApp is easily accessible from desktop/laptop as well. And it’s a free app. All of this makes it easy for users to stay connected to colleagues/work. People don’t want to download another app like Slack and build up their contact list again.

From anecdotal evidence, it is quite obvious that a large number of work-related WhatsApp office groups are out there. In fact, I am part of five work related WhatsApp groups. These office groups are vibrant and often buzzing with a lot of activity during a critical project. Many times, it is quite stressful for employees who are part of these groups. In addition to this, colleagues and managers send you messages.

Image Source: The Verge

This post is an attempt to find out pain points of employees using WhatsApp for work related activities and finding solutions.

Pain Points For Employees And Managers Using WhatsApp

WhatsApp currently has about 2 billion daily active users on its platform. This is a huge number. And it is quite obvious that the network effects encourage people to ‘WhatsApp’ a colleague to get something done. Clearly, WhatsApp is solving a pain point for employees. At the same time it is also creating new pain points.

  1. WhatsApp groups related to work have too many messages. Sometimes, a person might see 100+ messages when he/she does not check for two hours. Lots of cross conversations and individual replies are hard to track. Arguments/ debates on the chat are hard to follow. One finds it hard to figure out pros/cons that are pointed out by participants.
  2. Important updates are missed out in the deluge of irrelevant messages.
  3. No boundary between personal and work life. People text you or call on WhatsApp at ungodly hours.
  4. There’s some friction while accessing zoom links or other websites shared through WhatsApp. Sometimes a person may not have Google meet or Zoom installed on their phone. This creates additional friction while attending a meeting on a smartphone.
  5. If a coworker mentions an important doc shared earlier, it is hard to track it down. Some of it might have been deleted or lost.
  6. People share links and articles related to politics or other issues. This drowns out work-related messages.
  7. Managers often don’t get concise updates on stuff that has been completed or stuff that is pending.

Some might blame human behaviour, rather than WhatsApp for these pain points. However, intelligent product design can guide and improve human behaviour.

WhatsApp has a golden opportunity to make life better for employees and managers. It can launch a set of features called ‘WhatsApp Office’. Now, there is an option to launch a separate app for office related work. But I would recommend against it because people are using the current app for the sake of convenience. Their life is simpler because they need to use one less app on their phone.

Ideally, all pain points listed above should be solved. We can’t ignore any of these requirements for a seamless WhatsApp Office experience. Now, let’s prioritise these pain points and see which problems should be solved first. Maybe, there can be a V1 and V2 launch.

Sl NoProblemPriority
1WhatsApp is hampering work-life balanceHigh
2Important messages are missedHigh
3Too many messages and cross conversationsHigh
4Friction while accessing external zoom links and docsLow
5Hard to track down work docs shared in the pastMedium
6Sharing of irrelevant content on groups (especially links)Medium
7Managers don’t get concise updates on tasks done/pendingMedium

Potential Solutions For Pain Points

Pain Point #1: Work-life balance is probably the most important issue for all employees and managers who’re on WhatsApp. Let’s figure out some solutions.

Sl NoSolutions to ensure work-life balance for WhatsApp usersEase of implementation (x/5)Pitfalls (-x/5)Overall Score
1aRemove the camera column and replace it with a work messages column on WhatsApp (see image 1). All work messages land in this column automatically. EasyUsers will still receive messages when they are done with work. 5-2=3
1bAllow users to toggle between work mode and regular mode. When users are in work mode, they will receive only work messages. In regular mode, they will not receive any work messages. (see image 2)HardUsers might miss critical messages from home when they are at work (and vice versa)4-2=2
1cEnable users to temporarily block all office mates when they are not working. MediumThis could increase friction between colleagues. It has a sort of unpleasant feeling. 4-3=1
Image 1 (Solution 1a)
Image 2 (Solution 1b)

Since camera is not used as often, the column/tab can be replaced with a work mode column. However, this might cause problems/ issues with people who are not employed. Maybe it will be better if the camera–> Work column replacement is made optional for users when they are onboarded. It seems like an elegant way to create a wall between work and normal life.

Ideal solution to pain point #1: 1a Remove the camera column and replace it with a work messages column on WhatsApp (see image 1). All work messages land in this column automatically.


Pain Point #2: Ensuring that important messages are read by all members is a very important requirement in a work-related WhatsApp group. Very often, these key messages are missed out due to deluge of irrelevant chatter. Here are some solutions that can address this problem.

Sl NoPotential solutions to ensure that important messages are not missed outEase of implementation (x/5)Pitfalls (-x/5)Overall Score
2aEvery member can star two messages per day to highlight it is importantEasyIf there are 20 members, there will be 40 important messages. This will make it hard to find the really important messages. 5-4=1
2bAdmin can be allowed to pin multiple messages (about 5) to the top of the group ( as opposed to single pinned message currently). Users can ask admin to pin certain messagesMediumAdmin might forget to unpin messages that are no longer important 4-1=3
2cImportant messages can have different text colour EasyUsers might miss out these important messages when they scroll quickly5-3=2

Ideal solution to pain point #2: 2b) Admin can be allowed to pin multiple messages (about 5) to the top of the group ( as opposed to single pinned message currently). Users can ask admin to pin certain messages


Pain Point #3: Reducing unwanted messages can be challenging. Very often, admins block all users from sending any message at all. This extreme solution is also a bad idea. Potential solutions for problem (3) and their pitfalls are summarised in the table below.

Sl noPotential solution to address too many messages and cross conversations. Ease of implementation (x/5)Pitfalls (-x/5)Overall Score
3aLimit number of messages sent to a group by a person to 10 messages per day (or 200 words). This will force them to be concise. It will also force them to take the conversation offline if it requires more debate. EasyEmergency messages can get missed out. Or key participants might fail to communicate concisely5-2=3
3bNudge users to have a phone call or offline conversation if the replies/ messages sent exceed 200 wordsMediumUsers might simply ignore the nudge. People are notoriously lazy and prefer the easy option. 3-2=1
3cLaunch a daily plan / daily update feature. This enables the admin to set the agenda for the day and then update how many tasks were done at the end of the day. Once goals are set doubts/ conversations will change.HardHard to predict work in some industries (especially maintenance/ service industries)2-3=-1

Limiting messages sent per person (solution 3a) could be a good way to prevent unnecessary messages or long discussions on WhatsApp. Important discussions are alway best discussed outside WhatsApp groups. The emergency situation pitfall is also manageable as people generally meet or call concerned people during an emergency.

Ideal solution to pain point #3 : 3a) Limit number of messages sent to a group by a person to 10 messages per day (or 200 words). This will force them to be concise. It will also force them to take the conversation offline if it requires more debate. 


Tackling Medium And Low Priority Pain Points

Pain points 4 to 7 are of lower priority, but they are essential for a well rounded office product. They can either be launched along with key features, or be launched as an update after solving the key pain points effectively.

Pain Point #4: This can be a straightforward solution WhatsApp can enhance its video call feature and ensure that people can send out meeting invites with video call links and calendar invites. Ensuring that the link works on tablets, laptops and mobile devices is going to be a key factor in its success.

Sl noSolution to reduce friction while connecting to video callsEase of implementation (x/5)Pitfalls (-X/5)Overall Score
4aCreate an inbuilt video calling function wherein people can create meeting invites and share it. MediumApp could become slightly bulky and harder to user4-1=3
4bDon’t solve the problem. Just ensure integration with existing video calling appsHardWhatsApp Office will not be an integrated product and the functionality will be affected by changes done to third party video call apps.2-4 =-2

This feature will effectively eliminate the need to create and share zoom/google meet links from another app. Effectively, WhatsApp has the potential to kill two more apps (Zoom and Google Meet) in one shot. 4a is the ideal solution.

Ideal solution to pain point #4 : 4a) Create an inbuilt video calling function wherein people can create meeting invites and share it.


Pain Point #5: Currently users can access all docs shared in a WhatsApp group. But it is not organised. The only sensible thing to do here is to create a folder where users can organise all their docs (work and office). Or, there can be a feature that allows users to organise files shared within a group.

Sl NoSolution for easier access to docs shared on WhatsAppEase of Implementation (x/5)Pitfalls (-x/5)Overall Score
5aProvide a universal folder where users can organise all their docsMediumOffice and personal files can get mixed up accidentally. 4-1 =3
5bProvide a local folder in each WhatsApp group where docs can be organisedMediumIf someone asks for a doc shared in a group in a personal chat, it will be harder to access. If people are active in multiple groups, it will be harder to locate the correct group. 4-2=2

Providing a universal folder management option is the best solution for addressing this pain point.

Ideal solution to pain point #5 : 5a Provide a universal folder where users can organise all their docs

Pain Point #6: This problem can be solved by effectively banning all external links in a WhatsApp group. This feature is already available in Telegram groups. Only text messages and links from the company website can be allowed in the work-related WhatsApp groups. Alternatively, the app can nudge users to avoid such links, give a warning before stopping individuals from sharing irrelevant links. This solution would appeal to better sense of individuals (which is hard to find these days).

Sl NoSolutions to prevent irrelevant links from crowding office WhatsApp groupsEase of implementation (x/5)Pitfalls (-x/5)Overall Score
6aBan all external links with the exception of company website links. Any external link shared on the group should get deleted automatically. EasyUsers might feel offended. Articles related to the company can’t be shared.5-2=3
6bNudge users to not share external links. Don’t delete any linkMediumUsers may chose to ignore nudge messages and do whatever they want. 4-3=1

Ideal solution to pain point #6 : 6a) Ban all external links with the exception of company website links. Any external link shared on the group should get deleted automatically.

Pain Point #7: Reporting practices in different industries and sectors is quite different. Some might prefer graphs, while others might want presentations. Some companies rely heavily on excel sheet formats. Building a solution that caters to all sectors is hard. This might involve a complicated solution. It’s better to leave this to the discretion of companies. Updates can be provided to managers based on requirements of the company/project. Solution 5a has already enabled users to organise their files. This should suffice at the moment. Building a whole suite of office apps within WhatsApp might be tough and not required by customers at the moment. It can be explored after a detailed customer survey.

In conclusion, implementing solutions 1a, 2b, 3a, 4a, 5a and 6a can drastically improve lives of employees using WhatsApp at work.

If someone working at WhatsApp, please take this cue and do something. If you , the reader, knows someone working at WhatsApp, please share this post with them.

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