Texting in the Workplace: How to Protect Your Business from Unintended and Unwelcome Consequences

The way businesses operate has changed as technology continues to advance and younger generations enter the workforce. Previously, business was primarily conducted by phone calls, e-mails, or in person contact.. Now, many younger entrepreneurs (and sometimes older ones) prefer to conduct business in alternative ways such as text messaging. In fact, your employees may already be text messaging potential or existing customers. This transformation in the business world is bolstered by the “Bring-Your-Own-Device” (“BYOD”) movement, wherein employees are increasingly using their personal laptops, tablets and mobile devices for business purposes. This change is not surprising: conducting business by text messaging or similar means is attractive and easy. Text messages are fast, simple, and often lead to a more immediate response than an e-mail might. Further, bringing the BYOD movement into a business reduces costs while encouraging a fast-paced method of communicating with clients.

Yet allowing employees to use their own devices for business purposes is fraught with dangers that are deceptively easy to overlook. As the BYOD movement becomes an established part of the business landscape, employers lose control of what employees can and cannot do with their cell phones and, most of the time, cannot disable features such as texting. There are both technological and practical downsides to conducting business by texting. First, text messages do not stay archived as long as e-mails. As a result, a business can neither monitor an employee’s communications nor maintain records of those communications in a consistent or long-term way. Further, text messages are less likely to be secure than are e-mails. For example, e-mails sent by telephone are more likely to be encrypted than a text message. In addition, because of the BYOD movement, employers may lack access to employee information, making it difficult to ascertain whether an employee is engaging appropriately with clients or other business personnel. Most importantly, if an employee is terminated, the employer has no access to any information on his/her personal device. And finally, the informality of the text messaging process may create problems relative to a company’s image or branding.

This leads to the question – do you allow your employees to use personal devices or to conduct business by texting? If so, do you have procedures and/or policies in place for managing employee texting? Adapting one’s business to changes in the technological world also requires knowing how your business operates and creating policies to ensure it (your business) remains intact. Beyond texting, a company should control how employees operate “on the cloud” and how they ‘remote’ into work. Especially critical is creating a process for accessing the memory and company information stored on the employee’s device as well as a means to retrieve it as necessary. Further, companies may bolster secure use of technology by working with their information technology service providers to create, as much as possible, procedures to enforce these policies. If not addressed, these issues could potentially mean that a business’s own employees comprise one of its largest security risks.