Workers are comfortable sharing personal, sensitive and confidential information over chat platforms. They practice risky digital habits, and don’t care if their communications are leaked.
Symphony Communication Services Workplace Confidential Survey, which polled over 1,500 workers in the U.S. and U.K., examined the growth of new collaboration tools and platforms entering the workplace. The findings highlight a worryingly casual attitude to workplace communications that pose a threat to businesses.
“The way we work is changing,” states Jonathan Christensen, Chief Experience Officer at Symphony. “Collaboration platforms and other innovations bring positive improvements that enable more flexibility and better work-life balance.
“But a more casual approach to workplace communications, and digital habits in general presents major security risks. Employees won’t keep secure practices on their own, and employers must consider how they will secure workforce communication over messaging and collaboration tools, just like they did with email.”
Workers today trust their technology so much so that 93% have confidence that information shared via these platforms is safe from external eyes, and 84% have confidence that their collaboration provider could not access their messages. Despite this confidence, however, as many as 27% aren’t aware of their companies’ IT guidelines.
Further, when asked about their digital habits at work, employees admitted to behaviors that put both personal and company information at risk, including that:
- 27% knowingly connected to an unsecured network
- 25% used a personal email to conduct business
- 36% used personal computers or phones to conduct work
- 29% shared work materials with a personal email or messaging application
“Having access to messages and the relevant documents in them, from any device, is a powerful tool for ensuring work can flow, but it is critical that when enabling access from untrusted devices that the business’ security, compliance and data policies can still be enforced,” observed Christensen.
And, as workplace conversations increasingly move to chat, so too do sensitive and confidential conversations. Employees reported specifically using messaging and collaboration platforms to:
- Share confidential company information – 25%
- Talk badly about their bosses – 25%
- Send memes and photos – 25%
- Discuss their personal lives – 76%
Yet, shockingly, 78% wouldn’t care if some of this information was exposed publicly, for instance, published on WikiLeaks.
“The flow of conversation in collaboration apps can be a powerful tool, but managers have to ensure that the ability to have casual conversations does not lead to the casual handling of sensitive information. Having the ability to securely deploy appropriate monitoring and surveillance tools to ensure that data leaks are prevented, as has been done with email and telephone systems, is critical, particularly for regulated environments,” Christensen added.
Workers still suffer from email overload
Symphony’s survey also uncovered the ways messaging and collaboration tools support work-life balance. Employees indicated that email is still the most overwhelming communication channel for them, with 69% reporting that email makes them feel the most overwhelmed at work, while only 11% say the same of collaboration platforms.
Employees also reported spending nearly a quarter of their time at work checking email, and indicated a desire to shift away from it: 80% believe using a messaging and collaboration tool improves communication and productivity between them and remote colleagues, as compared to via email and phone.
Additionally, employees identified common workplace interactions they would prefer to be moved onto a chat platform, with the most popular including scheduling meetings (51%) and holding internal team conversations (45%).
“Workers feel the productivity benefits of collaboration tools when compared to email as these tools tend to reduce context switching,” said Christensen. “This is particularly true where integrations with business processes enable automation tools such as bots to help complete tasks.”
Millennials are the worst (offenders)
As more millennials enter the workforce and are indeed already the largest generation in the labor force, their actions and attitudes have a major impact on their employers and work culture.
For instance, Symphony’s survey revealed that millennials are more guilty of not leaving work in the office, compared to older generations. Nearly half of millennials (48%) report checking email constantly after business hours while only 36% of Baby Boomers report checking email constantly.
Millennials also stress less when it comes to security and sensitive or confidential information. In contrast with Baby Boomers, they are:
- 2x more likely to download a communication app or service not approved by IT
- 2x more likely to share confidential information over chat
- 2x more likely to gossip about co-workers or talk badly about a boss over chat
- 3x more times as likely to share company credit card or password information over chat
- 3x more likely to download sensitive info or intellectual property from their companies onto their devices from a messaging or collaboration tool
“As a new generation brings different attitudes and behaviors to collaboration at work, the lines between personal and professional life are increasingly blurred,” noted Christensen. “While this brings improvements in productivity and work-life balance, it also poses more security challenges and a greater risk for employers.”