Workers using WhatsApp to share information and organise themselves could be putting businesses at risk of a legal battle or even a GDPR fine.

That’s the warning made by Eko CCO Robert Darling, who says the blurring boundary between home and work communication needs to be rethought.

As chat apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and even SMS remain the de facto standard for workers to communicate, the Eko app hopes to stop this from happening with a more suitable alternative.

“There is informal non-GDPR compliant WhatsApp adoption going on,” Darling told BusinessCloud.

“There are a lot of enterprise security concerns with companies that are using WhatsApp.”

Darling explained the other benefits of using a custom-made alternative such as Eko.

“From an HR perspective it is also a very big win,” he said.

“The company owns the data. If you have HR issues or employee issues that pop up, you are able to control that and have access to that information.”

Founded in 2012 the now 150-strong company has commercial headquarters in London, its main office in Bangkok and other locations in Berlin, Amsterdam and, more recently, Texas. It is embarking on a US expansion powered by a $20m Series B funding round.

Eko

The app, which has been designed to look and function like any other chat app, is simple enough for new users, but also has plenty of functionality to avoid a migration back to the likes of WhatsApp.

It also features add-on modules including the ability to add training modules, a tracking function to map employee shift time and location, with HR forms and approvals soon to be rolled out too.

The app is currently used by over 7,000 bank branches, more than 13,000 retail stores and over 100 hotels and resorts.

“It’s predicated on the consumer look and feel, to bring in for your frontline staff who generally don’t have the technology attitude of other people in an office environment,” Darling said.

Beyond usability, the app’s purpose is to ring-fence work-based communication, which is becoming an increasing necessity for employers, Darling explained.

In France, recent employment laws allow a ‘right to disconnect’ outside of working hours, and obliges employers to negotiate what, if any, work will be done with their prospective employees. Across Europe, similar laws are being considered.

“Legally, depending on where you are, there’s a chance that the employee can claim that back as work time because they were getting messages outside of work hours,” said Darling.

“What we’re up against is not necessarily any competitor, per se, but rather the fact that these companies have no way to communicate with their employees right now.”