Should you text your employees?

It’s a great question, because while texting can be an easy way to reach employees (especially deskless workers), it’s also a legally complex area. If you don’t tread carefully, you could risk opening your company up to unwanted legal action.

While that might seem scary, chances are you have employees who are already being texted about work responsibilities. Managers texting employees about schedules. Payroll sending reminders about timecards. The list goes on.

Given that it’s probably already happening, how can you get ahead of it? What are the best practices to ensure you’re legally compliant?

Let’s talk about some best practices you can implement to help make sure you’re doing texting right.‍

Best practices for texting employees while staying legally compliant‍

1 – Check with legal counsel and create a policy

Many laws and regulations come into play regarding texting employees. It’s a complicated space that’s constantly changing, so it’s best to be proactive and make sure you’re well-protected.

Start by talking to your legal counsel to understand what regulations you need to consider before texting employees.

Once you have clarity, create a policy that clearly lays out what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. Keep in mind that you may need different policies for centralized company communications sent via text versus more direct one-to-one text messaging (e.g. a manager texting an employee).‍

2 – Keep work/life balance in mind

Your employees are humans. Treat them humanely.

They need time and space to recharge and turn off from work, just like you do. Before you text an employee, consider if there’s a better way to communicate. Ask questions like:

  • Is texting the best way to get them this info, or would another channel work better?
  • Is this urgent or can it wait?
  • Could I group this information together with other information and deliver it differently?

If the information can wait or if there’s a better channel, it’s probably best not to text them right away.

One other big benefit to being strategic about when you text employees is that they’re more likely to pay attention when you actually text them.

If you’re texting them frequently, odds are your messages will get ignored or overlooked. But if you only text them occasionally, each text will stand out, increasing the likelihood they will read it and respond appropriately.‍

3 – Make inbound texting the primary focus

The best way to make sure you’re staying compliant and not asking too much from your employees is to let them initiate the conversations.

When you use a service like Anthill that enables two-way text communication, your employees can reach out for more information on anything they need.

Confirm their schedules? Check.

Access benefits info? Check.

Check their PTO balance? Check.

Letting your employees lead the conversation keeps you compliant. It also has the added benefit of helping you learn what your employees value and where you can better support them moving forward. ‍

4 – Be brief and clear

If you need to text an employee, opt for brevity and clarity.

This is a good rule of thumb for text messages in general, but especially in the workplace. Don’t send novels, and don’t leave room for ambiguity. Instead, make it clear why you’re texting them and exactly what you need from them.

Texting hourly employees when they’re off-the-clock can sometimes be considered compensable time (i.e. you have to pay them for the time). While you should always check with your legal counsel, check out the table below for some general guidelines

Anthill Deskless Workforce compensable and non-compensable messaging
Compensable and non-compensable messaging

Here are some examples of clear and (generally) non-compensable text messaging:

  • It’s time for our annual engagement survey. Click here to start the survey. 
  • This is your automated reminder to submit your timecard for the period of 1/1/22-1/15/22. Please click here to view and submit.
  • Hi Jill. Can you work on Tuesday afternoon? Bob has a doctor’s appointment and we need someone to cover his shift.

As a general best practice, be clear and respectful of your employee’s time.‍

5 – Make info available in other places

When you communicate with employees via text, you should always try to make sure that the information you share is available via other channels as well. Since text messages are generally viewed on-the-go, making the information available in other places functions as a safety net.

Since some text messages may be voluntary or require employees to opt-in — such as surveys — this best practice also helps to ensure vital information doesn’t get missed.

Tools like your HRIS or a company intranet can be a great place for broadcasting information that’s pertinent to your entire workforce. Each time you send a broadcast message, upload the information to a central location for future reference if needed.‍

6 – Use a tool that helps you get the most out of your messaging

When you’re following these best practices, text messaging can be a powerful tool for two-way communication with your workforce.

Studies have shown that text messages are typically opened within minutes of reception. They’re also opened at a far higher rate than emails. If your company includes a large number of deskless employees, text messages can be a gamechanger.

Tools like Anthill exist to help you get the most out of texting your employees. We’ve helped many companies remove barriers and increase engagement with deskless employees. Implement our secure and anonymous SMS text messaging product and you’ll be able to start gathering employee feedback and input almost instantly.

If you’re ready to get started, contact us for more information today!

Note: Anthill AI, Inc. makes no representations regarding whether the use of any of its product or services constitutes compensable time for any of the Customer’s employees. Anthill AI, Inc. advises the Customer to consult with its own legal counsel regarding any application wage and hour or other employment law issues with respect to Customer’s employees.

Lawrence Barker

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