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Should You Ban Gchat at Your Company?

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on August 12, 2013 12:52 PM

A number of companies have banned Gchat at work. Should yours follow suit?

Google's chat feature is an inexpensive way to communicate with colleagues (along with friends and family) and combat mental fatigue from insanely long workdays. But companies like global auditing firm KPMG believe Gchat's costs outweigh its benefits and gave it the axe years ago.

Here are a few of the reasons why companies are banning Gchat at work:

  • Confidentiality. As in-house counsel, you should be careful about letting confidential information slip during a Gchat session. In the medical field, for example, employees are sometimes strictly prohibited from using instant messaging tools because of potential HIPPA violations.
  • Productivity. While you may not be subject to billable hours, you're still supposed to stay on task when you're clocked-in at work. A number of studies have shown that socializing improves productivity. But if your company's employees tend to frequent Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon, and end up wasting a lot of time online, then Gchat may be an irresistible form of procrastination not worth keeping around.
  • Record-keeping and discovery. For purposes of litigation, an e-discovery trail can be your worst nightmare. Stored Gchat histories are no exception. On one hand, the record can be useful to defend against frivolous lawsuits brought by disgruntled employees. On the other hand, off-the-cuff remarks in a casual forum like email or Gchat can spell legal disaster for a company embroiled in a lawsuit. Apple, for one, has learned that the hard way.

At the end of the day, banning Gchat at work is a decision that will depend on an individual company.

On a personal note: This blogger once worked at a publicly traded startup where all employees -- including the GC and in-house counsel -- used (and still use) Gchat as a primary form of communication. They use it for fun, too.

However, equally successful companies are content with a more conservative approach and have a blanket ban on Gchat.

Different (key)strokes for different folks.

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