By Adrienne Erin
Online Career Tips, Contributor
While email is still considered to be the backbone of communication in today’s offices and businesses, instant messaging (IM) has taken off massively in the last few years. In fact, over 50 percent of workers now use IM at work. The question is, how productive can it be? Is it more productive than email or internal phone lines? In this article, we’re going to take a look at whether the same tools you use to chat with your friends can be used in the office for productive purposes.
How Using Instant Messaging Can Be Helpful in the Office
There’s no wait time for a message to come through and of course, these messages can be received anywhere. Here are some of the key benefits of using IM in the office:
- It’s quick: sending a quick request or asking a quick question is actually quick when messages are instant.
- It’s easier than email: email on your mobile phone can be difficult to set up and use. With instant messaging, you can be reached and reach others no matter where they are.
- It’s personable: using IM in the office can allow people to connect with each other while still being productive.
- It’s simple: email addresses are often hard to distinguish, and we’ve all had mishaps when it comes to sending emails to the wrong people. With IM, it’s simple to use and easy to setup.
- It can be used anywhere: employees working from home or telecommuting can be on the same page as employees working in the office.
Businesses can use instant messaging to contact their employees no matter where they are, so if you’re working out in the field, you can quickly get updates. Unlike email, IM allows for quick and simple messages to be relayed without any fuss. There isn’t one inbox with everyone to sort through. There are only conversations with individuals or groups, making it all easy to sort out in your head.
When Instant Messaging Gets in the Way
No matter how professional you are, when you’re friendly with your coworkers, productivity can slip. IM has often been thought of as the reserve of chatty timewasters, and when used incorrectly, that might be true. Here are some of the larger problems with IM in the wrong hands:
- IM can be distracting: all it takes is one message about the game or last night’s TV for a work conversation to derail.
- It can be difficult to separate work from play when using IM.
- It’s hard to adjust to: email has rules and etiquette that we’ve been following for years but, IM is new ground for a lot of people.
- IM can make things a little too friendly between coworkers.
Nobody’s perfect, and instant messaging can be one of those things that causes more headaches than it cures. However, the same can be said for email. It takes adjustment and responsibility.
How to Use IM Responsibly and Effectively
Instant messaging can revolutionize how you communicate in the office but only if used correctly. Just like email, there are rules and guidelines to consider. After all, you don’t want to chat the workday away. Here are some core guidelines to follow to ensure that doesn’t happen:
- Keep work and play separate: having different accounts for yourself at work and at home will allow you to connect with coworkers and friend at the appropriate times.
- Remember you’re still working. At home, IM might be a toy to chat to family and friends, but at work it’s a tool, and you should always remember that.
- Make sure to keep things professional. Don’t use IM to flirt – save that for the coffee shop after hours.
- You’re not talking to your friends anymore: while you might get on well with your colleagues, you should afford them the same respect you would if you were with them in person.
IM is used by so many of us at home with friends and family that it’s hard to imagine using it at work. However, following the advice laid out above and keeping a professional head on your shoulders will prevent hiccups from happening. For instance, chatting about your rental power is something better saved for the bar after work.
Is IM More Productive in the Office?
When used properly, and responsibly, yes it can be. Instant messaging can save time and help coworkers form efficient working relationships. It’s also a great way of contacting people out of the office. Many companies are afraid to try IM at work because it could negatively impact performance. However, with the right guidelines set in place, and separate accounts for work and play, it can revolutionize how the office connects, communicates and gets work done.
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