Communication is what keeps a business moving, and we are more plugged in now than we have ever been. Technology provides your business with improving ways for your employees to connect, with the main vehicles being instant messaging and email. There is a multitude of instant messaging platforms that are being used both in and out of the workplace including Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype and more. If you’re evaluating whether instant messaging is right for your business, here are some things to consider about how it integrates into the workplace.
Pros of Instant Messaging in the Workplace
The name says it all – the communication is instant. If you need to quickly get a hold of a coworker an IM is a way to instantly transmit a message. Instant messaging usually notifies the recipient of the message with a notification sound or the window popping up immediately into view. It allows people to be more responsive as they can still respond to an IM if they’re on a phone call or in a meeting. Most IM platforms allow you to see whether someone is online and if they’ve seen your message, which lends some transparency to the communication. There is also a sense of urgency associated with an IM and the response rate is quicker on IM than email. IM also tends to be brief, factual and to the point, with the conversation being more transactional and informal in nature. IM platforms facilitates communication between multiple parties at once with group chat features, so it is a way for teams to stay connected which is especially helpful for teams that work in different locations. Many chat tools also have integrated video chatting which gives teams that work remotely the ability to have meetings together “in-person” providing teams an opportunity to bond more deeply than they would be able to by using only voice or text communication.
Cons of Instant Messaging in the Workplace
One of the pros I mention above about conversations through IM being able to be conducted while someone is on a call or in a meeting is also a con. Juggling two conversations at once means that you aren’t able to give your full attention to either and could result in a meeting or call being less productive while it is put on the backburner. If you have trouble getting back on task when distracted, IMs can be something that creates a lot of distraction in the workplace with constant notifications or interruptions into your work schedule. Most IM services have a “do not disturb” feature that prevents you from receiving IMs while it is turned on, and it may be a good idea to consider creating a standard that it is okay to be unavailable through IMs while in meetings, especially with clients. Along those lines, make sure to close your chat windows and either turn off your IM program or place it on “do not disturb” when you’re screen-sharing. You do not want IMs interrupting your work or sharing information externally that was meant to be in a private conversation. IMs are also really only good for internal conversations, unlike email you have to use the same IM service to be able to communicate back and forth.
Instant messaging is valuable and can enhance your business communication as long as your culture sets boundaries around the use and expectations of IMs. Combining email and IM gives your employees the ability to communicate in real-time and collaborate quickly and easily with one another.