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Don’t Let Workplace Instant Messaging Kill Productivity


Workplace instant messaging between co-workers can be a great for communication. But if not used correctly, business chat tools can have a detrimental impact on productivity.

 Image of three people using workplace instant messaging on their computers

An overwhelming majority of people who use workplace instant messaging agree that there are benefits. A quick and easy communication tool like this can help reduce email and call volume between coworkers while enabling everyone to reach resolutions in basic circumstances much faster. It is also a great way to improve remote communication. Business instant messaging tools like Microsoft Lync can even display when users are available, busy, or what their status is so everyone knows what’s going on.

Graph showing how frequently employees get non-work related messages via workplace instant messagingHowever, with all of its potential benefits, if not used properly, workplace instant messaging can kill productivity. Our friends at Software Advice, a VoIP research group, recently did a study of employees across many different businesses that use instant messaging. One of the disturbing results of the study found that only 12% of respondents always or often received work related messages while about 40% rarely used their chat tool for work purposes and mostly got messages irrelevant to their job.

Another problem area with workplace instant messaging is when employees fail to update their away status. When on lunch or in a meeting, people in the study did fairly well keeping their presence updated. But when it came to all other scenarios like being on a break, being too busy to chat, or simply being out of the office running errands, less than half of users update their instant message tool. And when the tool isn’t utilized properly in this manner, users agree that productivity dips.

Furthermore, another issue with workplace instant messaging was discovered when 70% of survey respondents replied that they found the chat tool distracting on some level when they had it set to available. So with these significant work-inhibiting issues surrounding business chat tools, how can you make sure employees correctly use instant messaging to enhance productivity rather than deal it a death blow?

Follow these workplace instant messaging best practices to keep productivity up:

1. Only use instant messaging tools in the workplace like Lync Secure Chat or other platforms that aren’t open to outside users. This keeps employees from getting messages from friends or family with non-work related topics. You can establish who has access to the tool and even keep an eye on employee chat activity to make sure it isn’t being abused.

2. Establish strict guidelines on when users need to update their availability. Employees from the study who saw the biggest productivity boost from using instant messaging in the workplace were diligent about updating their presence/availability status.

3. Don’t let instant messaging completely take the place of phone or email. Business chat tools are great for a lot of things and can have plenty of benefits. But sometimes a simple phone call can get a lot accomplished more quickly. And sometimes there is just no substitute for a good email. Or if you are even in the same office as someone, it can be much more productive to just go have a quick one-on-one chat.

As long as you have the right business chat tool, set some good usage guidelines, and know when it’s appropriate to use over other communication options, workplace instant messaging won’t kill productivity. Instead, it will give office productivity a nice boost.

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