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The merits of using IM in the office

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

When you need a simple answer fast, can you beat communicating via instant messaging?

That’s what one reader asked recently on the Admin Pro Forum:

“I have been trying to get other admins to use instant messaging for basic communication instead of phone and email. It is an easy way to contact managers and others even while they are in meetings. What are the benefits of using something like Lync instant messaging for the office?” — Mary Lou

We contacted some business professionals who use IM in their offices to get their take on the situation.

“We use instant messaging constantly,” says TheSquareFoot CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum, “It’s great for brief thoughts and conversations without interrupting others around you (we work in an open office environment). It’s also great if you want to keep something private. We also have a geographically distributed team and instant messaging is invaluable in keeping in contact.”

Dawn Berry, SEO manager for Processing Point, says, “We have found IM to be a great way for employees to communicate quick and simple messages such as confirming a meeting time or verifying the receipt of an email. There is a transcript trail to refer back to if needed, and the concept of ‘instant’ communication saves valuable time from dialing the phone, sending an email or physically tracking down an employee to talk.”

The merits of IM seem clear: the convenient communication for scattered co-workers, the ability to quickly attain answers to simple questions, having a record of your conversation to return to, and privacy. Moreover, IM can be an efficient timesaver if used correctly.    

Still, you shouldn’t think of IM as a substitute for face time. Instant messaging is devoid of tone and can easily be misinterpreted. If your instant messaging starts spiraling into a nuanced conservation, it’s a sign you should try a different method of communication.

“The back-and-forth should be kept to a minimum,” cautions Shutter­­stock’s Danny Groner. “If a topic requires more attention, you should suggest meeting together in a common space, in person, or to hop on a quick call. Having access to people in other ways is an asset, unless you turn it into a liability that slows down your process because of needless typing and waiting.”

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