The ping of instant messages is now commonplace in businesses worldwide. Many of us already use instant messaging (IM) to connect with friends and family, and the total number of worldwide IM accounts has hit over 8.3 billion. So, it’s no surprise the use of instant messaging in the workplace has also exploded. Fast and efficient, what’s not to like about business IM, right?
There’s no doubt IM has much to offer as an effective communication channel. Many companies are using it to connect hybrid teams and improve customer service. But is it all good news? While there are plenty of advantages to using IM, there are also a few downsides.
This post covers all you need to know about instant messaging in the workplace. You can then make an informed choice about whether IM is right for your business.
Topics covered include the following:
- advantages and disadvantages of instant messaging in the workplace
- ground rules needed to support successful implementation of IM
Benefits Of Instant Messaging In The Workplace
Many projects are fast-moving, and the ability to make decisions on the hoof is a big plus for companies. With IM, you can hold a real-time conversation online with one or more team members.
Business IM, or team chat as it’s also called, is a very handy tool in hybrid workplaces. On-the-move or remote workers have instant access to office-based colleagues.
Furthermore, team chat trumps traditional channels like email and phone calls. There’s often a time lag with emails and no guarantees they will be opened, let alone read. Plus, phone calls usually mean workers have to stop what they are doing to take a call. Furthermore, how often have you wasted time playing phone tag with a colleague or getting an out-of-office email?
By contrast, with IM, you can see when a co-worker is online and ready to chat. And you can cut to the chase with a short message. IM doesn’t have the formality of an email or the requirement for polite conversation that goes with a phone call.
What’s more, features like #channels, notifications, and @mentions improve the relevancy of your communications. Staff have more control over information, which helps reduce unnecessary noise.
Improved Productivity And Efficiencies
Convenient, fast, and easy to use, instant messaging in the workplace boosts productivity. Issues get resolved quicker, and updates are shared faster. Workers can even provide instant feedback with a simple thumbs-up emoji.
One survey found that 21 percent of workers who used IM had a moderate or significant improvement in productivity. Among the top productivity benefits identified by participants was decreased call and email volume (75 percent). Furthermore, 66 percent identified quick resolution of simple questions as another crucial productivity gain.
Team chat also makes collaboration a whole lot easier. You can attach files to IM, share an in-the-moment innovation or assign tasks. You can even use the search to find that crucial nugget of information. Chats can be public or private, allowing for real-time discussions on the next steps. And it levels the collaboration playing field for any remote or on-the-move team members.
Speed is undoubtedly one of the main advantages of business IM. And with faster decision-making comes increased agility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. When it comes to competitive advantage, these factors are crucial.
Promotes Social Relationships And Team Spirit
Survey after survey has confirmed the pandemic shift to hybrid working is here to stay. According to McKinsey, 30 percent of workers pre-pandemic said they preferred more flexible hybrid working. Post-pandemic, the number has increased to 52 percent. However, hybrid working makes it harder to maintain team spirit and social connection.
Instant messaging in the workplace helps bridge the gap between remote and office workers. And it helps build team spirit for all your people. When casual chats around the coffee machine are off the agenda, informal chatting can take place on IM. #coffeebreak channels bring people together to share personal news, chat about their favorite sports teams or weekend plans. Casual conversations may not be business-critical. However, don’t underestimate the value of connection-building conversations to a happy, motivated workforce.
IM is accessible anywhere from a mobile device. So, even on-the-move or non-desk employees can access the same information. This means your company benefits from the ideas of workers who otherwise might feel out of the loop.
The bottom line is people love using IM. It’s already an everyday part of all our lives. And your staff will feel comfortable using the platform, readily embracing all those familiar social features like emojis and hashtags.
Enhanced Customer Service
The benefits of instant messaging in the workplace go beyond your employees. Increasingly, companies are using it to provide real-time information to customers. For example, a customer has a service issue or query requiring approval from a manager. A quick IM to the team leader means your customer service staff can respond immediately. The result is a happy, satisfied customer.
Disadvantages Of Instant Messaging In The Workplace
Before deciding to go ahead with business IM, you need to know the drawbacks. Here are some of the commonly reported disadvantages. And top of the list is distraction.
Potential For Distraction
It’s true the constant ping of IMs has the potential to distract employees from their work. However, so do phone calls or a colleague dropping by your desk with a query.
Remember also that workers can switch IM off for a period if they need to focus on a task. Most platforms have the option to set your status to available, away, busy, or even invisible. Plus, employees have control over their notifications. They can choose which channels and chats to follow. And they can turn off notifications for conversations that are not relevant.
You can introduce ground rules around the use of IM in the workplace to minimize the risk of distraction. More on that later.
Third-party messaging apps can pose a security risk. They can be vulnerable to malware and viruses. And there’s also the potential for IP or personal data breaches. Closed networks and end-to-end encryptions help minimize the possibility.
There are a ton of IM platforms out there. However, most only operate within their own networks. Sending an IM to a user on another platform is not straightforward. For example, your sales team may already use the chat feature within their CRM platform. And Marketing may be using a WhatsApp group.
When selecting a platform for instant messaging in the workplace, make sure it integrates with the apps you already use. Otherwise, rather than solving problems, you will be creating even more.
Relying On IM Only
Business IM is great for quick one-on-one chats and project discussions. However, if it becomes the dominant communication channel, it can create problems.
Face-to-face communication, whether in-person or virtually, is still essential, especially for cementing those personal relationships. Communicating only through team chat can start to feel cold and impersonal.
Similarly, IM isn’t always the best choice for sharing company-wide news or finding corporate documents. The best approach is to have a range of communication channels available. You can then select the right one for the right message at the right time.
Ground Rules For Instant Messaging In The Workplace
You can avoid many of the disadvantages we have discussed with general guidelines. Here are some of the issues to include:
Make it clear what content is relevant for IM. For example, sharing jokes and GIFs even on the #coffeebreak channel may not be acceptable in your company. Furthermore, bullying, abuse, or harassment of any kind should be prohibited.
Respect Work/Life Balance
IM means we can reach colleagues at any time in a way that may seem more urgent than a standard email. Workers need to be mindful of respecting their colleagues’ downtime. Set expectations around when your staff should be reasonably available. And perhaps, more importantly, when it’s inappropriate to send an IM unless it’s an emergency.
Furthermore, encourage employees to be upfront about the urgency of their IM. Low-priority messages may not need an instant response. Workers could begin these messages with ‘no rush on this’ or ‘when you get the chance.’ And if action is needed right away, something like the following makes it explicit: ‘Can you approve these financials by 11 am ahead of the Board meeting at 2 pm.’
Reduce Noise And Distraction
Ensure workers know how to organize and personalize their chats to minimize irrelevant noise. Keep an eye on the number of channels, threads, and group membership to ensure they match your workplace. Business IM platforms can be very noisy spaces, so it’s vital staff know the pitfalls. And make sure your guidelines are included in onboarding programs.
Instant Messaging In the Workplace: The Intranet Solution
Before we sign off on this post, we couldn’t resist a few words about company intranets. You see, intranets tick all the boxes when it comes to the advantages of instant messaging in the workplace. Even better, intranets help reduce the impact of the downsides. Let’s find out more.
MyHub’s intranet software, like many other platforms, comes with a team chat feature. And this means IM is fully integrated with all your fantastic intranet tools. Single-sign-on gateway access gives users a streamlined experience. Plus, the intranet is the go-to platform for everyone in the company. Instead of several IM tools, all your people are on the mobile-friendly team chat.
Integration also means team chat works in harmony with other intranet communication channels, including blogs and newsfeeds.
Intranet team chat comes with all the latest online security features, including SSL. What’s more, it’s a closed network that reduces the risk of cyberattacks and security breaches.
Packed Full Of Great Features
Intranet team chat is packed with great features your staff will love. Conversations can be public or private. And you can also send direct messages. All the social features employees are familiar with are also available, including #channels, @mentions, and, of course, emojis. You can even pin a chat to your personal chat wall. Furthermore, you can attach files and documents. And all conversations are fully searchable so your people can quickly find what they need.
Give workers control with intranet IM’s personalization tools. Employees can follow trending channels based on their interests. And they can join team or project channels relevant to their work. Status updates make it clear when colleagues are available to chat. And notifications can be switched off when quiet time is needed. These great features mean the potential for distraction is significantly reduced. At the same time, the relevancy of messages is improved.
Is Instant Messaging In The Workplace Right For Your Business?
When it comes to connecting employees, working smarter, and improving customer service, IM is hard to beat. And you can reduce the potential downsides with some well-planned guidelines.
However, selecting the right IM platform is the key to success. Fully integrated, secure, and easy to use, intranet team chat could be the game-changer your business needs.