instant messaging in the office

I ran across this article today, that discusses the use of Instant Messaging in the workplace…and actually says that it increases productivity. This is something I’ve mentioned in my last two workplaces to co-workers, and it has been met with significant doubt; partially because they only associate messaging with high schoolers and social communication, and partially because of the generational gap. However, when I worked in Student Life, I worked on the third floor, and everyone else worked on the first floor. IMing someone to ask a question accomplishes a variety of things:

1. It is unobtrusive. A phone call rings. It interrupts a possible meeting, and people feel obligated to answer it. An IM can be quickly replied to with a “can we talk in five minutes?” or “I’m busy, how about after lunch?”

2. Could save from face-to-face interruptions. We all have had someone knock on our office door to ask a question at a moment when we really don’t want someone to walk in…we may have just hit a rare moment of productivity, or simply wanted to be left alone that day. Again, an IM can be taken care of quickly, and the ettiquette of IM is entirely different then an office drop in. It is considered rude to say to an office visit, “hey, I’m busy, can we talk later?” because that person made the effort to walk to your office. However, with IM, that message is more then appropriate.

3. Away messages. Simply having every person in your office on IM, and having them all post away messages that keep the office up to date on what they are doing could even cut down on the possible interruptions through IM. My message could read, “in a meeting until 11, please do not disturb”, and you would succesfully be kept free from phone calls, emails, messages, and drop-ins. Bosses could keep tabs on their employees, requiring them to keep their away messages updated with their whereabouts and activities.

I am certain that this would greatly help productivity…Each employee could be given a screenname when they first get employed, and if the employer was concerned, I’m certain that a private chat network could be developed that would limit the people employees could chat with. That way, employees wouldn’t be spending their time conversing with people outside of work.