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Messaging at Work
Instant Messaging is Majorly Hurting Your Work Day — Here's How
AdobeStock / Drobot Dean
AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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There are several platforms for messaging in the workplace: Slack messaging, Google Hangouts messaging (G-chatting), Skype messaging and more. These kinds of messaging platforms serve workplaces well, as they make communication between colleagues quick and easy. There are tons of other benefits to using IMing platforms in the workplace. But there are also some disadvantages to communicating over direct messages.

Here is everything you need to know about using IMing in the workplace.

Role of IMing in business

Why do people use instant messaging? Simply put: It's quick and direct. IMing seems easier than sending emails, which can get lost in cluttered inboxes. People who receive IMs are immediately pinged and, because it's an informal way of communicating, they have an easier time responding in a more timely fashion. 

That's why companies tend to use IMing platforms amongst internal teams. Companies may choose from a variety of platforms. Below are some of the many messaging platforms that companies can use, for example. Some are more expensive, more multifaceted and more well-recognized than others.

  • Slack: Slack is a great resource for companies! It's a cloud-based proprietary instant messaging platform developed by Slack Technologies that also allows for phone and video calls. Slack is arguably the best messaging platform for companies out there, though it does come at a price. Learn more about how Slack works here.
  • Google Hangouts: Google Hangouts is, of course, a messaging platform through Google's Gmail. You can G-chat with other Gmail users who are online, and you can even start group chats with people. Phone and video calls are also possible.
  • Skype: Skype is primarily known as a video-calling platform, but you can also make phone calls through it and direct message people. Skype for Business is used by tons of companies around the world.

Here are a bunch of other alternatives, as well:

  • Team Tracker
  • Asana
  • Fleep
  • Workzone
  • Simpplr
  • Moxtra
  • Cisco Park
  • Silverline WaterCooler
  • Chanty
  • Azendoo
  • eXo Platform
  • Let's Chat
  • Yammer
  • Bitrix24
  • Rocket.Chat
  • Salesforce Chatter
  • Hive
  • Workplace by Facebook
  • Fuze
  • Glip
  • Ryver
  • Samepage
  • Jostle
  • Kaleo
  • Jabber
  • Mattermost

Advantages of communicating at work through instant messages

There are several advantages of communicating through instant messages at work. Here are just a few of them:

1. It's informal, which makes it easier.

Instant messaging is informal, unlike email. Many people who use instant messaging at work don't even use punctuation or proper grammar; rather, many use shorthand. This makes communication much simpler and more direct, without all the business jargon or formalities.

2. It tends to be quicker.

Because messaging is more informal, it tends to be quicker. It's easier to quickly respond to an IM ping without worrying too much about how it reads than it is to sit down a carefully craft an email. 

3. It's well organized.

Instant messaging platforms like Slack, for example, can be organized for different conversations. On Slack, you can create separate channels for different discussions. Maybe there's a "workspace" for the whole company, but there are separate channels for each department or team. Or maybe there are separate channels for each project. All members can communicate in the channels to which they belong as members. And people can respond to their comments by threading the post with replies or adding new comments in the channel. People may also direct message each other on the platform. 

The point is that these direct messaging platforms can be very well organized to make sure that everyone is able to easily find information and communicate seamlessly with one another.

4. It can be grouped.

As mentioned, these platforms often use a grouping interface. This means that group messages are possible to bring everyone together in one conversation thread. This keeps everyone in the loop by notifying them when there's a new comment in the thread. To avoid distractions, employees can turn off notifications, as well. They can even select certain settings to only be notified when there's an important or urgent message that command their attention immediately.

5. It keeps remote workers connected in real time.

For any workers who are remote, they can keep connected in real time, as opposed to communicating via email, which, although may be sent same day, isn't always communication that takes place in real time. These workers are able to stay connected to each other and their at-home teammates from all over the world, so long as they have a Wi-Fi connection. And because there are usually apps associated with these platforms, like Slack, Google Hangouts and Skype, they can connect right from their phones without even having to use a desktop.

Disadvantages of communicating at work through instant messages

Of course, there are pros and cons to everything. And there are some pitfalls associated with using instant messaging platforms in the workplace, as well. Here are a few examples of the cons of communicating at work through instant messages.

1. Instant messages can be distracting.

Because many employees may be part of group chats on instant messaging platforms, it can become very distracting for them when they're trying to do their work. Of course, they can usually turn off notifications on most platforms.

2. Employees may waste time with each other on direct messaging platforms.

Employees may spend a lot of time goofing off with one another, sending memes back and forth or gossiping about their weekends if these platforms aren't closely monitored. Unlike email, which they know that the company can and may look into, IMing platforms feel safer. So they may have a tendency to abuse them for chit chat with friends.

3. Instant messaging can be too informal.

Because instant messaging is informal, it can take away from the professionalism in the office. It may also replace real-life interactions that require people to speak face to face. For example, if someone needs a hand, instead of popping over to their desk to ask for help, it saves time to just ping them. While saving time is great, detracting from genuine, in-person interactions can have a negative impact on workplace relationships.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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