Instant Messaging at Workplace: Does it Help?
Instant messaging is a crucial part of the online internal communication technology (ICT) stack in today’s fast-changing business scenario. The majority of the global workforce relies on at least one instant messaging platform to stay connected to their colleagues and managers and socialize with each other for numerous organizational tasks. Cloud-based unified communications platforms have improved the way every employee communicates at the workplace. Be it internally managed or designed for external stakeholders, instant messaging or IMing communication has evolved largely to engage audiences digitally, often replacing an email or a phone call.
Let’s take a quick look at the instant messaging applications that we regularly use. There are multiple applications or platforms for instant messaging including Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Discord, Skype, Google Hangouts, Telegram, and others. Majority of businesses in the contemporary context use ‘instant messaging’, as a major tool to communicate from remote locations.
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Instant Messaging: Some Valuable Insights
Strategies of communication have changed post the pandemic, while industry experts acclaim instant messaging as one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective ways of communication. Digitally driven instant messaging connects users on an interactive platform. In fact, instant messaging is mainly based on software that connects two or more people as and when required.
Enquiring U.S. consumers about “Most used messenger by brand” researchers found that “Facebook Messenger” takes the limelight, Viber comes last, while consumers go on sharing the various advantages of FB messenger to facilitate objectives of communication. A majority of users download messaging apps that offer endless opportunities to surf data coupled with visually effective information. Professional messaging apps thus, have a huge potential for consumers, especially in destinations like the US.
Let’s take a quick look at the following stats that were published online.
- According to a popular social conversational commerce report, 60% of respondents prefer to chat via messenger apps instead of doing it over an email or a phone call.
- More than 3 billion smartphone users have tried at least one instant messaging app for their social conversations with family members, friends, and business partners.
- Instant messaging apps are quickly replacing social media apps. One in three employees is likely to pick instant messaging apps for socializing with their colleagues from the workplace.
In terms of popularity and reach among the global workforce of millennials and Gen Zs, WhatsApp continues to remain at the top. Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Signal, Viber, and Spike are other popular instant messaging platforms with a significant number of followers belonging to the working class.
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ADVANTAGES OF INSTANT MESSAGING
Ease of use
IMing is the easiest and most effective form of communication in the workplace. It could save a lot of time and effort during project management. All it needs is your email account and a contact number to get started with the instant messages.
Do you know that instant messaging can be done through multiple devices? For instance, you can ply with your favorite business app with IMing features from your desktop or browser, while your smartphone rests for a bit. Accessibility on multiple devices can help in improving the efficacy of communication, especially in a private mode.
Instant messaging does not require any additional infrastructure set up in order to communicate with the group users. Ensuring connectivity through a common application, users can remain engaged within the limited costs of internet connectivity. This aspect can provide a competitive edge, especially for professional businesses.
Transparent, and quick conversations
In most cases, users refer to instant messaging as part of a casual conversation. Emphasizing an informal way of communication between team members, peers, managers, and employees can be a useful strategy in order to increase efficiency and productivity within a closed loop. Since this mode of communication does not depend on a formal setup, it strengthens the informal relationships between team members besides increasing employee efficiency and productivity.
However, employees must be informed that they should follow appropriate behavior while using instant messaging platforms for conversations. Users should follow the business working hours and avoid profanity while sharing messages through IMing apps. Most organizations have a backup option to view and archive team chats. Group members can easily scroll through past chats to refer back to previous messages, or media files that are shared within the context.
An apt alternative to emails and phone calls
IMing can save businesses 4.5 hours every month. Instant messaging gives an added advantage when used in combination with other modes of communication. For instance, a manager or HR executive could quickly drop a line to the employees who haven’t acknowledged an important email or phone call. Sharing the mail on an IMing app is favorable, as it reduces the time to respond to important messages. Also, it is useful to connect with employees who could be locked out of their official email accounts due to technical glitches or maintenance.
Nature or context remains informal, as instant messaging applications remove major hindrances in the course of communication. Nowadays, major corporations and organizations have national as well as international consumer bases. In order to reach out to international clients, instant messaging applications are most conveniently used by the masses. The IMing apps are useful for connecting with traveling team members or field staff.
CONS OF INSTANT MESSAGING
While there are many pros of using instant messaging apps for business communication, there are also some cons that need to be understood. We have identified the top challenges of communicating (only) with instant messaging apps in organizations.
Reduced physical interactions
Nearly half of the global workforce that use instant messaging apps for their business activities have complained about the reduced interactions with their team members. Using IMing platforms to engage with on-site employees neutralizes the intent of working together in a physical office, even if it’s meant for hybrid working.
Email-happy managers are more likely to impose a similar protocol on their Instant Messaging workflows. Once employees get used to IMing, it becomes a nagging issue where there are no boundaries on what, when, and how to respond to certain messages. The speed with which messages are sent and received can blur the sight of action and responses could become more confusing and ambiguous.
Most managers expect their team members to be continuously on their IMing apps and acknowledge receipt of messages. While good IMing policies foster an inclusive and connected working culture, unprofessional IMing expectations could lead to frustration among the employees. They could feel being monitored continuously for their work and behavior, even leading to a sense of being micromanaged or intruded upon, especially with messages that come after regular business hours.
Instant messaging apps may not be part of an enterprise technology stack. Unlike email or virtual calling software solutions, instant messaging apps could be used for more than just business activities. It could lack control and supervision of the IT team, leading to a breach of information and privacy.
Lead to distraction at work
Most organizations do not have a standard policy related to the use of IMing apps. For remote employees, a lack of standard policy could impact work-life balance. Instant messaging tools could also lead to distraction. Users could be engaging in unproductive banter in teams or groups, disturbing others who have no connection to the conversations. Also, some conversations could quickly turn into a grapevine, leading to confusion and conflicts. In a distracted mode, employees could miss important messages about their workplace and functions.
Although there are facilities for notifications or alerts in instant messaging tools that can be highlighted based on importance and priority, still there are cases where professional managers completely miss out on important information.
In spite of all the disadvantages, business leaders from diverse industries agree that instant messaging tools or applications are a necessary evil in the post-COVID era. They are an important component of any modern-day HR Technology stack. Despite challenges, instant messaging apps and solutions deliver convenience, comfort, security, and appropriate information to users.
Instant messaging is a very useful approach to building a transparent, trustworthy, and information-driven organization. It fosters a culture of efficiency, inclusivity, and purposefulness among all team members, irrespective of their positions in their hierarchy and geographic locations. While it facilitates quick and effective communication at all times, business leaders should also look at developing a respectful and non-intrusive policy while using IMing apps for their organization. If a phone call can solve a misunderstanding, please pick up the comms line and clear the confusion instead of using textual content.
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