If you’ve ever had a workstation littered with Post-it Notes, you may have noticed your workspace becoming less cluttered in the last few years. After an initial ‘trial and error’ period of using instant messaging (IM) in the workplace when businesses started to connect to the internet, IM seemed to disappear from desktops as a trusted communication system.
The age-old processes of holding team meetings and workshops, and moving away from one desk to stand by another, remained preferable. This was due to a number of reasons, including habit, problems adapting to technology, and issues within the technology itself. However, instant messaging is red hot in the workplace once again, and here’s why.
Earlier versions of instant messaging applications could be tricky to use, even for people who already used them socially. Therefore, any problems that were encountered during workplace chat could often only be dealt with by IT staff. Furthermore, with sometimes entire workforces new to using messaging apps, the troubleshooting proved to be a lot of work for a small number of employees.
It simply wasn’t manageable. Besides, given that instant messaging was not considered to be a secure method of communication, many businesses were deterred by the impracticalities and problems of the technology. However, this is no longer the case. As more people now use instant messaging socially, and the technology has developed, it’s now easier to use and manage, and is much more secure as well.
As IM was initially seen as a new workplace toy of sorts, the chat that took place on earlier instant messaging services was not the most productive. Replacing general banter at the coffee machine, it became a platform for distraction as opposed to discussion. Then, as people became more accustomed to social networking, IM developed into an extension of that.
However, times have passed, and more people are used to using IM for a variety of reasons and as part of many other communications methods. Businesses, too, have detailed internal policies regarding the conduct of instant messaging – unleashing its potential as a genuinely efficient, real-time facility for useful internal communication.
As people have become more accustomed to instant messaging, the technology itself has become much more flexible. For instance, while earlier versions were restricted to text only, instant messaging can now include document sharing, including PDFs, JPEGs, spreadsheets and links.
Reducing the need to send a simple text alert while simultaneously typing out an email and zipping relevant files, instant messaging is now one of the most effective collaborative tools available in the workplace.
Another advantage is that it is much simpler to program now, as there is less need for dedicated IT support. It is both quick and easy to create a group chat, assign members, and keep everybody within the group up-to-date, and vice versa, with ongoing progress. That the same group chats can be accessed via remote devices, requiring only an internet connection for participants to keep in touch, makes IM flexible, adaptable, and scalable as standard.
Although there is no genuine substitute for face-to-face communication, this takes time, isn’t always practical, and can be distracting. Furthermore, with group email threads often becoming confusing as people add to the conversation, instant messaging offers both some of the benefit of both methods – but fewer of the drawbacks. It is a place where ideas are shared, strategies are implemented and productivity is fostered in real time.
Brainstorming sessions and team get-togethers are no longer limited to time-consuming, scheduled meetings, and collaborative learning can become an ongoing process. When instant messaging is used within a unified communications (UC) system, documents can also be updated collaboratively, reflecting the new ideas generated while the chat takes place. With multiple participants each proving their insight, ideas are more likely to become tangible results in the longer term.
The flexibility and reliability of instant messaging as a communication tool has allowed remote workers to flourish. No longer disconnected from what others are working on, and what everybody is talking about, the remote worker can even work effectively as a coordinator of work, too. While these staff will certainly require several more tools in order to stay completely in touch, unified communications systems make this an easy-to-implement strategy for their operations.
However, instant messaging is often the focal point of their own communications system. Alerting other team members to progress, updates and opportunities, remote workers will also, even while on the move or networking, be able to dip in as necessary on what the on-site staff have been doing. Also, although not every team member may appreciate it, staff can be directed prior to their arrival at the workplace, with daily, weekly and monthly goals established outside of working hours.
As every worker has their own desktop, and the majority of workers will have their own digital, smartphone calendar (while many will still use a hard copy, too), instant messaging can be the key to organising a schedule – for everybody. With internal alerts systems and a little careful planning on the part of management, workers can be alerted to everything from notable events and successes to new blog posts and business news.
Also, within the instant messaging facility, you can keep track of who has received messages, and have instant responses from those who need to react. With a consistent process of Q&A in place, you can be sure that everyone connected to your communications platform knows as much as everyone else. Instant messaging, within a unified communications platform, is a practical way to ensure that no member of the workforce is left behind.
Are you making the most of instant messaging?
Ask yourself if your business is using this platform effectively; are people making the most of this innovative opportunity? If not, then you may be using the wrong communications platform, or your staff may need a little guidance while making the transition. Rest assured, though, that they will become accustomed to it. It’s simple, easy and effective, which is why it’s become hot property in the workplace yet again.