WEB & TECH / JAN. 12, 2015
version 3, draft 3

The Effect of Instant Messaging In the Workplace

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For a business to succeed in an increasingly competitive environment, it needs to embrace technology that will make it time- and cost-efficient. Many managers have realized, for example, that instant messaging may make employees improve their productivity. However, it may have some negative effects as well. You should discover the effect of instant messaging to your business before you decide on whether to install it or not.

Fewer Disruptions

Instant messaging may be a less disruptive form of communication compared to face-to-face, telephone and e-mail conversations. In a joint study by the Ohio State University and the University of California, Irvine, it was found that employees who used instant messaging had more but shorter conversations on the computer. Interruptions may feel less frequent to your workers if they use instant messaging, because they may use this form of messaging to confirm whether a colleague is busy before engaging in a more intense conversation. Moreover, you don’t have to see a person face-to-face before inquiring about current tasks. In contrast, co-workers may drop in unexpectedly or start a telephone conversation if they are not using instant messaging.

Convenience

Instant messaging provides you with the convenience of choosing when you can communicate with co-workers. You may indicate whether you are available or busy, and you may choose to reply to a message instantly or later. In some instant messaging services, the message may be stored as an email for you to read later if you can’t read the massage immediately.

Legal Issues

In spite of its usefulness, instant messaging is not devoid of disadvantages. Legal issues may arise if records of a disparaging conversation are obtained when you use this form of communication compared to a face-to-face or telephone conversation. When you type something during a chat, you risk having it seen by unauthorized persons, because the writing will leave a written record. If you type inappropriate content, it may be used in a legal suit against you.

Hacking

Instant messaging systems may compromise security, as hackers may intercept the messages. Confidential and sensitive information you may exchange about your clients or business through instant messages may be bugged and used negatively by others, including your competitors. Unscrupulous individuals may use the information leaks to threaten the privacy of your clients and employees, consequently harming the business. Rivals may use lost proprietary information to benefit their businesses, while the reputation of your company suffers. To mitigate the potential damage caused by using instant messaging, you may restrict the type of information your workers can share through this medium.

Misuse

While your intention for installing instant messaging may be for business, some of your employees may utilize it for personal use. They may use the service to send messages to non-employees. Such misuse during working hours may lead to decreased productivity. You should put a strict policy regarding the acceptable uses for instant messaging in the office to curb time wastage.

Although the use of instant messaging has some positive effects, you should be careful how it is used in the workplace. The negative effects of the technology require that you control its use.

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