Instant Messaging Helps Productivity at the Workplace
Instant messaging are often perceived as an unnecessary means of communication in the office. Although many companies have banned IM at the workplace, they should rethink this banishment as it could increase the productivity of the staff. Arguments can be made by both sides, but research shows that it is not necessarily as evil as some employers set it out to be.
The results of a recently published study of workers' instant messaging (IM) use shows that IM can actually improve workplace productivity. This contradicts a widely held belief that IM in the workplace is a hindrance to productivity. IM is often perceived as an interruption, and as such, "it can significantly hinder productivity by disrupting thought processes and work flows, causing individuals to take longer to complete tasks."
Researchers at Ohio State University and the University of California, Irvine conducted a telephone study by randomly surveying individuals employed full-time who use computers in an office environment at least five hours per week. They netted 912 respondents, of which 29.8 percent claimed to use IM in the workplace "to keep connected with coworkers and clients."
The study theorizes that using IM enables individuals to "flag their availability." Doing so can limit when IM interruptions occur. Even if an IM interruption comes when it is not necessarily convenient to the recipient, it is "often socially acceptable" to ignore an incoming message or respond with a terse reply stating that the recipient is too busy at the moment to properly respond. Also, new "patterns of communication" develop around IM:
"IM provides a means of obtaining task relevant information rapidly and with minimal disruption, allowing a worker to ask clarifying questions without the expectation of engaging in a longer conversation. Alternatively, it can be used to participate in a sustained form of low-intensity collaboration... Setting up a line of communication via IM is as easy as making a phone call, and the line can be kept open indefinitely, allowing participants to query one another infrequently on an as-needed basis and with the expectation that a response will be forthcoming at the next convenient opportunity."
Hopefully, employers who view IM communications with suspicion or disdain will see the potential benefits that the communications medium can bring. While many work environments have come to embrace IM communications, it is often viewed as a necessary evil. Perhaps this study will show those employers that this power can be used for good as well.