The Pros and Cons of Instant Messaging

Gone are the days of AIM, but the concept of instant messages is definitely here to stay. With apps like G-chat and Slack, communication in the workplace is shifting to an instant messaging environment; some workplaces are moving toward getting rid of email altogether. These communication tools are awesome in some respects, but can also pose some unforeseen challenges.

Pros

Collaboration

One of the best parts about group chats within instant messaging is that it presents an opportunity for collaboration. Collecting ideas or opinions from teammates has never been easier with instant messaging allowing for a new era of collaborative sharing. Teammates can take polls, “brain dump” ideas or ask for help with problem-solving.

Informal Chat

The opportunity to chat informally with coworkers without disrupting the ambiance of the office is a definite bonus. As more offices shift to modern open floor plans, it’s more disruptive than ever if teammates aren’t taking their informal conversations into a break room. Instant messaging also allows for creative self-expression with Emojis and Gifs, which can add a bit of fun to the workday! Having the opportunity to connect with teammates in an informal setting is a great way to boost morale and encourage camaraderie.

Organized Communication Channels

With Slack, communication threads can be categorized into channels which takes a company’s organization to the next level. Channels can be saved or archived so there’s a running history within that particular category. You can customize these channels to best organize the internal communication based on your company’s demands.

Sharing and Integration Capabilities

Sharing files has truly never been easier and more instant. With messaging apps, you can share a document with the ease of dragging and dropping it into a communication channel without ever worrying about having to follow up with that embarrassing “I forgot to attach my document” email. Additionally, a messaging app may offer integrations with other productivity tools to make communication across the board feel seamless.

Cons

Lost In Translation

One of the major cons to exclusively communicating through instant messages can mean that things get lost in translation. Without being able to distinguish the tone of voice through an instant message, a message can be misconstrued or misunderstood. When communicating face to face, we pick up on so many subtle cues from the person’s voice, facial expression, and body language. These cues are lost with digital communication and can sometimes be a cause for confusion.

Digital Chatter

While instant messaging may reduce the desk-to-desk chatter, it still may serve as a distraction in its own right. If you work on your computer for the majority of the day, receiving notifications or catching up on conversations can significantly interrupt a workflow. The same way social media can send you down a “rabbit hole,” so can instant messages!

Participation

If you’re trying to implement an instant messaging culture in your work environment, encouraging participation can sometimes be a challenge. If a new employee is more accustomed to approaching someone’s desk to ask a question vs. sending a quick message, this can be a difficult habit to break. Additionally, unless a list of best practices for communication is established, it can be a challenge to define when it’s appropriate to instant message vs. email vs. have an in-person conversation. And finally, if you’re trying to get a client to buy in and stray away from traditional email, this may be an added obstacle.

So how do you integrate instant messaging into your work culture successfully? The best way is to establish best practices and guidelines from the beginning. If a team understands the functions and benefits of an instant messaging culture they’ll be more likely to embrace them or use them to their advantage. It’s also important to stress that IRL communication should still be happening often! There truly is no substitute for building work relationships face to face.

Story By: Sophie Duncan