The concept of using Instant Messaging (IM) in the workplace isn’t always met with equally instant positivity. Visions of employees using a messaging app to carry on their social chat during working hours and team members collaborating over what time to meet in the pub, put many business owners off.

After all, phone calls, meetings and face-to-face interaction have worked okay up to this point, right? In fact, instant messaging in the workplace is now more effective than ever before – here’s how you can make use of its many benefits.

It’s not free rein for office banter

The problems that most businesses have experienced with instant messaging platforms have been internal. Early versions of the technology simply proved too problematic to manage without IT support and internal business processes were too slow to adapt.

With staff sticking to what worked for them, instant messaging became just another aspect of office communications, with no policy as to which platform would be used for specific processes and instructions.

However, now that the technology is much more mainstream, people are accustomed to using instant messaging to deal with other businesses, enquire about services and purchase products. Therefore, the temptation to continue general office chat throughout the day simply isn’t there.

In fact, one of the biggest benefits of workplace instant messaging is its potential for encouraging workers to engage in informal but productive chat and official business with peers and colleagues.

It’s more cost-effective than a meeting

With the simple setup of dedicated instant messaging groups, it has never been easier to keep a team on track. Though by no means a replacement for regular meetings, instant messaging allows progress to be tracked and new information to be shared in a much more manageable way.

Simple prompts, ongoing group Q&A and quick and easy progress checks allow managers to track work and staff to understand exactly what’s happening on any given task.

With the bonus of allowing ongoing, real-time communication, instant messaging is the ultimate communication system for supplementing team meetings. While nobody would suggest that a business could afford to drop one or the other entirely, it is widely acknowledged that a good mix of both communications methods is highly effective.

If you’ve yet to make use of this platform, consider the working hours involved in team meetings – and ask yourself what you could do with that time were you able to reduce their frequency.

It improves teamworking

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.

Remote workers are never alone

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.

It is extremely adaptable

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.

It’s incredible for reminders

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.

Article originally produced and reprinted from Gamma website:

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