Instant messaging has opened up a host of workplace opportunities that generate efficient communications and enable users to work remotely. The technology can also contribute to collaborative efforts among workplace team member, as well as enhance client communications. With this in mind, I offer the following tips for using instant messaging in the virtual and real workplace.
1. If you have a quick question that you need answered right away, use your instant messenger service to ask it. These exchanges only take a moment of your time, allowing you to get your answer quickly without a major interruption in work flow. In order to communicate effectively in this manner, ask via instant messenger if your co-worker has a moment to answer a question. With an affirmative response, pose the query and then return to work as soon as you receive the answer. Avoid further chatting, which can pull you away from your current task.
2. Use a messenger service as a virtual conference room to hold meetings with remote employees. Treat the meeting as you would any other, with a set time, virtual meeting place, and agenda. The transcript can serve as your meeting notes, ensuring that everyone has the same information.
3. Keep conversations professional, avoiding slang terms or the use of “text speak” abbreviations. You can also use active “listening” techniques in an instant messaging conversation, reflecting what you believe the other person is saying in order to make sure you are both on the same page.
4. When you ask a question, wait for the other person’s response before saying anything else.
5. Avoid humor and sarcasm, which may not be well understood in the context of an instant message chat.
6. Be polite, saying “hello” at the beginning of the conversation and letting the other person know when you are signing off. Wait for the party you are talking with to acknowledge your sign-off before you leave the conversation altogether.