The benefits of instant messaging tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom are crystal clear.
But there is one problem, we are still figuring out how to communicate properly and professionally via instant messaging applications.
Therefore, organizations should start adopting best practices for instant messaging, such as the careful selection of which systems to use, and the optimum being the choice of systems that employees prefer; Establish basic rules for personal correspondence; Respect work-life balance by setting standards on appropriate response times; Face-to-face communication is encouraged as well.
Using Instant Messaging Applications in Business
The names of popular Internet messaging systems are now used in verb form in workplaces around the world, just as we use the word “Google” when we want to search for information, or (I’ll Slack you), meaning that I will send you a message via “Slack”.
In fact, the Slack program has been effectively integrated into the day-to-day activities of large old companies and burgeoning startups, and Slack claims to have hosted more than 10 million daily users in 2019. The company has competitors as well, including Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
The benefits of those tools quickly became apparent. Researchers have noticed in the first decade of the third millennium the importance of instant messaging in reducing unnecessary phone calls and in reducing miscommunication.
In fact, instant messaging outperforms e-mail by providing an immediate and clearer solution to business issues that employees may sometimes be unaware of receiving in their incoming e-mail.
But there is one problem, and that is that we are still in the process of figuring out how to communicate correctly and professionally via instant messaging applications.
These systems may create communication silos in which teams using one platform fail to collaborate with departments that use another platform.
On the other hand, ease of communication may also result in distraction and a lack of formal interactions in the workplace.
Instant messaging may become a natural channel for sharing non-work-related information, including sometimes inappropriate details about workers’ personal lives.
Not surprisingly, instant messaging systems create legal problems for enterprises; It is also paradoxical to use instant messaging to discuss cases in judicial disputes.
Although it’s difficult to abandon these systems today, they are still a serious problem, which indicates that companies have not fully figured out how to develop the policies that guide and organize the instant messaging systems in the workplace correctly and how to implement those policies even.
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Instant Messaging Best Practices
In fact, employees are free to use and choose the instant messaging systems they prefer if the decision to use it is up to them first; In general, however, Slack and Microsoft Teams have become the basic platforms in most organizations; Some suggested best practices are included in this article.
1- Adopt the tools employees are currently using
The history of popular instant messaging dates back to the early 2000s, when Slack in particular had already been in use for years.
Therefore, rather than starting from scratch when using workplace instant messaging systems, they should use systems that employees already know and love.
In other words, you should specify the software that employees are currently using; Choosing a popular and appropriate program for your organization and modifying it to suit your needs; Establishing policies on appropriate use and archiving of data; Educating managers on usage and risk factors; Training of human resource representatives; And reprocessing processes and procedures regularly to improve them.
For example, many team members in a small tech startup may use Facebook Messenger as a means of social communication inside and outside the office, but that platform itself does not have to become a standard for official instant messaging within the company, but rather it can be integrated into a bigger messaging system.
2- Accept all instant messaging Applications, but set ground rules
Slack and Microsoft Teams can be a distraction, especially when used as an online repository for storing moving pictures, sharing jokes, and having discussions about sports and TV series stories.
These programs may also represent unintended outlets for bullying, abuse and harassment, such as when group messages are shared about a co-worker’s clothes, behaviors, or personal life, even though this colleague sits only two desks away.
On the other hand, there are benefits for employees who exchange messages on topics not related to work as well, as these digital interactions may create intimate friendships and reduce the likelihood of employees leaving work when they form friendships in the office, as harmony with colleagues showed an increase of participation by 700%.
To reap the social benefits of these tools and reduce the risk of employee distraction or reduced mental health, organizations must clearly define expectations from personal messages.
In other words, those expectations should be established and shared with existing employees immediately and presented to the new hires during their preparation period, making sure to follow them every once in a while.
HR teams should also be trained in complaints and concern handling protocols.
3- Respect the employees’ need to achieve a balance between their work and their personal lives
Instant messaging systems allow us to communicate with colleagues, subordinates, and managers at any time, in a way that may seem more urgent than email.
So, resist that urge unless communication is important, as most messages can wait until the next business day.
You may sometimes justify your behavior by saying that the problem is first in your mind and that you do not want to forget it even though you realize that the recipient may not respond right away.
But the person under pressure may assume there is a sense of urgency in the message and feel obligated to respond to you, even if it cut short from their personal time.
One way the organization can overcome this problem is by encouraging employees to log out of instant messaging tools and respect the status messages of their colleagues that say they are out of the office.
Then explain to everyone that any requests made to colleagues must be accompanied by information about when answers are needed and that most conversations should take place during the workday and be short and to the point.
4- Promote face-to-face communication as well
It is not always easy to interpret digital messages. A manager who says, “You can do better” in person may be motivating or frustrating, depending on whether his comment is accompanied by a smile or a look of objection, and his hands are flat or contracted.
But it can be difficult to read between the lines if you get the same message on the “Slack” app, unless you interact with your manager personally and regularly.
Thus, make sure that some kind of face-to-face communication occurs, even if your workplace is far away, such as attending one-on-one meetings, team, and departmental meetings, attending company acquaintances and seminars, and videoconferencing calls may sometimes be useful.
When encouraging you to socialize online, make sure that you also achieve face-to-face contact; That is, consider attending company trips, having lunch with colleagues, and participating in community volunteer days.
And if you follow instant messaging practices and apply these protocols, any instant messaging platform will become a useful tool in the workplace rather than a nuisance.
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