10 Tips for Using Instant Messenger at Work

Has your workplace fully embraced the tech revolution? We banish our telephones and stare at our computer screens patiently.

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Instant Messaging at work - once thought to be an alien notion and reserved solely for the hip and cool characters found in a Douglas Coupland novel. But in recent years IM seems to have found a voice among the hubbub of banter and typical office politics.

IM has improved communication across the office and is touted as an efficient method of communicating with co-workers.

With this rapid evolution we are now fast becoming a ‘virtual office’ culture.  An old Microsoft survey cites 78 percent of the IM population like the faster response they get from IMing versus email.

But as with all things, popularity breeds detractors.  Instant messaging has already been banned in a number of workplaces; some businesses are keen to associate it with gossip, excessive chatter and low productivity.

Have any embarrassing IM work stories of your own? Let us know in the blog

Some companies have their own IM usage policies

Check first before you install or run an IM client – you don’t want to risk earning a caution. If your IM service is blocked by a firewall, ask your IT technician if they can unblock it for you.

Big Brother may be watching

Make sure you don’t reveal any confidential information to people you shouldn’t, and keep the non-work related chatter to a minimum. You never know if a shadowy figure in a room filled with hundreds of computer screens is monitoring your every move...

Avoid rude/funny/offensive display namesYou may have a great working relationship with your co-workers but you don’t want to offend anyone or cast doubts over your professionalism. If you are foolish enough to have your boss on your contact list, be very wary indeed!

Keep your friends/co-workers separate  It is always good practice to create a separate group to accommodate your different social groups. Your contact list will look neater and it makes it easier to differentiate who is who –thus reducing the risk of sending embarrassing messages to co-workers.

Turn off auto notification and soundsPersonally I don’t care for the things, I don’t want to see a popup every time I receive a new message - a flashing icon on the taskbar is more than enough for me. The same goes for sounds and alerts, your co-workers won’t appreciate the noises resonating from your computer on a murky Monday morning.

Master the art of the status message If you co-workers are keeps of good netiquette they should understand that by switching your status to ‘Busy’ means no interruptions!  Don’t forget you can always choose to elaborate and provide extra detail, i.e “in a meeting, be back at 12!” If you genuinely don’t wish to announce your appearance to everyone don’t feel afraid to adopt the shroud of invisibility.


Remember you’re still at work. Whereas sending an IM is a casual means of communication, keep your messages appropriate. You don’t want to add improper conduct or charges of sexual harassment to your CV.

Self discipline

Just because you receive an IM, doesn’t mean you are duty bound to hit reply there and then. If the message really can’t wait your colleague should learn to pop by your desk.

Tighten-up your contact list

Don’t allow people outside your contact list to send you messages – it’s also healthy to cull your contact list every now and then, you’ll be surprised how this simple step can dramatically reduce the chatter noise.

Above all else – monitor your own productivity!

Don’t let IM become an interruption or distraction from work. IM can either serve as a blessing; meaning an increased focus on your work, or signal your descent into 0% production and impending redundancy. If instant messaging starts to become a problem, sign off and give yourself a break.Read video dating tips from Tracey Cox
Learn how to share your tunes with Music Mix on Messenger

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