Tips workplace

Is there ever such a thing as too much IM?

Is it possible to be inundated (or to inundate others) with too many instant messages? I definitely believe so. As with any type of communication medium, including telephone, e-mail, and postal mail, it is possible to over-communicate with someone.

That is why, when you are deciding how to take your communication methods to the next level in your workplace, you need to make sure you use moderation so things do not get out of hand.

The following are some examples of major DON’Ts when you are using instant messaging in order to communicate:

  • Sending a “follow-up” IM that says, “Hello!?” or “Are you there?!” when a person doesn’t respond. Don’t you think they would have responded if they were available?
  • Typing in all CAPS. This is the equivalent of shouting when read through an online medium. If you need to emphasize something, use the bold or italic styles, if possible.
  • Asking questions you can find out for yourself. I usually never ask other co-workers over IM silly questions like, “What’s the weather forecast for tonight?” or “What time is the meeting?” unless there’s a way I can look it up online myself. This prevents my co-worker from getting distracted (thereby, interrupting their workflow).
  • Over-exertion through IM. Sometimes, if  a message is longer than a few sentences, than it may be best to transfer your message to an email, where it can be stored easily and answered when the other person has time.
  • Under-explaining through IM. Having an IM client installed on your computer doesn’t make you a mind reader. It’s the same for everyone else. Simply typing the message “Are you almost finished?” is much less clear than “What’s the status on that copy you promised me today?”

Try to remember the golden rule- only IM others the way you want to be IM’ed. Respect others’ time and resources and try to use IM only when necessary.


Putting the ‘Instant’ in Instant Messaging

Making all of our communication instant, in text messages, emails, cell phone calls, and finally, instant messaging, has made us a society of expecting an answer right away. While sometimes this has made us more efficient, effective, and better communicators, it has also made us somewhat impatient.

If I see that a friend of mine is online, and their buddy name is marked as “Available”, I get irritated if I try to talk to them and ask them a question, and they don’t respond. This is probably the only communication medium where I feel this way. For text messages, emails, or phone calls, I don’t get antsy if I don’t get an immediate response.

I guess that is why it’s called ‘instant’ messaging- the status messages are there for a reason- so we can mark ourselves as ‘Busy’, ‘Away’, ‘Available’  or a short message of what we are doing in case people wish to contact us. This is definitely not something we can do with text, phone calls, or emails (unless we are gone for a long period of time and can set an email auto-responder).

A important rule of thumb is to utilize your status messages- if you cannot talk or respond, then set your status message as ‘Away’ or ‘Busy’ with a time of when you’ll be able to talk again (if possible).

General workplace

Which is Better, Text Messaging or Instant Messenger?

This is a question the crossed my mind while I was talking to a friend online about plans we have on Wednesday to go out to dinner. I decided that my answer to this question that I’m posing (“Which is Better, Text Messaging or Instant Messenger?”) depends on the situation.

When I’m at work, I like using my instant messenger because I like typing on a keyboard (I can type 65-70 words per minute), and I also can focus on work and other projects while having a conversation through the IM window. This allows me to communicate with co-workers or friends without decreasing my work efficiency and content output.

However, when I’m at home or on the go, I definitely like text messaging better. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have a Palm Pre, so the full QWERTY keyboard allows me to still type fast. Also, unlike using an instant messenger, most of the time, my contacts don’t expect an instant answer, allowing me to respond to their question or comment when it is necessary for me. Texting is also usually quick to the point and gets things done, whereas at work, I usually use IM for chatting or long conversations about projects.

What does everyone else think? Do you prefer texting over using an instant messenger?


Should You Use IM to Fight?

I know that confrontation is something that no one looks forward to. However, there comes a time when confrontation is necessary and can’t be avoided. Even then, instead of speaking to the person you have a disagreement with face-to-face, many people resort to other methods — phone, email, or instant messaging.

And when it comes to instant messaging, especially hosted instant messaging, confrontation and fighting over this method of communication isn’t always the best method to use. For one, if you are using a hosted or secure IM client to have your conversations, what you say may be recorded by the program and can be seen by the security administrator of the program.

Even if you aren’t using a hosted IM messenger, confrontation is best handled face-to-face. This way, what you say can’t be misinterpreted because the other person cannot see your face or the hear the tone of your voice. Sarcasm also usually doesn’t carry well over instant messaging conversations, and this may “fuel the fire” and make an argument become bigger than it needs to be.

Face-to-face conversations also tend to be more productive because each person is solely focused on what is being said, instead of trying to multi-task during an IM conversation. Overall, if a confrontation arises, it’s important to handle it as soon as possible so it can be resolved and no more useless energy and anxiety is spent on it.

General Tips workplace

Saving on Travel Costs by Using an Enterprise IM Client

As the sky is gray and the clouds are filled with rain just outside my window today, it made me think about how I would hate to travel to a meeting in the pouring rain. This made me think about how businesses can use an enterprise IM client to dramatically cut down travel costs. Sure, once in a while, I think that it’s fun to take that 3-day trip to Chicago for a meeting, but that does take time away from friends, family, and pets. Besides the obvious cost, traveling can also be exhausting at times, because there are meetings to attend and flights to catch.

However, if you conduct your meetings using enterprise instant messaging, then you save the cost, time, and travel of going to meetings in other cities. Whereas a trip for one person to Chicago for 3 days would probably run a company at least $1000-1500, using an enterprise IM client is free, if you don’t take into consideration the subscription cost, which you are paying for anyway. Using voice chat, video chat, or group IM conversations, meetings can now be done electronically through the internet. This is the most efficient method of conducting meetings between people who are not in the same office or location.

General Tips workplace

When Other Forms of Communication Fail

One of the benefits of online communication (specifically instant messaging) is when other forms of communication fails, it is always an option. For me personally, I am much more inclined to respond quickly to a person’s IM then I am to their email or voicemail message. I suppose it is the “instant” component of IM that makes me so quick to respond. I feel that they are on the other side of their computer, anxiously awaiting me to answer them.

And because of this, you should learn to utilize hosted or secure instant messaging in your everyday life as well. If a person shows up as online, then you know they are usually using their computer and will immediately respond for your request. I’ve also found that instant messaging is good when I go to talk to a co-worker at their desk and found that they have stepped out for lunch or to use the bathroom. I go back to my computer and send them an IM instead of an email, because I know that it is probably the first thing they will see on their screen when they sit back down. This usually leads to an instant response the moment they are back at their desk. Think of IM as a more personal message service- this can increase communication turnaround and productivity.

General Tips workplace

How IM Can Help You In This Economy

There are many ways that a hosted instant messaging client can help you in today’s economy, whether you are unemployed or not. If you  ARE employed, of course you can use a hosted IM program to help you communicate with your co-workers, employees, and supervisors, along with clients. If you are unemployed, however, you can still used secure IM to your advantage. Even though you may not have a full-time job, you can use IM to network with acquaintances, colleagues, and others. You’ll never know what someone knows someone else who can give you the recommendation, tip, or introduction you need in order to secure the job of your dreams!

Communication skills are crucial in ANY job field, and instant messaging can only improve your communication (and typing!) skills. Since I have started using instant messaging on a daily basis, my typing speed (words per minute) has only improved. I can now almost type 70 words per minute! Being able to practice my typing every day only keeps my accuracy and speed up to date. So, in conclusion, if you have former co-workers and employers on your IM list, keep them on there. You’ll never know when they will think of you for a job opening they heard of!

General Tips workplace

A Short History of Security

An article about secure instant messagingthat I dug up on PCMag’s website from 2004 shows how far secure instant messaging has come. The article talks about getting a security certificate for about $14.95  that can run alongside AIM or possibly another instant messaging program. But with Brosix, you don’t have worry about installing another (separate) security certificate to run alongside it. It is already heavily and securely encrypted for all over your personal and private online communication.

It is interesting how technology such as encrypting instant messaging has come such a long way. It is important to remember that technology will continuously be developing and evolving as long as users have a need for it and different ways to use said technology are evolving just as fast alongside it. I think that telephones will continue to be used less and less as instant messaging becomes a more accepted method of communication.

I believe that as hosted and secure instant messaging continues to develop, that all instant messaging programs, free or not, will all use encryption in order to protect their users. I also believe that users will soon demand to have encrypted conversations and other transactions (file transfers, audio chats, etc.) in the instant messaging programs. On the same hand, once companies realize the importance encryption all online and digital communication is for their business, I’m sure that they will be jumping on the bandwagon too!

Tips workplace

Recorded IM Conversations

Have a constant record of your instant messaging conversations may be great for some, and a headache for others. Many IM chat clients will automatically store and catalog a user’s instant messaging conversations with all other users, unless they have manually went into their preferences and have turned this feature off. When chatting with other employees and/or clients, I’ve found that keeping a log of all my chat conversations has been extremely useful. If another user has sent me an IM with an important website address, or they have promised to meet a deadline that has passed, I can go back into my chat logs and double-check my information.

IM chat logs have even been used in court cases as evidence! This is why, for some, chat logs can be a headache. If your network administrator and/or supervisor has access to your chat logs, and you have been using the IM chat client to communicate in such a way that is against company policy, then chat logs may ‘catch you in the act’. This could lead to a reprimand, such as less vacation days or no chance for flex time, but can also lead up to termination, depending on each individual company’s policy.

For whatever use a hosted IM client and chat logs may be to you, make sure that you remember that your conversations could be monitored and come back to haunt you. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t say it out loud or to your manager directly (or to your grandmother), then you probably shouldn’t be saying it in IM at all.

General Tips workplace

Mobile Communication

One of the best things about using a hosted IM client is that you can use it anywhere. Brosix IM can be downloaded to a .zip drive so it can be stored on a flash drive, but you can also download your IM program to your home computer so you are still able to communicate with clients and co-workers if you need to telecommute. This greatly reduces the probably hesitation and anxiety that comes with the decision to work from home or not. If you are able to stay in contact with others from the office using IM, then your boss is able to be aware that you are actually working. You will save a sick or vacation day and actually be able to get some work done!

No more going into work when you are getting sick because you don’t want to take any Paid Time Off (PTO). IM allows you to telecommunate and thus reduce the chances of others in your office getting sick because of you. Explain to your boss that this may actually SAVE your company money, as others will not have to stay home because they are sick.

Secure instant messaging client programs are also great if you are traveling- you can talk with clients and co-workers from your hotel room and the airport, if wireless internet is available. IM is the mobile communication solution for busy professionals!