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.