Using Instant Messaging at Work to Reduce Email Overload

If you’ve ever received 49 emails from your colleagues during a 30-minute lunch, you know the perils of email. To lighten that load, some companies are switching to instant messaging for inter-office communication.

According to a recent study by Symantec Corporation, 55 percent of those who use instant messaging at work say it cuts down on email traffic and 50 percent find it’s a more efficient way of communicating than email. The study also showed  that 75 percent of office workers who use IM for work value the speed and immediacy it affords, since nearly two-thirds ask colleagues questions that need immediate answers. Another study, by Robert Half Technology in 2011, found that 54 percent of 1,400 chief information officers think instant messaging will overtake emails within the next five years.

And, if you still need more convincing that instant messaging is the future of office interaction, a study by MIT and IBM revealed frequent IMs with the boss improve workers’ productivity. The study, which included 2,600 anonymous IBM consultants over a 12-month period, found that those who maintained constant communication saw an increase in revenue of about $588 per month over the average, while those who did not produced $98 per month less than the average.

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“Instant messaging has now become an assumed business tool, as much as email or the telephone,” says Karen Lilla, global communications manager for IBM. “In many organizations, instant messaging has reduced unnecessary email, while speeding up the pace at which  the business can operate.” IBM uses its own instant messaging service, Sametime, which lets its employees communicate throughout the company.

“Instant messaging fosters a more collaborative culture within an organization,” says Lilla. While it hasn’t replaced email quite yet, Lilla does note it has “replaced virtually all voicemail.”

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