Rather than distracting workers, a new study shows that IMs actually help them focus. Firing quick notes between office computers cuts down on diversions, the report says, by eliminating idle chatter and allowing colleagues to check if the other person is busy before bothering them in person.
Instant messaging “was often used as a substitute for other, more disruptive forms of communication such as the telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face conversations,” says a press release on the study. “Using instant messaging led to more conversations on the computer, but the conversations were briefer.”
IMs should not become coworkers’s sole means of communication. It’s a very limited form of interaction. But they’re perfect for quick yes-or-no questions or short chats that don’t really require a trip down the hall. It’s all about using different technologies to fill different needs, the study says. And now that email is standard in almost every office, IMs are picking up steam as well.