5 Rules to Keep in Mind When Using IM for Work


It’s almost surprising how instant messaging has managed to ingrain itself as an inherent part of office culture today. Instead of walking over to a colleague’s desk, you instead shoot a quick IM. If you want a real-time response, you send an IM instead of an email. If you want to make idle chit-chat as you go about your daily tasks, you don’t run to the water cooler anymore – you send an IM.

Statistics show that 43 percent of employees today use IM at work. Here’s the thing, however no matter how easy and convenient IM is, you have to remember, it’s still an office tool that’s meant to facilitate better communication between employees. To that end, you need to be conscious and mindful of how you use it. Navigating IM etiquette can be difficult, especially since it’s such a new addition to the office communication arsenal. So, here are some rules to keep in mind when you’re using IM for work:

1. Don’t send random IMs to colleagues you don’t know

As far as business communication tools go, IM tends to feel more personal. So, before you send an IM, make sure there has been a proper introduction first. Think of it outside of the business setting. You wouldn’t just send an IM to someone who you had no prior connection to outside of the office, so why would you do it in the workplace?

If it’s absolutely necessary, you could try to have a group chat with a common acquaintance who can start the conversation and introduce you. However, a better option would be having that colleague introduce you via email, then you offering to take the conversation off email and switching to IM for faster coordination.

2. Always start with a brief greeting

It’s so easy to forget this basic rule simply because you’re used to using IM for casual conversations with friends outside of work. It’s not really necessary to go the formal route on IM. A simple "Hi!" or even a "Good Morning!" to start off your conversation, is always appreciated. You never know if your message may be viewed as intrusive.

3. Figure out the recipient’s preferred mode of communication

Just because IM is fast and convenient for you doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone in your organization. IM chat windows tend to pop up on screens when messages are received, and that can be very disruptive to someone who prefers others forms of communication. Keep in mind, IM is just part and parcel of a multitude of business communication tools.

4. Keep it short

The subject matter is also a big consideration regarding whether or not you should send that IM. If it’s something short that can be replied to quickly or if it’s something urgent that deserves immediate attention, then, by all means, hit send. However, if it’s something that requires in-depth discussion, there’s a lot more room for miscommunication when sending texts back and forth, so a phone call may be more appropriate.

5. Be mindful of abbreviations

It’s common to use abbreviations when you’re sending IMs. You have to make sure your abbreviations are clear to avoidmisinterpretation. If you must include them in your message, use widely known, commonly used abbreviations. When in doubt, simply type the whole word out.  

IMs are here to stay. They’re easy to use, efficient, convenient communication tools, no matter what industry you’re in. Just like any tool used in the workplace, be sure to be professional when using IM. If don’t already use IM in the workplace, talk to us at GoToConnect and find out how our Hosted VoIP tools can give your productivity a boost!