I cam across this article on LifeHacker showing that IM Can Reduce Workplace Interruptions, Study Shows.
Finally, people are starting to realise that you don’t have to be a 14 year old teenager that uses IM to talk to all their little school friends and laugh at the custom emoticons to actually use instant messaging.
I am always on Live Messenger when at work (or just on the computer for that fact) and I never have too many interruptions from my work.I can honestly say it has helped my work much more than hindered, maybe not always DIRECTLY, but it has helped with my own learning and development a lot, therefore improving my work.
Having the ability to quickly fire off a short sharp question to other geek's can be very helpful, I have several contacts on my list that have proved invaluable for my work projects, and they do not even work for my employer. Similar positives could also be said for Twitter, the micro-blogging service.
I have also managed to give something back, being the relative-n00b that I am in the software industry, I often feel like I am being helped more than helping others, with IM, I am in touch with other students on the course and can spend the odd 2-3 minutes talking them through hurdles that I have jumped, in order to help them. This is not only a good feeling for me, but its helping someone else achieve their own goals, which is priceless.
Yes, there have been the odd times where I am really getting stuck into the code, and I cannot have any interruptions, so, what do I do? I put myself down as “Busy”, this way I get no message tone (Messenger flashes the window), and if that is too much, then I would simply “Appear Offline” for a while.
The thing is, people soon get used to the fact that you are at work and soon get to a point where they only interrupt you when it is absolutely necessary. This is the key thing, if they were to email or call it could be counterproductive for both of you. However, with an IM that’s actually been thought about and needed, its no waste.
Of course all of the above can apply to colleagues, fellow students, friends, family, whoever.
I think every employer should give their staff the opportunity to use IM. If they see a massive slump in productivity, then take it up, but I think for the most part, they may be pleasantly surprised.