How To... Instant Message at Work
In Work & Technology By aprile

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This article isn’t about the mechanics of how to use an instant messenger. If you’re on the internet you probably figured that out long ago. This is more of a heads-up about some things to consider before signing in and chatting away at work.

Get On Board – More and more companies use instant messengers in the office as a business tool for quick interoffice communication.  If your company does this, then consider it a way to showcase yourself as technologically advanced.  Find out which instant messenger is most used in the office.  Some popular ones are Yahoo Messenger, GChat and AIM.  Then create a new account when necessary; basically when you need a non-personal account (see below), and/or when you don’t have an account with the main instant messenger used. Then send a quick email to your co-workers informing them of your username in hopes to “communicate more efficiently”.

Separate Work and Play – Do NOT use your personal account for work. That’s just asking for trouble.  Imagine, your sweetie sending you a message meant for your eyes only….while you’re away from your desk. Yeah. Now anyone who walks by will know “what you did last night.” Not good for the professional image.

Maintain Appearances – Don’t use a ridiculous or embarrassing screen name. If you still use the account you created in high school with a screen name that suggests immaturity or references to an outdated nickname (“Jeriuana” for example), just don’t login to it at work and get a new account.  As a general rule, if your SN contains the words “big”,“sexy”, “69” or anything else along those lines, keep it away from the office. Standard ‘first last name’, while being a little boring, will always work the best.

Act As If Someone is Reading Over Your Shoulder – They probably are. Many companies take the view that they have a right to monitor information transmitted to and from their computers.  People are watching, logs are kept.  This is also true of company cell and smart phones. While these communications are probably rarely monitored, it’s still not a good idea to message your friend or co-worker about how much you hate your boss if you’re using company equipment.

Keep It Short, And Professional – If you are using an Instant Messenger to communicate with co-workers about something work related, then do just that.  Yahoo messenger or AIM is not the place for idle chatting as if you were in the break room.  And please, for the love of a paycheck, no interoffice IM flirting!  That one always goes sour…

Turn the Sound Off – If you work around other people do them all a favor and disable that annoying chime that goes off every time you receive an instant message.  Besides, you don’t want to broadcast how little work you’re actually doing.

While an instant messenger can be great for breaking up the monotony of a work day, or saves you from going up five floors to talk to Susie in Purchasing, don’t overdo it. That’s not what you’re getting paid for. Just watch what you say and make sure that communicating via instant messengers adds to your overall productivity at work.

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