Workplace Habits Shift as Younger Generation Uses Instant Message


There is a generation gap among younger and older employees in the use of instant messages to communicate in the workplace.  This new wave of instant messaging in the office is causing older workers to rethink how they communicate with their colleagues. Many are reluctant to give up the more traditional form of communication such as email, voice mail and other tools, and view the use of IM as distracting and intrusive.

The use of email continues to dominate business communications, but there is expected to be an 8 percent growth in the use of IM annually during the next four years to 8.6 billion world-wide, according to Palo Alto, California research group Radicati Group.  The use of instant messaging has reduced the need for meetings say employers who prefer its use over traditional ways to communicate in the workplace. Instant messaging also makes it easier to keep up a continuing dialogue among team members, easily share updates and give quick answers to new developments. Email seems slower, more formal, and less efficient in comparison.

Some employees feel tied to their screens however because of the IM apps status indicators which show whether they are available or not accessible.  “For some it makes them nervous that the boss can see their status as unavailable, and maybe judge them, when they’re actually making time for reading,” says Nancy Ancowitz, a New York career coach.

The use of instant messages alters the dynamic in how people organize their work days.  “It used to be that one of the big time-management tips people would recommend is to not read your email and just work uninterrupted for a few hours,” said Christina Seely, CEO of Maximum Games, a videogame company. “Now you may feel you are missing something if you take a break from instant messaging.” she added.

Younger employees are adept at using a hodge podge of messaging and collaboration apps, as a way to communicate with their colleagues. Some companies allow teams and departments to use different apps based on personal preferences, which may make it a challenge to find information and people across the work campus. A new crop of workplace apps, such as Microsoft Teams, Stride by Atlassian and Google Hangouts, have been developed to simplify communications by bundling instant messaging among team members, web-conferencing and social networking tools. Companies are spending more time teaching employees how to avoid IM pitfalls, and using online classes to help employees learn to customize IM notifications among colleagues and work teams.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, “The Instant Message Generation Gap,” by Sue Shellenbarger, April 18, 2018

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