There is a growing debate in a lot of workplace circles on whether or not to allow chat programs for employee use. Speaking from someone who was in the workplace long before online chat was even thought of, there are a lot of positive aspects to it and only a few negative that I can see. Now to preface this – I am not an expert, I am a normal employee who works 8am – 5pm. So don’t go and show your boss this article and expect him/her to implement chat immediately. But he/she may weigh the pros and cons himself/herself and decide to implement the changes at their own pace, if they are smart!
Positive Aspect Number One: Time Saver
Back in the olden days, if I needed to ask George a question on my project and George worked down the hall from me, I would have to stop what I was working on, get up and walk down the hall, and God forbid if George was on the phone or talking with someone else, because then I would have to wait in the hall for George to become available and then ask George my question, then walk back to my desk and continue on with my project. The whole process could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. By having a chat program, I can momentarily pause my project, jump on chat and fire off a quick chat message with my project question. Now whether or not George is on the phone or talking with someone else, he can see my chat message, answer my chat message and continue on with his conversation. Meanwhile, I am sitting at my desk, still working can receive his answer and continue on my way with my project. It’s an amazing timesaver! Total time anywhere from seconds to 5 minutes.
Positive Aspect Number Two: Conference Calls
I work in a hospital where issues come up and need immediate attention. Before Chat was implemented I used to cringe when there was an urgent question that came in and the one person that could answer the question was on a conference call and completely unavailable. Now with Chat I can send them a message without interrupting their call, they can answer the question with out interrupting their call and the crisis will have been resolved in no time.
Positive Aspect Number Three: No more phone tag
There are times where it seems that I have done nothing all day but played phone tag with people. By using chat, I can see when they are at their desk, whether they are on the phone, idle or ready and waiting for a chat message. I simply look at my chat list, “oh, Susie is at her desk, I can send her my question” and she can reply. Or if someone has called and wants to talk to Greg. I simply check my chat list and say “Greg, is currently on the phone at the moment, would you like his voicemail?” (I LOVE voicemail by the way)
Positive Aspect Number Four: Faster than email
There is a time and place for chat and a time and place for email. Email to me, is for items that are LONG or people who do not work in your area, or even for something that needs to be tracked or documented. Chat is for quick, short communications. It is by far faster and easier than email. In email, you need to be proper and type things with grammar, punctuation and spell check. With Chat, you can use chat slang and use letters for phrases, instead of typing ARE YOU AVAILABLE? You would type R U Available? Or if you need to type I’ll talk to you later, you can simply type ttyl.
For the negative aspects, I could only think of a couple. Now that is probably because I am biased and think that chat should be in most work environments.
Negative Aspect Number One: Misuse
You will always have someone in your organization who can not or will not follow rules. So there will be those few that misuse the chat program for non-work related items. But as an employer you can set up monitoring on most if not all chat programs to monitor the misuse and discipline as need be.
Negative Aspect Number Two: Laziness
Okay, as a society we are getting lazy. I am the first to admit I am lazy and I truly believe that society is making us that way and we are freely allowing it. There is a positive aspect to walking down the hallway to George’s office and waiting in the hallway for him to get done with his phone call. You get out of your chair and off your behind and use the two things that you cross or tap or put up at your desk. (your legs) By doing this you get a little taste of exercise and you get to remove your eyes from a computer screen or pile of papers. It gives you a little break in the day which is good for everyone.
However, as you can see the positives far outweigh the negatives in my mind. You can monitor the misuse which makes it a null issue and you can do other things to give yourself a break from your desk, like actually taking a 15 minute break to walk the halls or go outside and get fresh air, which in turn nulls the second negative aspect, leaving all positives!