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Study Finds Instant Messaging Helps Productivity 149

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-gotta-be-kidding-me dept.
MojoKid writes "Researchers at Ohio State University and the University of California, Irvine conducted a telephone study by randomly surveying individuals employed full-time who use computers in an office environment at least five hours per week. They netted 912 respondents, of which 29.8 percent claimed to use IM in the workplace 'to keep connected with coworkers and clients.' Neither occupation, education, gender, nor age seem to have an impact on whether an individual is an IM user or not. The study theorizes that using IM enables individuals to 'flag their availability.' Doing so can limit when IM interruptions occur. Even if an IM interruption comes when it is not necessarily convenient to the recipient, it is 'often socially acceptable' to ignore an incoming message or respond with a terse reply stating that the recipient is too busy at the moment to properly respond." Also another study recently found that water is wet, and a third study found that most studies waste money.
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Study Finds Instant Messaging Helps Productivity

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  • Also another study recently found that water is wet, and a third study found that most studies waste money.
    Well, just yesterday you ran a story speculating that technologies like instant messaging make us stupid [slashdot.org].

    So while you may dismiss this as the painfully obvious, at least I'll have something to shut down the baseless claims that a lot of good useful tools today "make us stupid." It's still possible for something to make us both more productive and stupid but at least there's some evidence supporting instant messaging in the workplace.

    Waste of money because the sample size was too small? Maybe. Blatantly obvious? Not even close. I personally know several people at my company that still view it as a waste of time instead of a useful tool. It's sad that so many great software tools get bad reputations because there are fringe cases of abuse.
    • It's sad that so many great software tools get bad reputations because there are fringe cases of abuse.

      Get me percentages of business use vs. abuse before you start claiming these are "fringe cases." Claims like yours make for nice rhetorical arguments, but don't add any actual substance to the discussion.

      • Have you tried using IM with other developers who are more interested in developing than goofing off?
        In lieu of the mystical statistics compiled by God which you are requesting, we have a forum where people can share their own experiences from which a pattern can be devised.
        It's not ideal but it's better than nothing -- which internet are you from?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jeiler (1106393)

          Have you tried using IM with other developers who are more interested in developing than goofing off?

          Actually, no--I've used it in in-house support and coordination until management blocked the server domain.

          ...we have a forum where people can share their own experiences....

          That's the classical definition of "Anecdotal evidence," Fic. Great way to share experiences and advice--not so great way to generate statistical information.

          I personally want to set up an in-house Jabber server for communication within our IT department. Having posts like the GGP calling abuse "fringe cases" would be an excellent argument to make to my bosses, but they want hard facts and figur

          • by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:45AM (#23747649) Journal
            I've used it in in-house support and coordination until management blocked the server domain.

            The reason that it's often blocked -- and why it's officially blocked where I work -- is because of regulatory concerns over communications that have to be monitored. I've proposed a couple of solutions ranging from Microsoft LCS to Facetime's IM proxy/monitor to allow the environment to get the benefits of IM while covering the lawyers' concerns over risk. I've considered Jabber, but I have enough to do without being the only one available to support an IM server (even if it is relatively hands-off).

            However, money is tight (we're a local government in California), and the chances of this happening are slim.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by jeiler (1106393)
              We're a non-profit in the American south-east--and looking at much the same situation. For us, we also deal with HIPAA laws, which is one reason I was looking at Jabber. Theoretically, we would control the server, and no out-of-house traffic would be necessary.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Martin Blank (154261)
                There are interpretations that believe that all electronic communications must be recorded, so that internal IM conversations would have to be available in case of legal action. Not all Jabber servers offer this.

                But like I said, I have enough to do without adding another server to my list anyway. Much easier to get another solution that someone else can handle. :)
            • Frankly, there is no better choice then Jabber/XMPP.

              Lots of server implementations, lots of clients, and it's an open protocol. And you (unless you choose to) have to track licenses or manage connection count limits or other such nonsense.

          • by fictionpuss (1136565) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:51AM (#23747739)
            There's a very thin line between anecdotal evidence and obviousness. Statistics don't play a part in that when they confirm what practitioners already know from their experience in the field.

            It sounds like the problem you are describing is not one with your knowledge, but your personal frustration with your bosses who don't trust you at your word that employing technology X,Y, or Z will reap benefits. Bosses who will continue to waste your time until statistics and studies are conducted which will likely happen after we're already swimming in the sea of obviousness.

            You need new bosses. Projecting your frustration upon the OP is misleading.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jeiler (1106393)

              No, Fic--I was miffed at the claim itself, not projecting. The problem with the claim is that my experience leads me to believe that with Joe Schmoe Luser, IM tools are abused more often than used as tools.

              Not all of us work in a development environment. Where I work, it's actually a small minority of people that are technologically adept enough to even know the difference between using IM and abusing it. OP's post may be an accurate assessment of IM tools in a group of professionals (actually, I'd hesita

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by Augury (112816)
                The simple fact is that time-wasting has been around a lot longer than IM has. People have slacked off since the dawn of time.

                So IM isn't the cause of slacking off and if you ban it, people will find some other way to slack off, even if you continue to ban everything you can think of.

                The smarter (and harder) way to prevent people from slacking off and using IM is to provide positive reinforcement of good work ethic, rather than trying to ban the vehicle of poor work ethic.
            • by tompaulco (629533)
              It sounds like the problem you are describing is not one with your knowledge, but your personal frustration with your bosses who don't trust you at your word that employing technology X,Y, or Z will reap benefits.
              I have the opposite problem. Using Skype at work has become a requirement. It used to be that everyone used Trillian, and most of my non-work acquaintances use Trillian, but everyone internally has switched to Skype and I was the last holdout, and was basically threatened that I had to install it
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by aplusjimages (939458)
        we should start with the web browser. While useful to access business sites it is also abused to look at /. and reply to articles.
      • by sasdrtx (914842)
        Here's some substance for you: business management that spends 5 seconds worrying about IM, banning IM, blocking websites, removing Solitaire, and filtering email have got their heads up their asses. How about you hire people that will do the job you need them to do, occasionally check that they are indeed doing that job (producing results), but otherwise just leave them alone?

        Unless you are in the 3rd world, you aren't allowed to hire children, so why do you treat your employees as if they are?

        Please don
    • u r rite! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:45AM (#23746745)

      So while you may dismiss this as the painfully obvious, at least I'll have something to shut down the baseless claims that a lot of good useful tools today "make us stupid." It's still possible for something to make us both more productive and stupid but at least there's some evidence supporting instant messaging in the workplace.

      i no xactly wat u meen! pholks sa i'm stewpid for it an 4 posteing on sashdot! i haf to go bac and rite my web pag

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Black-Man (198831)
        I see you communicate w/ off shore folks from India using IM, too. Christ... I can't take it the way they hack it up.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by slack_prad (942084)

          I see you communicate w/ off shore folks from India using IM, too. Christ... I can't take it the way they hack it up.
          You jest..but I've not seen folks from offshore use language like that. Their mistakes maybe grammatical but certainly not omg lol!
      • by smoker2 (750216)
        "The animals will hear!" bellowed the ear licking penguin as the awesomely endowed midget sucked her oozing charlies and plugged his purple middle leg into her festering cunt.
        oops
        wrong window

        Bash [bash.org]
      • Butchering the English language like this is not just ugly but hard to read. It looks like output from some kind of text compression algorithm.
    • by wattrlz (1162603) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:53AM (#23746871)

      Productivity and stupidity are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Plenty of moderately successful individuals are in the position they are now because they lack the excess brainpower to waste on ethics, logic, and other considerations that might hinder their productivity. eg: I'm sure many of us could churn out more code if we weren't smart enough to get bored.

    • by fictionpuss (1136565) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:56AM (#23746911)
      It's entirely possible to reach zero productivity by just gossiping on the telephone too. Yes there is the potential for some productivity loss to non-work chatter - but "hello" and "goodbye" are two common social extravagances which are taken for granted as a cost of productively using the telephone. I wonder if future generations will view the equivalency easier than those who grew up without IM? I was highly skeptical of IM in a work environment, but I recently contributed to an OSS project which is conducted almost 100% over IM and I was converted. So I'd recommend that skeptics actually try IM with other serious-minded developers.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        syn and rst are costs of using IP ??
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ifrag (984323)

        Sometimes hello isn't just a social extravagance.

        http://www.esmerel.com/circle/wordlore/hello.html [esmerel.com]

        I don't think there's any argument for goodbye being a waste either. What are you going to do, just sit there with the receiver on your ear and timeout instead of knowing when to hang up?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Visual Echo (928267) *
        Use Klingon phone protocol. Just bellow "SPEAK!"
        • by NateTech (50881)
          I answer phones with the phrase, "This is Nate". I can't believe how many people this throws off who can't get their heads out of their asses when they don't hear the useless and unnecessary "Hello?".
    • I do not concur. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DaedalusHKX (660194) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:18AM (#23747213) Journal
      I think, if you pay heed to what is going on, that the most productive people, are usually also the stupidest.

      The hardest most productive animals are usually nothing more than what we term "beasts of burden" under the direction of an intelligent being.

      Cattle can work hard and produce a lot... yet the farmer is smarter than them (and often eats them when they're no longer productive), farmers are productive, but the workers in the city are 'smarter' than them, because they eat what the farmer produces but work half as much to buy what the farmer works year round to produce. Bosses are even less productive than workers, but they employ workers and milk them dry, making bosses "smarter" than employees. BANKERS are even smarter than all of them, because true bankers do not work at all, and fleece entire countries. In fact, through inflation and debt instruments, bankers produce POVERTY, therefore "negative wealth", and yet they make a killing (literally and figuratively) running entire nations into the ground, with the nationals' own consent.

      Therefore, lets not pretend that what makes you smarter also makes you more productive. Harnesses may not make horses and oxen smarter, but they certainly become more productive. Being a "good" beast of burden is NOT a result of tools that make one smarter, but of tools that make one more "productive".
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Sodade (650466)
      I am a fulltime teleworker for a 50k+ employee megacorp. In one day, I could have meetings with Europe at 6am, and Asia at 8pm. Every employee has Sametime IM (not a fan) on their desktop. All of the work I do involves complex cross functional interaction. 75% of the people I work with use it effectively. The other 25% are salespeople or director level. Those people are still in the phonecall/voicemail world, which sucks up a much larger proportion of my work focused time.

      Over the last three years of using
      • by corbettw (214229)
        Your anecdote about talking with people in different continents in the same day raises another area where IM shines more brightly than the phone (at least potentially): it's much easier, faster, and more accurate for written communications to be translated by a machine, than verbal communications. Even if you have to resort to copying-and-pasting from Google, you can effectively have a productive conversation with someone who does not share a common language with you. Try doing that on the phone, in real ti
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I did the same thing. Worked with people all over the U.S. and India via IM. My opinion is that we lost a lot of shared knowledge etc by not having the people in the same place. Knowledge wasn't passed and shared as much as is done when people are in the same place. That alone killed over all productivity for the group and meant each person had to learn individual points each time the individual encountered them... as opposed to the whole group literally hearing about it all at once. Yes, you can broad
      • by tompaulco (629533)
        I NEVER leave people voicemail anymore and I rarely receive it. Voicemail is a stupid waste of time IMO.
        Must be a generational thing. I know the new generation HATES voicemail. They will call you eight times in a ten minute period if you don't answer the phone and they NEVER leave a voicemail. In my opinion, this is just rude. If I see that I have calls on my phone, but no messages, then I just figure if it's not important enough to leave a message then it is not important.
        Contrast this with the new gene
    • Perhaps I read it wrong, but yesterday's post was able the incessant use of Google/Wikipedia searches for information that you should put to memory, not the internet "makes us stupid".
    • Waste of money because the sample size was too small? Maybe.
      Sample size is not nearly as important as the process used to select sample. The Gallup Poll has said that a sample of 1000 properly selected people typically allows them to generalize their findings back to the US population with +/-3% error: http://media.gallup.com/PDF/FAQ/HowArePolls.pdf [gallup.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's still possible for something to make us both more productive and stupid but at least there's some evidence supporting instant messaging in the workplace.

      I hate using the word productive because in most managers it engenders the false notion that all productivity involves physical activity. I have seen so much wasted motion because someone would rather look busy than do what was right (RTFM or do other research/design in preparation). As a software developer I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking - engaging my brain before my mouth or hands as it were.

      Waste of money because the sample size was too small? Maybe. Blatantly obvious? Not even close. I personally know several people at my company that still view it as a waste of time instead of a useful tool. It's sad that so many great software tools get bad reputations because there are fringe cases of abuse.

      Amen to that.

  • Doesn't follow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@g m a i l .com> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:37AM (#23746629) Journal
    The only result of this study is the knowledge that a percentage of the people who use IM believe it to be "productive". It has no actual proof that the activity of IM actually increases productivity in a measurable way.

    I've dealt with a lot of people who think IM makes them productive, and I tend to disagree.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Idimmu Xul (204345)

      I've dealt with a lot of people who think IM makes them productive, and I tend to disagree.

      I think it completely depends on the person. Where I work, the easiest to communicate with all use IM. Those that don't use IM really hinder my productivity at times, when I have to wait however long for them to reply to an email, or at worst trek around the area and physically find them.

      When all you need is a quick yes/no answer when you're in the middle of some work, having to drop everything and move on to anothe

      • Re:Doesn't follow. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by poopdeville (841677) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:55AM (#23747831)
        When all you need is a quick yes/no answer when you're in the middle of some work, having to drop everything and move on to another project or leave your desk to physically find the person is a real pain.

        (To my QA guys:) Maybe the fact that we're not available for your "quick yes/no" questions means we're in the middle of some work.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lennier (44736)
          "(To my QA guys:) Maybe the fact that we're not available for your "quick yes/no" questions means we're in the middle of some work."

          Yes, and?

          Just because you're working doesn't mean other people in your organisation aren't too. You're aware that you're all on the same team, right? That work is not a competitive Quake deathmatch? That helping out a colleague isn't an automatic loss for you?

          Just because *you're* working doesn't mean you should get the automatic right to hold up someone *else's* work by denyin
      • by hackstraw (262471)
        I think it completely depends on the person. Where I work, the easiest to communicate with all use IM. Those that don't use IM really hinder my productivity at times, when I have to wait however long for them to reply to an email, or at worst trek around the area and physically find them.



        I think it also depends on the environment/type of work.

        I don't think IM would help my productivity a bit. If I really need a quick yes/no answer right now, I can use that thingy called a phone or I could get off of my but
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by fahrbot-bot (874524)
        Those that don't use IM really hinder my productivity at times.

        Which would be my point: Who's productivity does IM help?

        While my not using IM may hinder your productivity, not using it helps mine. Anyone who needs me can send email and I'll get back to you when I can, or, if really important, call or stop by.

        Seriously, unless you're choking on a pretzel or on fire, my time is more important than yours (generically, yours) - /. doesn't read itself you know. :-)

    • by SBacks (1286786)
      I'd agree with you. I saw the summary and immediately jumped to the conclusion of "people more comfortable with computers would tend to use IM and would also tend to beinging more productive"

      Of course, I work in a very small office, so the time it takes to walk to anyone else's desk is a few seconds.
    • by garcia (6573)
      I've dealt with a lot of people who think IM makes them productive, and I tend to disagree.

      And that's about as worthy as the interpreted results of this survey :) I find that IM, used solely for workplace issues, is faster in some instances than an e-mail or a phone call. In my last job I was down the hall from the rest of the team and they were always busy on the phone with external customers. Many of them had no e-mail notification (Groupwise requires an additional Notifier that wasn't installed or ena
      • Oh, I agree. I'm not saying my opinion has any special weight.

        But this sort of social survey irks the crap out of me. It's masturbation. Asking a number of people how they feel about X gets you nothing but fuzzy, worthless data.

        Even the overall measurement of productivity is itself fuzzy, because goals are often poorly defined. I blew an hour yesterday on a corporate conference call dealing with some esoteric software purchasing decision; was it a waste of time or was it far more important than the code I c
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hansamurai (907719)
      I just organized ordering pizza through IM, instead of walking around and asking everyone individually what they want, I sent out a group message and the answers rolled in when my co-workers found it convenient to respond. It not only makes me more productive (as I don't have the risk of getting in a 30 minute conversation with someone, times 12), it makes me co-workers less distracted.

      But of course, all productivity is negated through Slashdot. So whatever.
  • Oops (Score:5, Funny)

    by SimonGhent (57578) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:37AM (#23746631)
    Sorry, thought you said "Massaging Helps Productivity".

    I appear to be in the wrong room.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      I appear to be in the wrong room.
      This is abuse. Try room 12D, down the hall
  • by samael (12612) * <Andrew@Ducker.org.uk> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:40AM (#23746663) Homepage
    Just because it's obvious to you, that doesn't mean that everyone knows it.

    Hell - just because it's obvious to you, that doesn't mean it's true!
    • by mh1997 (1065630) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:01AM (#23746989)
      I can't find anywhere in TFA that proves productivity was actually increased.

      The perception of increased productivity is not proof just as the perception of decreased productivity is not proof.

      Just because you were not interrupted does not mean productivity increased - you can be chatting all day with your significant other and not consider that an interruption. Hell, I am wasting time at work posting on slashdot and not being interrupted - BECAUSE I AM NOT WORKING. Work would interrupt me.

      • I can't find anywhere in TFA that proves productivity was actually increased.

        I was wondering if anyone else noticed that...

        I'm also not sure how a phone interview of IM users could possibly determine this, one way or the other. Of course IM users think they're being more productive. I've watched coworkers IM hither and yon with several dozen friends and coworkers, get nothing done yet claim to have been productive.

        My personal experience on this is mixed. I was part of a small group that drove adoption of IM in our workplace - and now I regret it. There are occasions when I can get

    • Just because it's obvious to you, that doesn't mean that everyone knows it.

      Sadly, I don't have a link right now, but a study was done showing that when shown the results of psychological studies, people generally thought the results were obvious. However, when asked to predict the results of those same studies, people were at chance. Hindsight is 20/20.

  • by antdude (79039) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:40AM (#23746675) Homepage Journal
    I have speech and hearing impediments (born with them), so verbal communications in person and on telephone is sometimes impossible. IMs (and e-mails) are life savers. I am not sure how I would be able to work if I didn't have these technologies (same for the Internet -- addicting too!).
  • No Thanks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by karvind (833059) <karvind@nOSPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:43AM (#23746719) Journal
    I am less productive when I get interrupted every 10-15 min from a pop window. Just because you can ask, people don't spend time thinking or looking for it themselves. One can argue for and against such a thing and it depends on your work. Analogy holds that online books are good for manuals (instant search), but when I want to read a novel, nothing beats a physical paper. Similarly if you working which requires more thinking and analysis, you are better off with less interruption.

    I have also limited checking emails to 3 times a day. If there is an emergency, there is a phone and you can stop by my cube.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tesen (858022)
      Consider yourself fortunate that you do not have users stopping by for what is an emergency for them, but not everyone else. IM is useful when they IM me and say, "HELP! HELP! NEED REPORT! PLEASE CODE NEW ONE!! URGENT!! URGENT!!" if it isn't I get to tell them I am working on something else that is higher priority and to see my team lead if they want my priorities changed. This saves myself a face to face with them, which saves interruption to my neighbors.

      Tes
    • Re:No Thanks (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cavtroop (859432) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:57AM (#23746915)

      I have also limited checking emails to 3 times a day. If there is an emergency, there is a phone and you can stop by my cube.
      I tried this, but found that it simply increased my pop-in interruptions significantly. Someone would IM (which would get ignored, as i was set 'away'), or email, and after 10 minutes or so of no response, they plop on over and poke their head into my office. I've tried explaining to them what I am trying to get done (more work), but the culture here is one of interruptions. Drives me up the wall.
    • I've heard this argument before. The idea is that any interruptions that happen are ones that would have taken longer and been less useful to the person on the other end than another kind of interruption, like a phone ringing. As the summary says, an away message when you're busy can remove 90% of distractions.

      I don't know what kind of work you do, but many people need small pieces of information quite frequently. Believe it or not, most people can recover from interruptions, and keep their thoughts orga
      • Re:No Thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tzanger (1575) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:34AM (#23747471) Homepage

        I can't stand interruptions when I'm trying to figure something out. My email client does not notify me when new email comes in, my IM is fairly unnoticeable in the corner unless I look at it, and I thankfully don't get many phone calls, and often ignore it anyway when it does ring. Now I have IRC and IM open all the time, but I can manage those kinds of interruptions much easier because I hit them when I'm at a point where a brief interruption won't bug me or disrupt my thinking. I guess the easiest analogy is reading a particularly interesting book; at a paragraph break or chapter break I can look up, talk to someone for a moment, or get a drink. However if someone came up to me and broke the "spell" I was under because I was in the middle of a paragraph, it's frustrating, and can ruin the experience.

        It's quite common for me to forget to eat or put off washroom breaks for several hours when I'm in the middle of something. Someone poking their head in my office during one of those moments would probably cause me to lose all concentration for a good 15 to 30 minutes afterward, but if they were to send me an IM and I could get at it a minute (or even 15 seconds) later than they would have poked their head in, it wouldn't cause any issue at all.

        There's no "might want to try that" to it -- some people just think and work differently than others. I'm not special or anything like that, but just because you have managed to organize your thoughts on paper and can handle interruptions doesn't mean that that method works particularly well for me. I generally recover from interruptions just fine, but people tend to interrupt me at points where it's not a good time to be interrupted, and that causes particular frustration, especially when it has happened for the third or fourth time that day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wattrlz (1162603)

      Personally, I think the phone makes me far less effective than an IM ever could and cube-visits are even worse. IMs are the one method of bothering me who's obtrusiveness is under my control. If I choose to I can turn off the pop-up feature, or even do some work while I contemplate a reply. When the company-issued monstrosity on my desk shatters the [comparable] workplace calm with the default ringer at full volume there's no chance of me getting anything done for the next few minutes.That's going to tie u

  • by Anonymous Coward
    these days they'll make study's that will prove just about anything just to get published or hawk a product.
  • Also another study recently found that water is wet, and a third study found that most studies waste money

    those old online polls that showed a percentage of people did not participate in online polls, hey look, /. had one too

    http://slashdot.org/pollBooth.pl?qid=401 [slashdot.org] and 2521 people don't vote :-)
  • by FozE_Bear (1093167) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:45AM (#23746735)
    Hell, I even IM the guy in the next cube when he's on the phone. It seemed odd at first, but for important issues with simple yes/no answers, it can be really effective.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gustgr (695173)
      I think it _may_ be effective and increase productivity when you only communicate through IM with coworkers and possibly with clients. Letting "outsiders" IM you when you are working is definitely not productive IMHO (and accessing /. to post comments doesn't get the job done either ;-).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    if you only allow some users to be able to contact you, such as your team members. Otherwise it becomes a major distraction and a waste of time and energy. It's way too easy for people to contact you, say whatever they want without talking to you or seeing you, and keep the written trail to blame you afterwards. If you lose focus dozens of times per day just because it's too easy for someone to ask something that's not really that important, but since it's so easy to contact you they ask anyways....it's no
  • by failedlogic (627314) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:49AM (#23746811)
    I like the idea of instant messaging but I prefer e-mail to IM. Reasons? Overuse of IM lingo, short answers to complicated questions and the non-business tone of the exchange.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by chronoblip (1305181)
      ORLY?
    • by mjwx (966435)
      Email does nothing to stop that.

      I receive frequent abuses of grammar and spelling (IM speak) via email, I mean is it that much effort to type two extra letters to make the word "you". Sentences should start with a capital, initials should also be capitalized (names and proper nouns as well) and don't get me started on the abuse of exclamation marks and misuse of apostrophes.

      Also use the damn spell checker, you are given one by default in Outlook and Firefox.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:50AM (#23746825) Homepage
    Until you work for a boss who uses it to deliver every missive, task and piece of brain barf that he wants to spew upon his or her workers. My wife works for such a boss. The man IMs her and her team so many times each day that you would think he's an IRC bot that went insane and took over their IM system!

    Where email is passive, and more formal, IM allows a boss to act like he or she can just sit there and chat at you all day telling you what to do. It's perfect for micro-managers. Where they used to be expected to write out an email with tasking, send it out and then expect a reply later, they can expect results right here, right now. The result is obvious: stress. Lots and lots of stress for the employees of a micro-manager with IM.

    In my opinion, IM should be discouraged in the work place. If you want to send tasking, doing it by email or something formal like that. If you need to talk to someone in the same office, for the love of God, just go to their office and do it. If you're too busy to get up from your desk to do it, you're probably too busy to take time off to chat over IM. Yes, yes, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, that's true.
    • Guns don't kill people, PEOPLE kill people.

      SOunds to me like you work for an ass, and IM is just a tool he uses to express it.
    • by cptnapalm (120276) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @11:10AM (#23748119)
      E-Mail is not that great either. Where I work, there are only about 15 or so employees, but of course (this is government) there are three managers. My desk is on everyone else's way to the kitchen; this is important.

      My main boss, who spend her day in her office writing e-mails, is so non-confrontational that she will e-mail my immediate boss to ask for me to do something. My immediate boss, who spends all day in her office 15 feet from me writing e-mail all day, will then e-mail me. Before I get the e-mail (its webmail, so have to actively check it), both of them will have walked past me at least 10 times.

      They will inevitably complain that I don't check my e-mail often enough.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by netsavior (627338)
      A toxic micromanager will do so with or without IM. Imagine the result if every "brain barf" had to be delivered in person, requiring you to turn from your task, take your hands off the keyboard and engage in an eye-to-eye conversation... Alt-tab or whatever a million times a day is significantly more efficient and less disruptive than having a formal real life conversation a few times a day.

      I work for a 50,000 employee company that uses IBM's "Me too" chat system "Sametime". Most of the executives run
  • Not For Me (Score:5, Informative)

    by BountyX (1227176) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:53AM (#23746869)
    I disagree. I have a program that I made that automatically quantifies time spent in programs and time spent on work related tasks.

    Over the course of a year my reports indicate the following:

    IM almost always detracts from productivty becuase IM's either interrupted or shifted my focus to a non-working task, required status changes to prevent interruptions, and is often used for procrastination. This was the finding of a one-year quantification of my working habits using IM with clients on the same list as IM with friends. Even client conversations often got off task.

    If you limit your IM to short work related need-only basis with no friends on your list at work, it is more efficient than calling and the IM logging functionality makes it easy to reference work. Using IM Logging for information (on trillians search interface) was faster than email lookup and desktop search). Small gain there.

    Short Answer, for the majority of users IM will detract from productivity. If the IM environment is strictly controlled with no friends and co-works only IMing on a need-information-now basis, then IM can be a great productivity enhancment for short conversations (versus the phone).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kortex (590172)
      You are the first person who made a distinction between general and corporate IM. In most places that I have worked the exact held true: Employees on public IM systems do get interrupted and it does screw with productivity. Employees on internally hosted corporate (closed) IM systems (I recommend Jabber) do get more done. Especially in information industries, the ability to share small pieces of information very quickly without leaving your chair, code, scripts - availability - there is alot to be gained im
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Personal IM also eliminates the distraction of personal phone calls.

        Spouses need to talk to each other about things sometimes. My wife has IM at her office and we chat from time to time during the day. It's no different than if she were to call me a couple of times a day, and is much less obtrusive to my work - she can ask me something that isn't urgent via an asynchronous mode of communication.

        At my job before this, it was frowned upon to use IM for anything, though not actually blocked in a systematic w
  • Even if do quick glance to see who the message was from or what the first part of the message was you are interrupted.
    However what happens most times is you get what seems to be a quick question, you answer then the person comes back a few mins later with a follow on, you answer, then they ask one more question. It would of been a whole lot better if the person had just called as the question and thier followup questions at one time.
    Makes you wonder if this survey was asked by these people [slashdot.org]
  • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:58AM (#23746933) Homepage Journal
    I move around a lot every day, and my availability varies depending on where I am, and who is trying to IM me. IM's from a coworker or business contact are different than say, IM's from mom or a friend. I modded my IM client to change my status depending on where I'm at, so everyone I interact with can figure out whether or not it's a good time to ask me a question or just chew the fat.

    I still occasionally get inappropriate messages, but it's pretty uncommon. Usually they're from someone I don't chat with often and they haven't figured out what all my statuses mean yet.

    FYI the script is a cron job that runs every five minutes, and tries to figure out what my WAN ip address is (and sometimes narrows it down by LAN address too) and updates my status, assuming it's not set to something custom already.

    Also, sometimes people have something they want to tell me but don't really need to discuss. When they see I'm busy they'll just IM me a one-liner with what was on their mind, ending with an indication that they are not expecting a reply. So at least for me, IM is extremely effective and efficient communication whether I'm at work or at home. It allows me to stay available to everyone without unwelcome distraction.

    I wish I could do this with my coworkers' cell phones, omg so tired of a coworker getting continuous calls from relatives/friends while we're trying to get something done, HERE is the real problem!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Treffster (1037980)

      I wish I could do this with my coworkers' cell phones, omg so tired of a coworker getting continuous calls from relatives/friends while we're trying to get something done, HERE is the real problem!

      This is the most true thing I've ever read on slashdot. Its worse for me... All my coworkers in my room don't speak English at home, so instead of being able to ignore it as background noise, I have this incredibly distracting drone of Indian or Indonesian - more distracting because your subconscious keeps trying to make out the words even though its impossible.

      • by v1 (525388)
        if you're feeling particularly stubborn and annoyed, just try to get them to shut off their phones. You'd think you were asking them to walk on glass or something. It's not that they don't realize everyone is getting annoyed by them - they know it, they just can't force themselves to shut off their phone. Those are the types that would rather be without their cell phone than their car.

        I have yet to get a single person to shut off their phone. "but what if someone's trying to call me? what if it's impor
  • by TheSpatulaOfLove (966301) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:00AM (#23746977)
    I've found that IM helps me tremendously, however I know some of my counterparts find it to be inhibitive to their workflows. Coming from a technical background, I'm used to having many windows open at once and alt-tabbing constantly between them to get multiple things done. My favorite part is being able to communicate during conference calls, where a side conversation is neither possible nor appropriate. If it's a customer facing conference call, action items requested from the customer can many times be completed during the call or shortly thereafter, as the ideas are fresh in everyone's mind, and I can tie in people that may not be able to be on the call.

    Since my jump to the Dark Side (Sales), I've found many of my coworkers are apprehensive to IM, as they're sales people who were forced into using the computer. Perhaps they cannot focus on multiple things at the same time, or they fear constant interruption. I see the most resistance to the A-Types or the obvious ones who are in the twilight of their careers and resist new technologies.

    Sadly, my productivity is about to come to a screeching halt. My company recently announced the upcoming death of the Jabber servers and migration to Micro$oft Office Communicator. In my experience, anyone with this protocol has suffered dearly in regards to sharing links and having Micro$oft deem what is to be shared or not.
  • Now we need a study (sponsored by Sourceforge, Inc.) confirming that accessing /. and posting comments during your work time insanely increases productivity. My boss would definitely get a copy of such report.
  • So when does the study saying that surfing slashdot at work helps productivity come out?

    I'd be really interested in seeing that one...

    Oh crap, time to get back to work.
  • by edderly (549951) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:18AM (#23747223)

    http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/garrett.html [indiana.edu]

    They compare IM users opinions with non-IM users on how often they get interrupted on a work task. 29% or so people use IM and it turns out they think they think they don't get interrupted as much compared to the non-IM'ers.

    IM is ok, but unfortunately I also associate it with a lot of non-work related activity when I see some other people using it.
  • I can't believe so many companies have such negative attitudes towards IM.

    Where I work, we heavily rely on it to communicate with various teams around the globe & each other. This is a shameless plug, but we heavily use this tool - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Office_Communicator [wikipedia.org] and without it communication would be severely hindered. The way it plugs into your calendar, email and all things officey is pure gold.

    Not to mention my fellow geeks i have on IM too I use for help and to help...with
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:42AM (#23747595)
    has not been invented. Not only does IM constantly interrupt your train of thought and derail productive activity, but it also sucks down minutes and minutes when a 15 second phone conversation would do.

    Most technologies eventually find their useful niche, like text messaging being great when you're in a place where it's either too loud to hear a phone call or when breaking the silence would be rude. But IM, despite having been around since the earliest days (I remember using it with a friend in the early to mid-80's), seems to have persisted because it's what people do when they want to procrastinate.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Treffster (1037980)

      has not been invented. Not only does IM constantly interrupt your train of thought and derail productive activity, but it also sucks down minutes and minutes when a 15 second phone conversation would do.

      I find that a totally ridiculous suggestion. I'm a reasonably senior software developer with a team of 12 people working in 4 dev offices next to each other. Every case of IM is very much a "hey, whats the answer to this". I answer it quickly if I can (or ignore it till I finish my current line of progress), then if its easily answerable I answer it with a short reply.

      If its not, I get up and walk to their desk in my own time and spend the 15-20 minutes required to get them back on track.

      The alterna

  • IM combines the advantages of telephones with the advantages from emails. You are instantly available if you choose, but you don't have to and can reply whenever you want.
  • More of a survey (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jonnythan (79727) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:59AM (#23747889) Homepage
    This is more of a survey than a study, isn't it?

    I mean, they just asked people if it made them more productive. People aren't really going to have much of an idea about their productivity rates.

    A "study" would be if they actually quantified and examined the effects on productivity with and without instant messaging.
    • This is basically useless. I'll wait until they define metrics to measure and use a control group, instead of using self-reporting.
  • IM can increase productivity in ways nothing else can. Can it detract from productivity? Sure, but I could do that equally well without it (e.g. solitare, slashdot).
  • Personally I hate instant messaging. I uninstall it if the network force installs it, and barring that, I disable it through any means necessary, and boy do I get in trouble with that.

    My issue stems from a privacy angle and a productivity angle. I'm in one of those positions where (and I'm sure I'm alone here) I do all my work without any assistance because I know what I'm doing, and recent hires and offshore has no idea what they're doing so I receive 800 phones calls, emails, and IMs a day so that I ca

  • The type of work being done is a large part of if the IM is a good or bad thing. On a job where short, quick answers will solve an issue, it is fantastic. Tech support work is a prime example, especially if those using it are capable of multi-tasking enough to not only help other techs, but do so without slowing the flow of their own work. However, other lines of work can't get by as well with quick-direct communication. Legal work for example often will need to be focused into email, not only for the a
  • Employees use IM as a way to goof off. Employees use Web browsers as a way to goof off. Employees use ceiling tiles as a way to goof off. Employees use their imaginations as a way to goof off.

    The problem in all these cases is not that employees have found something with which they can goof off. The problem is that your employees are bored and unmotivated. Seriously, most large employers have horrible working conditions and do little to motivate their employees. If they used profit sharing to make up a sig

  • We can do without your unfunny and snippy comments. Besides what do you actually know about working in a more traditional workplace? AFAIK you never have.

    The slashdot editors continue to be a hilarious joke for all the wrong reasons. You guys have no idea what a parody of actual people who work in the tech industry you have become with your snide and quite out of date comments. It's like you guys are still stuck in 2001 and while I do quite enjoy the farce sometimes, others it just strikes me as sad.

    Perhaps
  • Take a look at the alternatives:

    Email: interface is poor for a conversation, more designed for sharing an entire thought process, story, idea, etc. Delivery has inherent delay.

    Telephone: Interrupts other activities. Requires immediate attention or dismissal. People both feel interrupted when receiving a call AND feel like they are bothering people when they call them.

    In-person: Interrupts other activities, requires full attention.

    Instant Messaging: Can be immediately responded to or delayed as dictated by w
  • by GregNorc (801858)
    I do this at home... when I'm puttering around and might want to be bothered, but only if it's extremely interesting, I put up some sort of quote or joke in an away message. If I don't respond, people assume I'm not at the computer. Current Away Message: I WILL DESTROY YOU PAUL MITCHELL
  • as noted elsewhere the article measured perceived disruptions, not productivity. Full text here [blackwell-synergy.com] (blackwell-synergy.com). It's from Oct of 2007.
  • Sounds like they just called and asked people of IM helps their productivity. This technique only shows that people /think/ IM helps their productivity. For all you IM'er out there, it doesn't. The only thing worse for productivity than IM is slashdot. So close your silly little window and finish one task before starting the next. If there's an emergency, well, the telephone's been around for close to a century now and verbal communication, the result of millions of years of evolution, is far more clear and
  • too true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eil (82413) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @06:15PM (#23755643) Homepage Journal
    and a third study found that most studies waste money.

    Too true, and any introductory Statistics class will tell you that a phone survey, on it's own, is pretty much useless because your entire sample comes from willing participants in the survey.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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