Ryan Patrick, BITS Chief Technology Officer
For years, I have been talking about how email isn’t a “productivity tool” and if anything, it has its ways of actually diminishing productivity. From people that think “let’s copy everyone” on emails that they don’t need to be included on to the infamous reply to all “thank you,” and then everyone interjecting opinions on a matter…when likely it could have been solved by getting a few people on the phone in less than five minutes.
Now, we look where we are today as messaging applications such as Webex (formerly Webex Teams/Jabber) and Microsoft Teams as they are rolled out to an entire organization allowing for instant contact with you no matter where you are.
Instant messaging has been around for some 20 years now with some businesses using AOL and MSN Messenger back in the day. Now, oover the past year, it seems as if everyone business has added messaging applications to their communication tool box.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to diminish the use of these tools. Since we started BITS over 16 years ago, we’ve had an instant messaging solution in use, allowing us to communicate quickly, but as our company has grown, so has our use of these tools.
I think it’s safe to say, even as some team members start to return to the office, we are not going to see messaging applications go away.
With email, many companies have etiquette training and recurring reminders about it (Dan Myers and I take turns sending them out on a regular basis at BITS), but what about with instant messaging?
Is there a need for more elaborate policies just around messaging? I believe much of what we may have in email policies related to retention, data loss, and etiquette can be easily adopted or have messaging rolled into existing email policies. What I think will take some training and time will be the cultural adjustments or etiquette that needs to be addressed.
With instant messaging on business platforms (and outside of it with texting), are we making things worse? More channels to have to watch and respond, notifications constantly popping up and another disruption to the creative a productive workflow.
Some days I can’t keep it straight as to things I need to do, friendly conversations with team members, and then questions. Jumping back and forth from email to IM, it’s so hard to keep everything straight and that urge to respond right away drives me crazy (as I’m sure it does to other people also!).
Instead of just pointing out the frustrations I have, I thought I would offer some tips around the top five Instant Messaging headaches everyone should look into.
RESPECT the STATUS. All messaging apps have the ability to pull status from your phone, calendar, or to manually set it. What annoys me the most is within seconds of my status going “green” or active, I seem to get messages or calls coming in, like I’m being watched, and someone jumps into the queue.
DO NOT DISTURB. Then there is Do Not Disturb, and it means exactly that. It doesn’t mean send a message and say when you get a chance, I know you are busy, etc. It means wait until I’m not on DND to ask me that question. Now the flipside…don’t abuse it, meaning don’t be on DND every day, all day.
Where did you ask me that question? I struggle managing my To Do List and questions when jumping from Webex to Outlook and can’t keep my response straight most of the time. Personally, my Outlook inbox in combination with Jira is where I track my To Dos, and I’ll admit I forget about IM’s on things I’m supposed to look into or review. Last year, I wrote a blog on the Omni-channel overload, on the many apps distracting us and causing stress on where to focus.
I try to flag messages that need my attention and have setup time each day for checking them. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s starting to help.
Quiet those notifications. Unlike email, it can be impossible to ignore the endless notifications. On the contrary, if you turn alerts off, you may miss out on an important message. With various spaces, team members, and external groups as well it can be overwhelming. Most of the messaging apps today have ways to quiet these notifications to your personal preference, and it’s also important to remind employees if its urgent, pickup the phone and call.
When to use Email versus Messaging. There are plenty of articles out there with a lot of common tips around this, now with messaging have spaces you can setup for projects or group discussions, here are some recommendations on when to send that email or use business messaging.
Some of the best cases for using email are:
And when to consider using messaging:
We are connected to devices now like never before, and with workforces spread out and everyone trying to maintain high levels of productivity, we have to allow our teams to find a balance amongst all these communication channels.
If we as technology leaders don’t look at the human element and what omni-channel overload can do to our teams, all these communication channels may start to inhibit what they were intended to improve: productivity.