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Instant Messaging Cuts Workplace Interruptions
ST Team
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
The misconception of instant messaging is no more. A new study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication has found that instant messaging (IM) is now being often used as a substitute for more disruptive forms of communication like the mobile phone, e-mail, and personal chats.

The new report is exactly contrary to the earlier research. The earlier report concluded that IM - along with phones and e-mail - was the cause of increased interruptions at work and resulted in reduced output. However, R. Kelly Garrett of Ohio State University and Co-author of the study finds that using IM led to more online conversations, which were a lot briefer than other forms of communications. The key to unlocking IM's effects lies in how people are using the technology, Garrett says.

"We found that the effect of IM is actually positive. People who used IM reported that they felt they were being interrupted less frequently," he says.

Instead of dropping in unexpectedly, many are using the technology to check in with co-workers’ availability. Moreover, most of them use this technology to get quick answers to general questions or to inquire about current work tasks instead of engaging in longer face-to-face conversations. Its unique setup allows instant messaging users to control how and when they communicate with co-workers. "We find that employees are quite strategic in their use of instant messaging," Garrett says.

The study involved 912 people who worked at least 30 hours a week and used a computer for at least five hours daily.

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