Another Take On Instant Messaging In The Workplace

One of the great debates is whether instant messaging should be allowed in the workplace. It is a great, wonderful, easy way to communicate with co-workers, clients, and so on. I, personally, use it on a daily basis. I sign in at the beginning of my work day and sign out at the end. Since I work from home by myself, it’s kind of like going to the office, only I don’t have to leave the comfort of my own house.

A few years ago, I was working for a small consulting company with around 15 employees. We all used msn messenger in the office to communicate with each other and outside contacts. It was definitely convenient. If someone asked for my opinion last week I would have completely supported the technology in the workplace. However, opinions change and a recent experience made me rethink the whole thing.

Last week a friend of mine who just purchased her first computer called for assistance with using msn messenger. I walked her through the process of creating a passport, signing into messenger, adding a contact, and a few other quick basics of how to use it. During the span of the week I must have received ten phone calls from her because she was either having problems with instant messaging or wanted to know how to use another feature of it. On top of the phone calls, I also received a few IMs from her asking for assistance. I would say that by the end of the week, I had spent a good 3 hours with her.

Of course I didn’t mind offering support but what if this was in an office environment. If I was working help desk, would I want to be troubleshooting someone’s instant messaging problems or teaching employees how to use instant messenger when I could probably be tackling more important problems. Offering three hours of support for one person is not a problem, but multiply that by 100 and you are wasting a lot of time.

I guess my point here is that I never considered the impact instant messenger might have on the help desk personnel and technical support. I only thought in terms of how handy it is for communicating. So once again, I’m sitting on the fence.