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Study Finds Instant Messaging Helps Productivity

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-gotta-be-kidding-me dept.

Communications 149

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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Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746577)

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.

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (4, Insightful)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746743)

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.

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (1)

fictionpuss (1136565) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747027)

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:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (2, Informative)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747405)

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 figures. If those can't be had, then don't go waving around claims that abuse happens only in "fringe cases," and don't go touting anecdotal evidence as anything remotely useful to support such claims.

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (3, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747649)

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:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (2, Informative)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747775)

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:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (1)

WuphonsReach (684551) | more than 6 years ago | (#23749101)

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.

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (3, Insightful)

fictionpuss (1136565) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (2, Insightful)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748059)

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 hesitantly agree if that was the case), but as a broad-based comment it's inaccurate.

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (2, Funny)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747505)

we should start with the web browser. While useful to access business sites it is also abused to look at /. and reply to articles.

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23747917)

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.

I used to use AIM at work and I can tell you, 99% of the time I was on it, I was not using it for work, and it was interfering with my work.

I say 'used to' because I got fired and don't have a job anymore.

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (1)

GeorgeMonroy (784609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748605)

Yes please give us numbers because we all know how polling is oh so accurate. :rolleyes:

u r rite! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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:u r rite! (2, Funny)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747481)

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:u r rite! (2, Insightful)

slack_prad (942084) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748787)

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!

Re:u r rite! (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23750073)

"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]

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (4, Insightful)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (3, Interesting)

fictionpuss (1136565) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23747703)

syn and rst are costs of using IP ??

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (3, Interesting)

ifrag (984323) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748565)

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:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (3, Funny)

Visual Echo (928267) | more than 6 years ago | (#23749243)

Use Klingon phone protocol. Just bellow "SPEAK!"

I do not concur. (4, Interesting)

DaedalusHKX (660194) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747213)

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:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (2, Interesting)

Sodade (650466) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747413)

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 IM, I'd say that my email volume has reduced dramatically and my email quality has increased - all because I can answer quick questions on the fly with IM.

I haven't even met most of my co-workers, but they all know that I am responsive and on the ball. I attribute some of that perception to the fact that I am available >12hours a day to answer their questions, thus making them more productive.

Some situations are better handled with a quick phone call, but IM actually enables real phone conversations because you can see if someone is available and ping them with a "time for a quick call?" I NEVER leave people voicemail anymore and I rarely receive it. Voicemail is a stupid waste of time IMO. Maybe that perception is colored by the fact that the only people who actually leave me VMs are handshake monkeys (salespeople and directors).

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747829)

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".

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23749409)

They took care of this on the survey. The second to last question was:

"Would you lie on an anonymous survey to make it appear that IMing negatively affects your productivity less than it actually does?"

Followed up with:

"Was your response to the previous question a lie?"

Re:Not So Obvious to Many in Corporate America (1)

MadJeff451 (841329) | more than 6 years ago | (#23749777)

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]

Doesn't follow. (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746629)

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:Doesn't follow. (1, Insightful)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746849)

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 another project or leave your desk to physically find the person is a real pain.

And I'm not even going to go in to the usefulness IRC can be for tech support, where often you can get a straight line to the developers of whatever you're implementing!

Free Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 [free-toys.co.uk]

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

poopdeville (841677) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Doesn't follow. (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23750101)

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 butt and simply ask them. The percentage of time that I need a quick yes/no vs the noise level over IM doing its thing all the time.

Also, I work in a UNIX environment where my mail is checked via my shell, and my mail is filtered. When I hit return and I get new mail, my shell says "You have new mail in mailbox X". The latency between when I'm sitting at my desk and the reply to a mail would be the same as IM, so why add another tool that is already served by another tool already?

Free Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and XBox 360

You are now foed, and I hope you leave slashdot. There is simply no need for this shit anymore. Ever since everyone got their free iPods, do they really now need free Playstation 3s, Wiis, AND XBox 360s???

Fucking spammer.

Re:Doesn't follow. (1)

SBacks (1286786) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747019)

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.

Re:Doesn't follow. (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747129)

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 enabled by default) so we used AIM to communicate between some people. In that instance, it worked great. Where I work now, I'm over a cube wall from everyone and thus it makes no sense to use IM unless we're off-site.

Re:Doesn't follow. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747569)

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 could have been writing? I may never know.

I feel pretty much the same about IM. For me personally, it fills no niche I couldn't fill with email. My most common use is to pass random tech questions around to my non-work geek friends. It's helpful to me, but I could just look the info up as well; slower in the short run, but it would improve my understanding past the point of just having someone tell me the answer.

Re:Doesn't follow. (2, Funny)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747921)

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 (4, Funny)

SimonGhent (57578) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746631)

Sorry, thought you said "Massaging Helps Productivity".

I appear to be in the wrong room.

Re:Oops (1)

laejoh (648921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746967)

OH, oh I'm sorry, but this is abuse.

Ah yes, you want room 12A, Just along the corridor.

(Under his breath) Stupid git!!

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23747553)

"Messaging?!?" *quietly stands up and leaves the room*

_Not_ a waste of money (4, Insightful)

samael (12612) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746663)

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!

Re:_Not_ a waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23746885)

Which, in this case, is doubtfully true.

Re:_Not_ a waste of money (3, Insightful)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:_Not_ a waste of money (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748775)

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 helpful, work-relevant information faster through IM - but more often I'm finding myself get interrupted a lot (people don't seem to understand the concept of here/away/busy). Additionally I have a boss who seems to think IM is a good way to send me detailed information on new jobs for me to do "when you're finished with the current one". I've tried explaining email is better for that sort of communication; but he hasn't learned so far.

Re:_Not_ a waste of money (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748783)

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.

Definitely helps me! (5, Insightful)

antdude (79039) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746675)

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 (4, Insightful)

karvind (833059) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746719)

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:No Thanks (3, Interesting)

Tesen (858022) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746835)

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 (1)

UNKN (1225066) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747155)

Yeah, when you have a phone, IM, and email and you get someone stopping by to mention an issue that you can't even fix, that's a real problem. I have a boss for a reason, a boss that delegates projects to me, talk to him and he'll get it to me. IMs are nice because I can just let it sit there for awhile with a reply like "Hang on" and if it's so urgent, they'll get someone else to do it or god forbid, they do it themselves.

Re:No Thanks (3, Interesting)

cavtroop (859432) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:No Thanks (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747013)

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 organized on paper or other medium such that they can return to what they're doing without massive frustration. You might want to try that.

Re:No Thanks (4, Interesting)

tzanger (1575) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747471)

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:No Thanks (2, Interesting)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747065)

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 up a hand to hold the phone and a good portion of the part of my brain that does stuff. If I get a cubicle visit it's even worse because it's downright rude to even try to do something other than what you're discussing while there's another human being in your cube.

Re:No Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23748195)

Use software that doesn't put up a pop-up window then.

And in other news study finds fat people healthy (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23746725)

these days they'll make study's that will prove just about anything just to get published or hawk a product.

Re:And in other news study finds fat people health (1)

Lobster Quadrille (965591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746963)

I can't help noticing you don't have a study to back that up.

Sorta reminds me of (1, Funny)

SGDarkKnight (253157) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746727)

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 :-)

IM'ing in line-of-sight (5, Insightful)

FozE_Bear (1093167) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:IM'ing in line-of-sight (2, Insightful)

gustgr (695173) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746985)

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 ;-).

Agreed, but only... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23746765)

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 not worth it being online.

Re:Agreed, but only... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23748165)

I think the opposite is true. I have a fairly big list of friends in my IM client, and I often send and receive messages. But we have an understanding -- when my away message is on, they are my last priority (and I fully expect the same from them). Indeed, they don't even "interrupt" me, because I don't even look until I am ready to look.

On the other hand, QA asked me about IMs, and I said "No".

The summary is great (1)

irishstallion (1008667) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746773)

I love the idea of the summary saying that the story in the article is so obvious that it is pointless. If it's pointless, don't post it! Or at least dupe it in the next article you post so that we get some real significant irony going instead of this low-level annoyance.

Short answers drive me nuts (3, Insightful)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Short answers drive me nuts (2, Funny)

chronoblip (1305181) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748249)

ORLY?

Re:Short answers drive me nuts (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748917)

LOL

It's great for productivity (5, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746825)

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.

Re:It's great for productivity (1)

FozE_Bear (1093167) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746881)

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.

Re:It's great for productivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23747151)

Here in the Detroit Mayor's office, we have found text messaging to be invaluable.

-- Kwame Kilpatrick

Re:It's great for productivity (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748149)

This is funny :)

Re:It's great for productivity (4, Informative)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:It's great for productivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23748945)

And you've nick-named yourself "captain napalm".

You're a bomb waiting to go off, aren't you.

Is your name Milton? ;-)

Re:It's great for productivity (2, Insightful)

netsavior (627338) | more than 6 years ago | (#23749871)

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 sametime on their crackberry as well as on their PC, so they can IM in meetings, and request up to the minute stats and analysis when in an important decision making mode.

Some things are on-demand, and when I am doing risk management analysis for the Ceo while he is in a closed door meeting with the FTC, it is significantly retarded to expect him to say "Wait! I need to walk 1/8 of a mile down the hall to confer with my data analysts to ensure that I have my story straight"

There are jackasses with every technology, just because Assholes cut you off in traffic in their car talking on their cellphone listening to the radio, doesn't mean we should automatically become luddites about radios, cellphones, and automobiles.

Instant message is half way between a phone call and an email, and it is nice to have a middle ground that I can use without taking off my headphones, or averting my eyes from the familiar glow of my LCD.

Not For Me (5, Informative)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Not For Me (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23747807)

I wonder how much more productive you could have been if instead of writing that program, you actually did your work...

Re:Not For Me (2, Insightful)

kortex (590172) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747851)

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 imho if your environment is controlled.

Even ignoring the message requires interruption (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746883)

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]

Re:Even ignoring the message requires interruption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23747291)

If glancing away from the task at hand causes you debilitating interruption, you might want to get yourself checked for Adult ADD. That's the silliest argument I have ever heard. In my honest opinion, formalities waste time when you're trying to get faster answers; in the case you posted, what is more likely to occur is that I will receive three separate phone calls, all of which require me to fully interrupt the task on which I am working, as the three questions probably arise at different times.
If clicking a button on AIM to indicate your away status is too much of an interruption for you to be working, I'm curious how you all have enough free time to post on Slashdot, since obviously you have too much work to fit into the 9-5. That's not to say that people will abuse AIM. It quite obviously depends upon the user, not the program - exact same conclusion that Slashdot users made in yesterday's Google article. If you're lazy, AIM makes you less productive. If you're efficient, AIM makes you more productive.

What really should be the debate here is whether or not the study is worthless (small sample size + telephone survey = incredible amount of inaccuracy, so, yes).

IM status as your own receptionist (4, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23746933)

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:IM status as your own receptionist (2, Interesting)

Treffster (1037980) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748525)

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.

Two schools of thought (2, Interesting)

TheSpatulaOfLove (966301) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Two schools of thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23747243)

My company went from Jabber to Microsoft Communicator as well.... needless to say, Jabber is much preferred.
It's just easier to use and doesn't have the same issues MS Communicator seems to have.
Anyway, I'm sorry your Jabber servers are going away.

Slashdot increases productivity (2, Funny)

gustgr (695173) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747049)

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.

slashdot (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747055)

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.

Reference to the original report (3, Informative)

edderly (549951) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

No shit (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747409)

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...without it, my life would be much much harder.

I think bosses need to wake up if they think IM drains productivity.

A more disruptive technology (2, Insightful)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:A more disruptive technology (2, Interesting)

Treffster (1037980) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748423)

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 alternative would be every developer visiting me at my desk any time they needed an answer/input from me (which is frequently). The increase in disruption would be SIGNIFICANT. If its going to require 15-20 minutes to sort out, I much prefer being able to tell them immediately, "busy right now, I'll see you soon" than having to stop what I am doing and addressing them standing next to me.

We also all have desk phones, but personally I find a ring INCREDIBLY distracting compared to a small little flashing taskbar icon. One you can ignore, the other you can not.

Sacrilege! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23747663)

Its 'THE Ohio State University' dammit!

IM is great (1)

elmartinos (228710) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747795)

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 (3, Insightful)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23747889)

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.

Re:More of a survey (1)

Ramss Morales (13327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23749449)

This is basically useless. I'll wait until they define metrics to measure and use a control group, instead of using self-reporting.

It increases productivity, I decrease my own (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748193)

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).

IM Hatred (1)

clam666 (1178429) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748209)

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 can do THEIR work, in addition to all my work.

When I have a technical question about the work I'm doing, I generally look in the help files, look up the API in a programmers reference, query MSDN, or archaic eastern european websites for the answer. My "coworkers" would not only be useless to ask, but would actually give even worse information if I was to ask them. Call me an elitist bitch if you want.

When they don't know what to do (such as something complicated like trying to write a Sql statement that returns the date or write a bubble sort algorithm) I'm the first person to bother, because as we all know, the internet has no factual information on it, only porn and pedophiles.

If I use IM software, every jackass bothers me into the ground with inane, useless questions and comments, which do nothing but waste my time doing their work.

I tried to use the "flag" to show me busy, out of office, unavailable, in a meeting, or whatever, and then I get phone calls and emails wondering where I am, if I'm taking a sick day, etc.

Screw IMs. IMs work great for 1) unproductive people that want to bother others and be social rather than look up information on their own because they are lazy, 2) managers who want to electronically monitor someone realtime and stack more shit on their plate and, 3) the client who wants 300 status updates a day on some production issue, ignoring their place in the food chain and queue of workload.

It's easier just to claim the image is corrupt or it's "not working", and keep destroying it whenever the network reinstalls it.

Type (1)

Digital End (1305341) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748299)

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 added detail that implys, but for record keeping and storage. In either case though, having IM avalible (if discuraged in some cases) is a useful tool... but like any tool it needs to be used correctly.

IM Abuse is a Symptom (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748457)

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 significant portion of their worker's pay, I bet you'd see a very different situation.

Personally, I've worked in some very good environments where IM was a great productivity boon. It was faster than e-mail but let us exchange text and images that avoided the ambiguity of a telephone call, provided a record of what was exchanged, and was a lot easier to manage with a dozen people than a conference call. Of course we were getting stock options and significant (5 figure) bonuses based upon how much profit the company made. Because we made our own hours and were motivated we didn't waste a lot of time chatting with friends and family instead of working.

Dearest CmdrTaco. (1)

juuri (7678) | more than 6 years ago | (#23748751)

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 you should try hiring some editors who have actually worked in the tech field on things other than silly blogs or some open source project that was never completed?

It was all productive for everyone until (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23748825)

...we turned on the webcams. Then it became Big Brother. No, not THAT Big Brother; I am talking about the TV show Big Brother.

A Tale of Two Instant Messengers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23748971)

1. AIM / MSN / Meebo / ETC

This kind of IM usage can be just as counterproductive as it is productive. This is the kind of IM that companies usually choose to block or disable where they can. With these types of IM systems, it is too easy to fall into using them to chat with friends at the same time as using them for legitimate business purposes.

2. SameTime

Sametime is generally considered a "corporate messaginge system." You set up an in-house server and it is used only to IM other people in-house. This form of IM limits the social aspect only to in-company chatter as opposed to anyone's friends on the web. This kind of IM implementation has been found to be MUCH more productive than using the big social ones.

My preferred method of communication (1)

Se7enLC (714730) | more than 6 years ago | (#23749173)

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 what else is going on. You can do other things (like work) at the same time. You can look up information relative to the conversation before responding (like putting somebody on hold on the phone). You can start a conversation without feeling like you are interrupting them.

Basically, I don't like to call somebody unless I have something important or time-critical to say. IMs are a perfect way to keep in touch with somebody without impeding your work.

HEH (1)

GregNorc (801858) | more than 6 years ago | (#23749245)

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

Actual article link (1)

alpha_loopy (613443) | more than 6 years ago | (#23750041)

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.
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