From the Duhpartment of Research
September 16, 2003 10:01 AM   Subscribe

It turns out most Instant Messaging at work isn't about work. No, really. It's mostly personal junk, including "making sexual advances." Wow, who would have thought? Is this any different from receiving email from a co-worker labeled "[FWD]: [fwd]: [re]: [fwd]: FUNNY STORY"?
posted by ilsa (16 comments total)
A woman once broke up with me on IM. At work.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:06 AM on September 16, 2003

It's so rue that IM is the perfect accelerator for flirtation, especially for the geekier set. Any inappropriate comments can always be erased with a ;) or two, it seems.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:08 AM on September 16, 2003

Shocking truly shocking. One of my friewnds who works for a snazzy firm in the city says peak time for sending emails is friday afternoon. Although I am sure this is all work related as we know how productive friday afternoons' are.
posted by johnnyboy at 10:28 AM on September 16, 2003

One of the sites here were I work recently did an audit of their mail servers and found that 60% of SAVED email on their servers isn't related to work. IM is even less work-feeling of an interface than email! I'm suprised any company would allow it at all-much less install it for their users. I would block the port on the FW and disallow inside work.
What a joke. I often wonder what companies are thinking.
posted by aacheson at 10:33 AM on September 16, 2003

Excuse me, "Disallow it's within the company" makes more sense than "disallow inside work."
posted by aacheson at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2003

aacheson, if you're having to police how your employees spend their time, you've probably got the wrong employees.
posted by gd779 at 10:50 AM on September 16, 2003

Baloney. People will waste time-it's human nature (look as us on MeFi during work hours.) It's stupid for a company to provide tools such as IM that really provide no real work value and will just be used for non-work activities. When I was the SA at a dot-com, I shut down access to Naptser through the firewall. You should have HEARD the screaming, even though Napster was 1. Illegal and 2. Had NOTHING to do with work.

If you don't give people the tools to waste time and they will do it less. It's still gonna happen, but it's stupid to give them one more way to waste time.
posted by aacheson at 11:27 AM on September 16, 2003

I used to work for a translation company where IM was a very useful tool for asking quick questions of your colleagues without yelling across the crowded room. Which isn't to say there wasn't abuse--warning wars, generally, which climaxed with me sneaking unto the enemy's computer during lunchbreak and installing a blinking "warn me" buddy icon .... ah, good times.
posted by muckster at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2003

Potential future employers: I have grown up since. Really.
posted by muckster at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2003

I actually did use IM at work for work-related communications...well, sometimes. It's quite sad that my coworker and I became so lazy that not only would we refused to get up and walk five steps to ask each other questions, but we wouldn't even lift our hands off the keyboard to pick up the phone and dial a coworker's two-digit extension.

This same coworker installed Napster on his work computer and first thing he downloaded was Toni Basil's "Mickey."

I often attributed our laziness to being the two youngest employees at an office full of middle-agers, but now that I think of it, the oldest woman there was too lazy to even do her job. All she did was play Solitaire and spread email viruses.
posted by katieinshoes at 11:58 AM on September 16, 2003

It's stupid for a company to provide tools such as IM that really provide no real work value and will just be used for non-work activities.

I only have one IM client installed on my work computer, and I would say that I use it for project-related communication a lot more than non-work related stuff. It helps that the majority of people on there are consultants... it's been a really effective way to communicate with them, especially when they're not at our offices.
posted by mikeh at 12:00 PM on September 16, 2003

aacheson: It's stupid for a company to provide tools such as IM that really provide no real work value and will just be used for non-work activities.

I'm glad you don't work for me, or I'd have been unable a few weeks back to make that presentation demonstrating to the CFO the strategic value of IT by reducing telephone, fax and even some overnight shipping costs, due to installed IM clients. Yes, network bandwidth would have naturally increased, but only marginally and well within the scope of what we already have. We've also noted, anectdotally, that IM results in streamlined communications because the perceived need to "make conversation" is reduced, thereby reducing total transaction time. That's all in addition to significantly improving customer satisfaction on support services by providing IM access to support for less critical situations.

Do people ask each other out to lunch, or on dates, using it? I'm certain they do, although we purposely do not keep any kind of hidden message logs. They use the telephones to make personal calls, too, in case you hadn't noticed. I think your obvious feelings about IM have more to do with where you work and the unprofessional conduct of the people you find there than any inherent problem with the technology itself.
posted by JollyWanker at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2003

That sounds a bit extreme, aacheson. Most of my coworkers have iChat installed and actually do use it for business conversation. They often prefer it to making a phone call since it's less of an interruption. I'm sure they also use it to chat with people outside the company about non-work related topics, but who cares? What really matters is whether we get our work done, and I see no evidence that the presence of an instant messenger program has an effect on that. (I certainly don't find that the absence of such a program on my desktop is any obstacle to finding distraction when I don't want to focus on work!)
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2003

From the article:
One explanation for the disparity is the Big Brother notion. Nearly 60 percent of British respondents did not believe or were unsure whether their IM conversations could be monitored by their employer while 71 percent of US respondents believed -- correctly -- that IM messages could be traced.
Ah... the subtlety of the American Media. Can a quasi-truth still be called "vicious"? ;) ;) ;)
posted by hoborg at 2:14 PM on September 16, 2003

Instant messaging is a good way to beat the office dullard.
posted by RylandDotNet at 3:52 PM on September 16, 2003

>It's quite sad that my coworker and I became so lazy that
>not only would we refused to get up and walk five steps
>to ask each other questions,

Naw - thats not sad - picture this: 3-4 people stuffed into a small office designed for a single-person, with at least two of us back to back - our primary method of communication was .... IM ....

However, the sociologist in me believes that this was some sort of sanity preservative - we were packed in like rats, so we tuned each other out via headphones & tunes...

Pretending that each of us was alone in our 1-cubic meter zone - voice chatter, telephone calls, speaking would all have been further distractions to an already burdened team...
posted by jkaczor at 8:39 AM on September 17, 2003

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