Instant Messengers are growing increasingly popular in modern workplaces now days. Gone are the days where we used to have face to face meetings. Even before the pandemic, businesses started to adopt to the flexibility that technology offered them.  With many now having to socially distance, and work from home, employees have started to use Instant messengers. Instant Messaging apps are used to communicate internally, and externally with clients and partner organisations.  

Why are Instant Messengers popular?

Though email still remains at the forefront of business communication, instant messengers offer real-time communication with multiple people. Instant Messengers are constantly evolving to introduce features that enable unified communication such as group chats, video and voice conferencing and more. 

The Bright Side Of Instant Messengers

Instant Messengers have proven to have positive effects for businesses. In an online poll conducted by ReportLinker, 45% of participants stated that instant messengers increased productivity. You can make decisions, get approvals and ultimately get things done whilst on the move. However, many cited that the biggest drawback to use instant messengers was that they felt pressured to respond immediately. 

Similarly, instant messengers provide a culture of virtual collaboration. At a time where remote working is a must, instant messengers like WhatsApp, and Microsoft Teams offer chat rooms for project discussions.

It is also a good way to build informal relationships. Employees feel more comfortable talking to colleagues through a chatting platform, thus strengthening teams understanding of one another.

Although instant messengers increase productivity levels, and collaboration, employers need to be aware of the dangers that lie with instant messengers.

Types of risks associated with IM

Though it is the fastest method of communication, it’s easy for people to forget about the legal and cybersecurity threats associated with it. 

  1. Lack of data control
    Instant messengers are not only used for internal purposes, but also with external clients. The greatest danger of starting conversations with external clients is that the business has no control over what information is being passed, nor record. Therefore, if a company where to be involved in a legal dispute they would not have any evidence.
  2. Workplace conduct and compliance
    The perception that instant messengers are private mean that these platforms are open to abuse. These platforms can open a gateway for harassment, oversharing or engaging in conduct that could breach company policies.
  3. Security threats
    More than half of Amercian workers believed that there was no guarantee workplace conversations will remain private through IM. Despite the security protocols IM softwares have, they are still susceptible to malware and viruses.

    Employees may use IM to share business ideas, client information, or other sensitive information, which is susceptible to hackers. Company informational falling into the wrong hands not only affects the business, but also customers.

    The security threats in IM come in many different forms. Instant Messaging spam (also known as Spim) is often deployed by hackers to retrieve information. This type of spamming involves malicious links or popups appearing in a chat prompting users to click on them only to download a virus that will infect the device. Similarly, hackers can eavesdrop into chats.

How to master IM in the workplace

To continue to reap the benefits of Instant Messengers, employers need to take the time in creating a policy. An instant messaging policy can help employees understand what they can and cannot do on the platform, whilst give businesses control over the data.

Top 5 Considerations for IM in the Workplace

  • Policy– Draft a workplace IM policy. 
  • Contextualise –  Outline the context and use of Instant messaging platforms in your workplace. 
  • Roles and responsibilities – Define what your expectations are from employees who are using IM to communicate. Put in restrictions such as Group admins are only allowed to message.
  • Train – Once you have drafted your IM policy, train your employee on it. Give employees training on how to use IM, and in what situations
  • Monitor – Continuously monitor and review online records of conversations occurring in Instant Messengers. 

Instant Messaging will continuously be used in the workplace. However knowing the risks, and learning how to mitigate them is essential. For extra support, download our IM policy template.