Every day, new organisations strive to move their locations towards a ‘paperless office’ and IT has helped drive this to reality. Email is responsible for a large chunk of the paperless bandwagon. But when is email on its way out? Not for a few years at least, according to respondents in two surveys recently conducted by Robert Half Technology. Regardless of their relationship to the technology – either those leading the group who manages and implements communication platforms or the users who rely on effective communication tools to do their job each day – professionals believe email reigns supreme in the workplace.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of CIOs and 53 percent of office workers still think email will be the most common way to communicate internally through 2020. Quicker, less formal means of touching base may also be gaining favor, as those who believe email is on the way out cited instant messaging as the most likely replacement.

When asked which communication channel is most effective for planning, strategizing and follow-up, though, office workers from various industries and roles ranked in-person meetings first (37 percent), followed by email (27 percent), instant messaging (19 percent) and phone calls (9 percent). Perhaps unsurprisingly, busy CIOs favored email (41 percent), followed by in-person meetings (22 percent), instant messaging (13 percent) and phone calls (9 percent).

Following are some additional findings on how workers view instant messaging:

Rules of Engagement: 54 percent of professionals said their company has clear rules about how to use its internal messaging platform, like a requirement to update status as “Online,” “Busy” or “Away” to keep colleagues informed.

Do Not Disturb: Nearly two-thirds (65 percent of respondents) have received a message when their status is set to “do not disturb” or “busy,” and 30 percent of those professionals said they were “annoyed” by the intrusion. Professionals thirty-five and older were more annoyed than their younger colleagues and more likely to refrain from sending a message when a coworker’s status is “busy.”

Open for Business: Most professionals said their primary motivation for staying “online” with their organization’s messaging platform was to inform coworkers they are working and available (56 percent). Other respondents use it to quickly access their colleagues (22 percent) and talk to fellow employees in real-time (17 percent).

See a SlideShare with a breakdown of the full results and tips on effectively communicating via instant message at work.

According to John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, it’s important to match the medium to the message. “IM allows coworkers to collaborate in real-time and is best used for quick discussions and immediate responses,” Reed said. “Save strategizing and brainstorming for meetings and email, where you can go into more depth and avoid miscommunications.”

Added Reed, “Technical support teams can help employees understand how to maximize communication technologies, such as instant messaging or internal social networking sites, and take advantage of features to promote more fluid communications.”

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