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More Than a Diversion
Google Talk is an excellent tool for small office managers and workers to stay in touch and to keep easily accessible recordings of conversations. Phone calls have a peculiar etiquette to them in that they require greetings and goodbyes - at least in most industries. Chat discussions are excellent for trading snippets of information quickly between computer-bound workers. They also help to keep the noise level of the office to a minimum, which helps workers to concentrate on their tasks.
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Cut Down on Wasted Time
Think about how much time gets wasted in conventional office settings by workers getting up to talk to one another at each others' work spaces and in shared socializing areas. That isn't entirely a bad thing - in fact, it's important to cut down on occupational stress. It's just nice that chat applications can cut down on that time spent shuffling around the office and meeting with coworkers.
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Google Talk Enables Telecommuting
Getting accustomed to discussing issues with coworkers in this fashion also makes it easier for workers to transition in and out of telecommuting, which can create substantial savings for both employer and employee. Another major advantage that using Google Talk is the ability to share logs easily through e-mail. If you've had a conversation with someone in your office and want to share it with someone else, sometimes it's more efficient just to e-mail the log over than to summarize it. Google Talk doesn't have a conferencing feature without a third party plug-in, so it's only useful for person-to-person interactions.
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Why Blaming Instant Messaging Doesn't Help
If a culture in your office develops around excessive instant messaging in the workplace, the solution isn't to cut the use of this productive tool or to institute monitoring of the service. That just makes employees irritable, and encourages them to spend resources avoiding supervision rather than on doing their jobs. If workers are wasting time, it's a sign that they aren't being challenged sufficiently - or work is being unevenly distributed across the work force. Encourage workers to use their status messages to keep everyone aware of what each person is up to in the office.
The impulse of users will be to fill these status messages with personal information and perhaps what music track they're listening to, but it's far more useful in an operation sense to keep professional chat addresses devoted to work purposes. If a culture develops in that workers are happy to share with one another the tasks that they're working on in real time, it encourages a sense of pride in their work which in turn enhances productivity.