Don’t Be An IM-Idiot

By | 14/05/2019

In todays modern office, desk phones are being removed. Money is saved by no longer buying, installing, maintaining & cleaning desk phones. Everyone has mobiles after all. But along with time & cost savings there is another benefit that companies have switched on to: Decrease distractions and productivity increases…

Example: I recently visited the offices of a global telecommunications corporation that had removed all its desk phones. Everyone had mobiles – many listening to the radio or music using headphones. And silence. Nothing but the occasional clack of a keyboard or click of a mouse. A whispered question. It was like being in a library! Perfect for concentrating, for getting some work done. There was also an ominous glass faced booth with a shelf in it sporting a large sign that read “Telephone Booth” which bizarrely did not contain a telephone. I enquired as to its purpose and became enlightened: “If anyone wants to make or take a phone call then they must use the sound-proofed telephone booth so as not to disturb everyone else”. I enjoyed working there. There was a break out area for chatting, along with tea & coffee facilities and large TV screens meaning silence for working, conversation when a break was in order or a general conflab with workmates about the job – perfect!

YouTube star Casey Neistat starts his day between 4 and 5 a.m. By 5 a.m. he is at his desk and working. He notes that this gives him 2 solid hours on uninterrupted work time “No phone calls. No text messages. Nothings happening on social media. Everyone else is asleep. It’s just TOTAL FOCUS”* He is not the only one that schedules early morning starts so as to be free of interruptions.
[ “Navy Seal Commander explains why wake up at 4am” ]

Studies show that it can take up to 20 minutes to re-focus after being interrupted from deep concentration on work. At another company I know, instead of calling or interrupting, colleagues are required to arrange mutually convenient conference calls via calendaring software. Other tools are available too: Emails, intranets packed full of information, the wider internet, specially designed small meeting rooms where informal, off-the-cuff meetings can be had without disturbing others.

In a day and age where open-plan offices are the norm, this can be essential to productivity. And increased productivity means increased competitiveness against your, er, competitors! Which of course leads to increased profits. Good for the shareholders but also good for the employees if there is more cash available to provide employee benefits – everyone wins!

However, the thoughtless employees still exist. The ones that are not mindful of others. The ones that will interrupt a colleague to get a quick answer rather than spend a minute searching for it or thinking. And there is one tool that has been overlooked in the shake up of productivity software tools: Instant Messenger software. The bane of productivity…imagine the scene: I’m at work. Concentrating hard. Trying to figure out to resolve this problem…when

*** BOO-WHOP! ***

I’m rudely interrupted by the noise of an incoming Instant Message (IM) from Skype. My concentration is broken, I’ve lost my train of thought. I open the IM to see a single word:


Hi” I reply.

X is typing…” is slow-flashing on the screen…

I wait…I wait some more…and some more. I drum my fingers on the desk….what does he want? After a few minutes I give up. No where was I? Eff it, I’ll go and get a coffee, maybe he’ll have replied by the time I get back.

I return with coffee.

X is typing…” is still slow-flashing. I look at the work I was doing and try to forget about the IM.

5 minutes later…

*** BOO-WHOP! ***

Finally! I look at the message.

You OK?

I was” I frustratedly reply “I’m busy, what do you want?

Oh sry, jst bored, NVM

Half an hour of my life has now been wasted. My concentration ruined. Now, you might be thinking the above is an over-egged, designed to prove my point. However, it is in fact completely real. A true story – it happened to me – worse still, similar interruptions happen all too often. Sometimes form complete strangers “I heard you can arrange for corporate days out?”. I can’t but for a moment I was very tempted so make a few suggestions!

But perhaps we shouldn’t blame the technology, perhaps this one is down to the Human Bean?

So, the next time we want a quick answer, let’s not go for Instant Messenger, let’s not pick up the phone.
Let’s stop and think about the impact we may be having.
Let’s stop and think about whether we can resolve the problem by ourselves and if we can’t – arrange a call…or perhaps send an email.

But whatever you do, don’t be an IM Idiot – or “IMbecile” as many called it in the company with the glass telephone booth!