Business instant messaging: Ten essential rules

Discover the most important dos and don'ts of instant messaging at work.

Employee using instant messaging in the workplace

Business text messaging is on the rise, with instant messaging (IM) traffic in the trillions. Among the growing ways of improving communication in the workplace, instant messaging for business is proving one of the most effective and popular, with text messaging up 37% in 2023.

Benefits of instant messaging at work

Benefits of instant messaging at work

Used properly, instant messaging can help improve communication at work in a number of ways.

Quick answers

A message can resolve an issue or answer a question with only minimal interruption to people's work. According to Forbes, it takes the average person around 90 minutes to respond to an email, but only 90 seconds to respond to a text.


Messaging can make everyone feel they're in the loop, including hybrid and remote workers, without the need for meetings. IM can also give an idea of how people are feeling, making it a way of gauging opinions and attitudes without having to carry out lengthy surveys.


Unlike phone calls, instant messaging provides communication trails. And it's trusted – when Veritas polled office workers, it found that in the US, 93% saw instant messaging as reliable proof of an agreement.

Productive and collaborative

Less intrusive than a phone call, IM is a perfect fit with Gen Z employees' desire for the immediacy that they experience in other areas of their lives to be reflected in the workplace. 45% of employees say that using instant messaging tools for business helps increase productivity and 49% say they help increase team collaboration.

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Ten rules for instant messaging at work

Ten rules for instant messaging at work

To make business instant messaging work for you, there are a few rules that organisations can set down for everyone to follow.

1. Remember, it's instant

If you're used to using email at work, you may have got into the habit of reading your messages over and checking them carefully before sending. You might even have a delay on your email. The immediate nature of messaging can mean that you send something before you really know what you want to say, so make sure that you double-check your messages rather than firing them off without thinking.

2. Keep it business-like

When using business messaging at work, remember you're in a professional environment, so keep the subject matter relevant and the tone polite and respectful. There's nothing wrong with livening up your business messages with a few emojis – provided that's appropriate for the people you're messaging – but don't overdo it.

3. Be careful with sensitive information

Misuse of instant messaging tools for business can lead to security and confidentiality breaches. Research into instant messaging at work shows 71% of office workers globally admitted to sharing sensitive and business-critical company data. So it's up to organisations to be clear about what can and can't be shared.

4. Don't get distracted

People want to communicate faster and more efficiently at work. But although instant messaging at work is fast and direct, some employees can feel under pressure to respond immediately, which can distract them from what they're doing. Be considerate at busy times, don't imply that an issue is urgent unless it really is, and use separate channels for specific projects or posts that don't need immediate attention.

5. Respect your coworkers' work/life balance

Using instant messaging for business means respecting office hours and out-of-office notifications. Think about whether your instant message really needs an out-of-hours response before sending it.

6. Make sure that it's inclusive

With the variety of instant messaging tools for business on offer, it's vital to make sure that everyone is able to access and use the same one.

7. Stick to the subject

It can be tempting to start having a good chat when you're messaging, so make a conscious effort to stay on topic. That way, you'll get your work out of the way faster and have more time to chat.

8. Separate social chat from business

There are significant benefits to finding room for non-business chat using IM in the workplace. Messaging helps people build relationships and make friends – important considering that having best friends at work is one of the keys to employee engagement. To maximise the value of IM, keep work and social chat separate by setting up a separate chat channel in your business instant messaging software.

9. Know when to stop

The aim of IM is to speed up communication. So, if you find yourself in a long chain of messages, constantly answering questions and trying to clarify what you're saying, it may be quicker and easier to pick up the phone or talk to someone in person.

10. Use IM for the right messages

IM is great for improving communication in the workplace, but it isn't always the right channel for the task. Instant messages should be brief, so if you've got something longer to say, an email might be more appropriate, or you might want to post in a Workplace by Facebook group. When it comes to discussing sensitive issues, a face-to-face meeting is probably the way to go.

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