A Best Practices Toolkit for Workplace Instant Messaging Usage

A Best Practices Toolkit for Workplace Instant Messaging Usage

Instant Messaging Rules is designed to help employers keep their organizations out of harm’s way, while giving employees access to a cutting-edge, productivity-enhancing tool.

Because IM is a relatively new technology that is only now making significant inroads into the corporate world, its users are wrestling with a broad range of new challenges and concerns that differ somewhat from e-mail issues. At the same time, IM vendors are racing to create responsive and appropriate solutions to help ensure the effectiveness and security of workplace IM.

Because IM is still evolving in terms of its technology, its legal and regulatory issues, and its overall workplace use, Instant Messaging Rules does not always provide hard-and-fast dictates. Instead, this book strives to provide best-practices guidelines for reducing workplace liabilities by proactively managing IM.

This book is sold as a general best-practices guide and does not provide advice on legal and regulatory issues or opinions on technology or security. Its author did not and could not contemplate every situation, problem, or issue that may arise when using instant messaging or e-mail.

Before acting on any issue, rule, or policy addressed in Instant Messaging Rules, you should consult with professionals competent to review the relevant issue.

Some organizations and industries may be required to adhere to different or additional rules and regulations from those described in Instant Messaging Rules. You should contact a professional for advice about the specific risks, regulations, rules, and policies governing your particular business and industry.

Recap and IM Action Plan

  1. Instant messaging brings to the workplace new legal and regulatory issues, new problems with security and technology, and new challenges for management, such as determining what effect IM has on employee productivity.

  2. Think of IM as turbocharged e-mail. Like e-mail, it is a form of written communication that must be managed as a business record. The only difference between IM and e-mail is speed.

  3. Management must strive not to be left behind by tech-savvy employees, some of whom have been using IM since their teen years.

  4. Responsible employers are obligated to take control of workplace IM. Establish written rules and policies. Conduct employee training. Adhere to regulatory and legal requirements. Manage IM use with technology tools controlled by your IT department.

  5. Seek the advice of competent legal, IT, records management, and compliance experts before implementing your organization’s IM system, rules, policies, and procedures.

Chapter 1: Instant Messaging Is Used by Someone in Nearly Every U.S. Company


IM Rule # 3: Assume that your employees are already using instant messaging—without your knowledge, authorization, rules, or policies.

Instant messaging is quickly replacing e-mail as the electronic communications tool of choice in offices worldwide. Already used by over 100 million people globally, [1] IM will be used more often than e-mail by 2005.[2]

According to a 2002 survey, in the United States, 42 percent of companies already use or plan to use IM, [3] with 70 percent of organizations expected to use it by the end of 2003—whether the boss knows it or not! [4] Business will account for half of the estimated 530 million IM users projected to be online by 2006.[5]

[1]TimMcDonald, ‘‘InstantMessaging Enterprise Security Ramps Up,’’ NewsFactor Network (May 31, 2002). See also Nancy Flynn and Randolph Kahn, Esq., E-Mail Rules, New York, AMACOM, 2003.



[4]Frank Thorsberg, ‘‘Is IM a Sieve for Corporate Secrets?’’ PCWorld.com (July 19, 2002). See also Nancy Flynn and Randolph Kahn, Esq., E-Mail Rules, New York, AMACOM, 2003.