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U.S. workers largely embrace shift to instant messengers

Salesforce Slack
Posted at 1:26 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 16:59:40-05

Office water cooler conversations are being replaced with instant messages and emojis.

It's a change many American workers are embracing, according to a January survey commissioned by Slack.

"It's giving people value," said Jaime DeLanghe, Slack's senior principal of project management. "People are taking the tools they have in social media, or in texting with their friends, and bringing them into a work context."

Seventy percent of people who responded to the survey said they prefer when co-workers communicate informally, and that it helps people avoid miscommunication.

Companies are "really moving from the formal, calcified processes," according to DeLanghe. "They're moving to much more casual, always-on, always-available chat. They're able to resolve issues more quickly, they have much better client outcomes, and they're able to build stronger relationships over the long term."

The changes go beyond a simpler sentence structure.

Sixty-six percent of people said the use of emoji and GIFs in conversation helped them feel more authentic. Seventy-eight percent said the new tools make work feel more friendly and inclusive.

"You can actually communicate business-critical ideas with emoji," DeLanghe said. "Some people use emoji as a read receipt on a large announcement. Instead of saying, 'I got this,' you can just give a green check or a thumbs up. Or maybe you're taking care of your kids, so you change your status to include a family. Those small touches, I think, make people feel much more like they're part of the team."

The shift is revealing what people dislike about office communication, as well.

Almost two-thirds of people said they find it "off-putting" to see workplace jargon in messages.

The worst offenders are phrases like "just checking in," "team player," and "keep me in the loop."

However, nearly everyone surveyed, 89%, said they use similar jargon in their workplace.

"They're using it to sound smarter," DeLanghe said. "They want to feel more professional, they want to feel more impressive, but they don't like being on the receiving end of that. They just want to get to the point."

Those phrases can carry over into workplace relationships.

"It was quite amazing to see how many people who worked remotely had a clear dislike of a coworker because of their communication habits," DeLanghe said. "And I don't think it was surprising. Everyone has had a leader where they could pull out their jargon bingo card and they're like, 'OK, how many times are they going to say X, Y or Z here?'"

There are still places for formality in the workplace, according to DeLanghe. She pointed to large group chats and chats with company leadership as two instances that require a more refined tone.

She also suggested starting separate threads for business-critical conversations and low-key chats.

"You can have fun in one space, but know that if you have something really critical that you need to take action against, it's in a different place," DeLanghe said. "Reading the digital room is sort of the most important thing to keep in mind."