Instant Message, Text and the Era of Mobile: How Real-Time Communication is Shaping the Way We Work

XANT Reports on the Evolution of Business Communications 2017

Millennials have officially taken over the workforce, becoming the largest generational cohort staffing American business today. As everybody seems to be saying these days, Millennials do things differently than their predecessors and their influence is having a marked impact on the work habits of their Boomer and Gen Xer counterparts.

In 2013 and 2014, XANT performed surveys to determine the most common and effective methods of business communication. Wanting to see how circumstances had evolved in the intervening three years, we decided to run this study again.

What follows is a portion of what we found.

Instant Messaging is in: How the “IM Generation” is Shaping the Way We Talk at Work

Ask any Millennial what his or her first Instant Messenger (IM) screen name was, and they’ll have an entertaining answer (in fact, pro tip: this makes for a reliably hilarious ice-breaker question). As has been well-established, this is a generation that insists on real-time communication, and that’s not just in their personal lives.

Our study shows that while pioneering apps like AIM and MSN are out, instant messaging applications such as Slack and Jabber are swiftly becoming indispensable in the office: daily usage of the technology at work has risen from 31% in 2014 to 41% today across all age groups. Millennials themselves are 35% more likely to use IM daily at work than Baby Boomers (42% vs. 31%, respectively).

If you’re working with a Millennial and want a quick response, try IM, though this only applies to those outside the executive ranks. Among execs, only 35% want to communicate via instant messaging.

(Don’t) Call Me! Survey Says: Text is Best

Millennials’ preference for instant communications applies to mobile phone usage as well, so it’s no surprise that our data show that texting is a very efficient way to get in touch with a millennial both in and outside the office.

Here’s the surprising thing, though: Baby Boomers seem to like texting at work even more than millennials.

  • 62% of Baby Boomers recommend contacting them by text message—33% higher than Millennials (47%).
  • 81% of Baby Boomers say they’re likely to respond to text messages—20% higher than Millennials (68%).
  • 47% of Baby Boomers say they’re contacted daily by text message—82% higher than Millennials (26%).

Another consequence of the rise of text messaging at work is the longer work day. In a world where work communications bleed over well beyond 5pm, it may come as no surprise that 75% of respondents said they were likely to respond to a text message at home for work-related topics.

Email is King

Regardless of the generation you’re trying to reach one thing is abundantly clear: if you want to near-guarantee you’ll reach someone at work your best bet is email.

Email ranks highest among the older generations, but it’s the single most reliable means of communication across the board, with 93% of respondents saying they are likely to respond to email.

Of course, there’s more in the report that we’d love to share.

Some additional interesting findings include:

  • Landlines live on! Although eclipsed by cell phone use, most office workers (54%) still use landlines daily.
  • RIP Voicemail? Not yet. They may not be popular outside of the office, but half of the workforce (50%) still recommends leaving them a voicemail.
  • LinkedIn emerges. It’s the most-used social media platform at work, but it’s not the most effective means of communication. The professional network is on the rise, but significantly more respondents would take a mobile phone call (86%) than respond to a LinkedIn message (54%).

All of this data and more can be seen in the full Evolution of Business Communications 2017 report, available here.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below–what do you think is the most effective way to communicate at work?


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