Instant Messaging (IM) is rapidly moving from teenagers’ computer screens to their parents’ in the workplace. Fans say it is improving efficiency and helping reverse a 20-year trend in which, thanks to e-mail and voice mail, it has become ever more difficult to determine whether a business associate is actually in the office or out on the golf course. And IM makes supervisors more willing to let subordinates work from home because it can verify who is really working at home, or is at least logged onto the computer there.
There are some trade-offs. Having one’s presence announced electronically makes it harder to maintain privacy and avoid distractions.