Instant messaging (IM) is one of the newest and fastest-growing communication technologies in the workplace today, yet little is known about its real implications for worker productivity. We have taken the particular affordances of instant messaging as the basis for extrapolating from and linking prior studies of email use, polychronic communication, and task interruptions to develop propositions regarding the unanticipated individual-level productivity implications of widespread IM use in the workplace. We argue that while instant message communication may accelerate particular tasks and decision processes, unstructured IM use will likely contribute to erosion in individuals’ overall productivity due to an increase in users’ communicative workloads, engagement in polychronic communication, and an increase in the frequency of interruptions. We intend our proposed model and propositions as an impetus for further study of both the benefits and challenges of workplace instant messaging.
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