By Mike Hicks

Over the last few years, offices have become increasingly filled with the sound of soft pings as group messages become the new workplace normal. The rising trend for interoffice communication has spurred an industry of its own as long-standing tools and new players  complete for the eyeballs of employees, trying to establish themselves as the go-to communication channel. In fact, a recent study shows 42 percent of respondents use 2-5 work-approved communication and collaboration applications for their job.

Today’s modern office-worker may enjoy the immediate communications that these tools provide, but at what cost?  As group chat becomes the primary mode of communication for teams, slowed productivity is affecting the bottom line.

From nap pods to coffee bars, today’s office spaces already have enough distracting features, and when you consider the fact that the average user spends 10 hours per week on instant messaging, it can amount to a significant decrease in productivity. With functions that can allow for gif sharing and various nonwork-related activities, employees can easily stray far from the task at hand.

Imagine being in multiple all-day meetings with large groups of people and no agenda: that’s what it’s like for employees with too many communication channels and no internal strategy. When this starts to happen, communication becomes ineffective, turning into noise and causing employees start overlooking key information thanks to an influx of non-important messages. For example, one study found that it took workers an average of eight minutes to get back on track with their work after replying to one chat message. When we consider all the chat messages that come our way during the average workday, it yields an alarming amount of lost productivity.

Building Information Silos

As employees become increasingly bombarded with information through a constant stream of messages across a variety of tools, their information becomes siloed. According to the American Management Association, 83 percent of leaders encounter information silos at their organizations.

While these message threads may benefit collaboration in the short term, those who may be added to the conversation later are forced to sift through vast amounts of information to find nuggets of information that are beneficial to their role. Or worse yet, employees who are critical to the project may not even know the chat channel exists and never see the important information it contains.

By not providing a corporate destination with dedicated spaces for departments and projects that surround the chat and enable effective knowledge management, companies lose the ability to organize information efficiently, which can exacerbate the already decreasing productivity levels.

Finding a Fit for Everyone and Everything

Around the world, leading organizations are re-architecting their intranets and turning them into modern digital workplaces that centralize all information for ease of access. A comprehensive model like this allows teams to build a 360-degree view of their work by creating a central destination that integrates all of the tools and applications needed for employees to work effectively, including their preferred chat tool.

The best digital workplace platforms are structured through a series of solutions designed to solve specific line of business challenges, like a newsroom, brand portal, employee handbook, virtual townhall or a policy center. Companies are also creating department spaces inside their digital workplace that includes all of the key initiatives and projects a team is working on. KPI’s, timelines, policies, key documents, stakeholders and all chat related to the project can exist so that everyone knows exactly what’s happening and can keep things moving.

By breaking down problematic information silos, a digital workplace allows for better knowledge management, industry regulation compliance and streamlined employee onboarding processes.

Leading the Charge

Shifting towards a strategic model for improved communication, collaboration and knowledge management needs to be spearheaded by an office leader. The most successful organizations have executive support and leverage a digital workplace manager to ensure company communication and processes are carried out in the most efficient way possible. A full-time position is needed in order to properly consult and train employees throughout the process so that the platform is native to the culture.

In some highly regulated industries like legal, finance and healthcare, organizations face more than just a productivity drain. These industries are subject to strict rules in order to ensure sensitive data is properly secured. In this case, a digital manager is a valuable asset, guiding employees toward productive and compliant communication habits.

Group chat has yet to prove itself worthy of all the hype. While it does allow fast-paced communication, this need for speed may sacrifice quality, productivity, and culture. While chat tools can be welcomed as a small function of communication, their biggest benefit is realized when they are integrated into a larger digital workplace platform.

Mike Hicks is the VP of Marketing and Strategy at Igloo Software.

Chat stock photo by Natali_ Mis/Shutterstock