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The role of presence awareness in organizational communication: An exploratory field experiment

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Millions of adults currently use instant messaging (IM) in the workplace, and yet there is very little research examining how use and perceptions of this new medium affect intra-organizational communication. While one of the characteristics of instant messaging is the ability to exchange real-time communication, what truly distinguishes instant messaging from other widely adopted forms of mediated communication is the integration of presence technology, which allows parties to detect if others are online and available to communicate. In this paper, we propose a theory of productivity benefits of presence-aware communication technology, building upon past research. Based on this model, we use a quasi-experimental longitudinal research design to test how providing instant messaging to selected workgroups at a Fortune 500 company impacts employees' attitudes and work behavior. Results suggest that IM use had a positive effect on improving productivity with participants citing reductions in voice mail and phone tag, improvements to how easy it was to see if colleagues were online and available to communicate as well as increased productivity served by back-channel communications conducted via IM. Results and future research directions are discussed.

Keywords: Chat; Collaboration; Instant messaging; Organizational communication; Presence-aware communication

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA 2: School of Journalism & Mass Communication, and Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA 3: Independent Consultant,

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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