If you're working away from the office or your entire team is virtual and spread around the world, there's a easy and affordable way to stay in constant contact with them without running up long distance phone charges.
Instant messaging was developed as a quick, private way to chat with people you know who are using the same messaging software. The granddaddy of instant messaging software is AOL's Instant Messaging or AIM. Go to their site, sign up-for free-and download their AIM software which works on both PCs and Macs.
While AIM will work if you already have an AOL account, it's better to set up a separate account for business use only; otherwise, friends and family who know your AOL account will IM you (instant message you) constantly to say hello. Not very conducive to getting work done.
With AIM, you set up a "Buddy List" where you enter the Screen Names or AIM account names of your co-workers. There's also room to add friends and family to your list which means you'll be notified if they're online, but you can choose not to contact them if you're busy.
If you're using AIM for business, don't set up a Personal Profile with any details; otherwise, other AIM users can search profiles to find you. With AIM, you can also choose the Connect To Talk option and if you have a microphone, you can have a "phone" conversation via the Internet.
Ultimately, with instant messaging, you can see when your co-workers are online when you're online and engage in chats immediately to convey important messages.
Aliza Sherman is an entrepreneur and author of Cybergrrl: A Woman's Guide to the World Wide Web (Ballantine Books). She is currently working on her next book and new company.