Are you an OAT an ESBO or a SToIC? A new study in the UK has found that there are three main digital communication types to describe workers in the office.

OATs standing for Old Age Technologists are not necessarily old in age, but have dated attitudes towards new communication technologies

ESBOs (Easily Sociable Behaviour Online) are supposedly completely at ease with IM and SMS in the office and furthermore have whole-heartedly embraced modern office communication tools.

While SToIC (Slow to Implement Change) are SToICs follow established etiquette rules so don't stray from their accepted comfort zones like fax.

The new survey, conducted by ntl:Telewest Business also found that UK office workers are struggling when it comes to understanding how they should use digital communication.

According to the survey, almost half of UK office workers would consider it rude if they hadn't received a reply to an email within the same morning.

Worse still, a further 5% of people would consider it rude if they hadn't received an email response within 5 minutes of sending it.

The study, entitled “Digital Etiquette”, revealed that UK office workers are confused as to how and when they should use digital communication tools.

Many people felt instant messaging (IM) and text messages (SMS) were simply not appropriate for certain aspects of office work. Less than one in 10 respondents felt SMS and IM were appropriate for HR issues, financial discussions and liaising with senior management.

There also appears to be a lack of tolerance when using modern communication tools. Two out of every five people would expect a response to an SMS within an hour before considering it rude, and almost a quarter of people would expect a response within 5 minutes to an IM.

Despite that, many people have not yet formed a judgement on how long it is considered rude to wait for a reply, implying that digital etiquette is still being formulated and confusion is rife.

The study also revealed that different age groups have different perceptions of what constitutes digital etiquette. More than a third of 16-24-year-olds and a quarter of 25-34-year-olds feel it necessary to include icons in their digital communication to appropriately set the tone. This compares with less than one in 10 people aged 55-64 years and 18% of people nationally that use icons.

TNS surveyed more than 1,400 office workers aged 16-64 across the UK.