When your team is far flung across the nation or around the Globe, instant messaging applications can give you quick access. I like to have my team all use the same instant messaging application. We all can see when each other are online. The message can be as short at a sentence, but gets an instant answer.
Using instant messaging you can even multi task, assigning client follow-up to a team member while you are on the phone with the client. One rule that we've established is that anything that needs numbers or prices however, must be done by email so we all have an archive copy. The hardest thing that I have had to learn is to update my status when I am unavailable or walk away.
Team members don't even need to be out of the office to benefit from the increased productivity that instant messaging can provide. Many offices use instant messaging even though they could just yell out the door or over the top of a cubicle to get an answer. Instant messaging versus yelling your question is so much more professional and does not add to your office background noise. Think of instant messaging as your new instant information pipeline and productivity time saver.