Most of you should be familiar with the following scenario: youre at work and suddenly your trusty IM agent notifies you that your best friend/spouse/long lost love/whatever is online. Your immediate instinct is to open a window and start chatting with them. The problem is, as always, other people.
These people, being your peers and bosses, habitually invade your privacy, looking over your shoulder to make sure your suffering at least as much as they are. Being caught chatting will surely be frowned upon.
Many IMs are (or can be) equipped with a boss key mechanism that allows you to quickly hide whatever youre chatting about, but these require you to be alert and have killer instincts to operate them in time.
The proposed solution is to develop a set of skins that look like common applications. For example, one could use the interface of a common word processing application as a skin for the IM, where the chat itself takes place where the document is usually edited. The skin development process should be fairly easy as it only requires a screen shot of the target application. The same can be done for almost all other types of applications.
This way, people will be able to chat as well as appear to be hard at work.
P.S. The only problem with this idea is that youd still have to wear the Im-working-hard-and-not-liking-it-dont-bother-me-now face while chatting, which may be hard to keep up if in fact youre not.