You’d have thought Marissa Mayer had commanded the employees of Yahoo! to steal school books from children after the way she was vilified for trying to return workers to a shared, physical workspace. What a tyrant. A boss asking employees to show up for a job. The nerve.
I’ll be the first to jump into the fray to protect workers’ rights and freedoms, but I felt kinda bad for the CEO in this case. Here’s why…
Remember when communicating with co-workers was as simple as talking to each other? Call me crazy, but I sort of miss those days. I didn’t mind looking up from a screen once and a while when hearing the sound of another human voice. Remote and virtual workplaces have changed how we work permanently, and there’s good cause to celebrate the shift – more flexible hours, reduced travel and expenses, the comfort of home, the possibility of global teams, to name just a few. Yet, sometimes it seems like we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other or that a face to face conversation is an event on par with coordinating a lunar landing. So I could understand why Mayer wanted employees in the same room, talking with one another again.
The dirty secret of most online collaboration tools is that they’re a poor substitute for conversation (I probably need to clarify that by conversation I’m referring to a real-time verbal exchange between human beings). No matter how many project management features offered, nothing can replace the efficiency of humans talking.
Hangouts don’t cut it. Video conferencing has come to feel about as natural and fun as wedding planning. And no matter how fast the fingers fly, texts and emails and all other forms of messaging are slower than human speech. One startup has a rather brilliant solution for connecting employees as if they were working and talking side by side again.
Sqwiggle (how much fun is that to say!) recreates the office atmosphere in the cloud. Team members’ pictures show on the screen. Simply click on a picture, and you’re able to have a quick video chat. The process aims to bring back the “tap on your shoulder experience.” This online collaboration software puts human sociability back into collaboration.
Snapshots taken throughout the day let each worker know if teammates are available or not. There’s no bothering to ask if someone is around. Sure you can organize work into different work rooms and there’s a work stream to share links, videos, photos; you can send files and manage workflow – but the real joy of Sqwiggle is the quick, uncomplicated access to speaking with cohorts by individual or group video chat.
The startup is co-founded by Tom Moor, Matt Boyd, and Eric Bieller. This past fall Sqwiggle raised $1.1 million to keep building the team and product. Have a look, have a listen. Home workers take note: You can probably still get away with working sans pants (hey, who am I to judge?), but you’ll need to be more careful about what’s within camera view.