Silence. Heads down. Fingers bending and tapping.
We all know the sight. It’s about 90% of people these days. (Ok, that’s not a real statistic.)
But really, it’s people everywhere—when they’re at home, at work, or out and about. It’s people even when they’re surrounded by other people. Instead of observing and communicating with the flesh-and-blood beings around them, they’re scrolling, swiping, and double-tapping to interact with the virtual beings inside their smartphones. It’s no wonder many people have revolted against technology, questioning whether the connections it facilitates are actually meaningful, or instead just weakening our ability to build real relationships.
As researchers who observe and connect with people for a living, we’re particularly aware of this phenomenon. But we’re not immune to it.
Even we recognize that sometimes in-person communication becomes strained, and the ease and efficiency of technology can fill in where the real world is lacking. Nowhere was this more evident than in our own workplace. Because we have multiple offices across the country and the ideal communication solution—teleporting—isn’t really a thing yet. Because the clash of our inter-office music tastes makes headphones reign supreme. Because our open floor plan imposes a culture of quiet to avoid bothering one’s neighbors. And because we felt like opportunities for meaningful connections between our own employees were slipping through our floorboards every day.
Because of all these reasons, we finally did what we’ve already been doing in our personal lives. We turned to technology for a solution.
Yammer, the “freemium” workplace social networking service from Microsoft, boasts its ability to build connections, and that’s exactly what it’s done here at Bovitz. Within 24 hours of signing up, our conversation feed was already abuzz with activity. And 3 months, 262 posts, 375 likes, 44 memes, and 7 groups later, Yammer has become the primary internal communication tool for our company. We use it to trade expertise and tips for project success, share updates on happenings in our various offices, and post words of encouragement and appreciation. But we also use it to share funny photos, smack talk our Fantasy Football (or Bachelor Fantasy!) opponents, collaborate on community service efforts, and just generally have fun together.
With this technology, we’re sharing things with each other that otherwise wouldn’t have been shared.
Aside from the tips and the praise and the memes, the best thing about Yammer is that it gets people talking. Really talking (albeit electronically). Posts on Yammer become conversations, not just another form of one-way communication.
So, while it may seem like we still have our fingers glued to our keyboards and our eyes stuck on our screens, we might actually be teaching, teasing, praising, and bonding with each other. Because even though it’s digital, Yammer allows us to keep more conversations—and connections—flowing. And that keeps us moving forward as a company.
So, thank you, Yammer. Thanks for seeing the barriers to human connection that the modern office can put up and doing something about them. Thanks for thinking about people first.