One of the hazards of remote employment is the immense feeling of isolation you get after the hazy honeymoon weeks of beer, donuts and ironic pyjamas have passed. Most of my team members at Watershed Publishing are accessible all day via email, but the messages feel more like tasks than conversations. Have I said the right thing? Do I need to act on this? May I archive you now?
So, possibly because I nagged him like a teeny bopper, the Chief Operating Officer at Watershed created a Yammer account for us. (Think intra-office microblogging.) I just downloaded the desktop app, which is a lot like twhirl for Twitter -- an interface I happen to be intimately familiar with.
Yammer was quiet for the first coupla days (see image above? ALL ME! ALMOST ALL DAY!), I think because we weren't sure what to do with it or how we should present ourselves. I secretly worried we'd feel constricted by its inherent corporateness: the platform was provided by our superiors, and they'd also be using it, so would they quietly judge us if we logged in one morning and went, "Ugh. Long night"?
After a bit of feeling-out time (and a few non-work contributions by the COO himself), my reservations felt inconsequential. Yammer has the dual effect of making everyone immediately aware of tasks that need handling, and of investing us all with a sense of community.
Oddly enough, it's also a really good way to get to know everyone you work with. Even in an office setting, that's difficult because people like to cluster and clique. (Of the 20+ in-office employees at my old job, I got to know maybe 5 or 6 on a really personal level. And that's because we were all forced to have lunch together at one point or another.)
So yeah. Yammer: highly recommended, especially for an enterprise team that's geographically far-flung.