Editor's Note (4/8/2015): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Verse offered integration with Facebook, and contained an incorrect figure on development spend. SMT regrets the error.
Companies of all sizes are realizing most people are more productive when there's a social element to their work. Let's look at two case studies that delve into this concept:
IBM Fuses E-mail With Social Features
IBM recently introduced a new business-oriented e-mail application. In addition to allowing people to send e-mails as normal, the service -- called IBM Verse -- has a built-in feature that keeps track of how users behave when sending e-mails and can draft future responses based on those interactions.
When an e-mail is sent to multiple people, a user can instantly see the relationships between the recipients.
Much like the way Facebook has experimented with pushing content to users based on what they are likely to enjoy or deem important, IBM Verse has a "faceted search" function. This function analyzes user actions to identify content that's specific to a particular need, and it can pick out the people who seem to be among an employee's most important contacts.
If you have ever left a comment on someone's Facebook profile to offer congratulations after he or she got engaged or welcomed a new baby, only to discover you get bombarded with activity notifications every time another person in that person's social network offers similar well wishes, it probably didn't take you too long to figure out how to mute future notifications for that particular post.
IBM Verse has a similar "mute thread" function, helpful if hundreds of your coworkers are replying to a thread about a company potluck, an upcoming national holiday or someone's surprise birthday party, and all you want to do is focus on work.
It's hoped that Verse will eventually overshadow Windows Outlook as an e-mail option. For now, Verse is a free service, but a paid version with more features and a larger data allowance will become available at the start of next year. It's too soon to tell whether the social media-inspired features will help the app rise above the rest, but the offerings are at least more than enough to spark curiosity and encourage people to give the free version a try.
WeWork Believes Creations Happen Best in a Community Setting
Social media certainly has its advantages, but there are also great benefits to having meetings of the minds with people who are in the same room you are. At least, that's the belief and business model of WeWork, a chain of coworking spaces around the world. Currently, there are 31 locations in places like New York City, Austin and Seattle, but also as far flung as Amsterdam and London.
Amenities range from private phone booths to meditation spaces and member workshops. According to WeWork, if a person decides to become a member and get access to any of the coworking spaces, he or she will suddenly become part of a global community full of visionary people all working on their respective goals.
Being in such an environment can undoubtedly be inspiring, especially for people such as freelance musicians and writers, who may work for hours or days on end with very little supervision or human contact. By taking comfort in the fact WeWork locations are set up around the world, a person may feel more confident about being equipped to do his or her work to the fullest, thanks to plentiful high-tech and upscale features in each facility.
Also, even people who prefer to be sociable mostly via social media channels have something to smile about, especially if those in-person chats increase the sizes of their social networks. After all, working among like-minded individuals tends to spark conversations, and many of them include questions like "Hey, are you on Twitter?" in an attempt to break the ice and find common ground.
These are just two examples of companies that are doing their part to make sure the social element of a workday doesn't get lost. There are many others out there as well; are you one of them?
Image by Jeff Sheldon