When Alice Ferng, Director of Innovation & Technology at Microsoft fields questions about her team's remote work situation, global distribution is at the forefront: "We're about 20-25 people distributed across 4 countries and more than 5 timezones." she says. With a group that remote with teammates used to physical offices, Alice arrived at SoWork searching for a solution to something heard frequently in todays hybrid workplace.
"It's a problem not being able to be in the same office space or have those fun impromptu hallway conversations." -Alice Ferng
Being at Microsoft, it's only natural that the team would use the company's flagship offering, Microsoft Teams to solve some of remote and hybrid works more talked about issues. "We have a bunch of creative solutions we've come up with over time in Teams." Yet that was before discovering SoWork. After discovering SoWork? "We didn't need to consider anything else," answers Alice.
The team's original approach in SoWork was event-based, Alice admits. "It helps to have an intentional team event scheduled because then it feels like something more people would show up to or feel obligated to attend." After a couple of these events a smaller crew started to show up regularly, form habits, and Alice took notice. "It's been awesome for people to adopt avatars that run around in a 3D world - it's got a different feel than intentional chats in a messaging client.
The Microsoft Innovation and Technology team uses a hybrid indoor-outdoor virtual office space in SoWork that has dedicated coworking, deep work, and relaxation zones so teammates can easily signal to one another their availability.
Fast-forward to the present and Alice replies quickly to the features her teammates use the most in SoWork: "People have enjoyed Mapmaker and the spontaneous video meetings that are similar to an impromptu hallway meeting where you can 'bump' into someone casually."
So what's this all lead to in the world of remote work? Well it depends on who you ask. “I love the accessories in Mapmaker and facial features in our Avatars - but SoWork needs more beards!" pines one of Alice's teammates when pressed. The answer for Alice is more clear however, "SoWork has helped people feel more connected and brought the joy of conversations back."