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posted by janrinok on Friday May 19 2023, @09:39AM   Printer-friendly

Researchers Design Tool to Enhance Workplace Socialization in Remote, Hybrid Arrangements:

About one-third of our lives are spent at work, and the relationships we build there can have personal and professional benefits. But a majority of workers indicate difficulty connecting with co-workers socially, especially in the new landscape of remote and hybrid work arrangements.

To ease the friction caused by reduced in-person interaction, a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute created a Slack application that helps to initiate casual conversations and create affinity groups in an online workspace.

"We were freshly out of the pandemic, and we realized that everyone around us was complaining about how it's hard to build genuine connections," said Shreya Bali, the project's principal investigator who earned her master's degree from CMU's School of Computer Science in 2022. "Online modes of communication do provide us with the technical tools to make connections, but there is still a lot of hesitation to actually initiate such conversations when you are not in the same room as someone."

The team's new application, called Nooks, offers users a low-risk way to start new conversations in three phases: creation, incubation and activation. It starts with someone anonymously submitting a topic of interest. Then, the topic is incubated while the system presents it to other Slack users, allowing them to indicate if they are interested in the same topic. Once the incubation period is over, a private channel — or "nook" — is activated for this newly identified affinity group.

"Typically, when everyone's in the office at the same time, you can usually tell that if someone is near the water cooler it's OK to go and disturb them. Or if someone is walking in the corridor, you can start a conversation as you walk past," said Pranav Khadpe, an HCII Ph.D. student and one of the paper's co-authors. "But online, we don't have those lightweight signals. Nooks can help to replace these social cues."

[...] "Anyone interested can hop into a nook and break the ice without any preconceived notion of who is in the group," Bali said. "This helps to avoid social anxiety of, say, not knowing anyone in the Nook or feeling intimidated if you see it includes colleagues of a different team or higher level."

[...] "Beyond supporting personal wellbeing, positive social interactions at work diffuse ideas, accelerate decision-making, promote better collaboration and enhance productivity," Khadpe said. "It's a neat win-win situation that Nooks can help facilitate."

arXiv link: Nooks: Social Spaces to Lower Hesitations in Interacting with New People at Work


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Thexalon on Friday May 19 2023, @10:51AM (12 children)

    by Thexalon (636) on Friday May 19 2023, @10:51AM (#1306979)

    A certain level of casual conversation is fine, but if you want to know why management wants you be building important personal relationships with your coworkers, it's because they will attempt to use that to convince you to accept lower pay and/or crappier working conditions (including but not limited to unpaid overtime) based on your loyalty to your work friends. Also, your coworkers are generally who you're competing against for raises and promotions, regardless of whether your boss admits that.

    You have to be prepared for those kinds of relationships to end abruptly due to the financial needs of one or both of you or a completely arbitrary decision by managers who might not even know you. You also need to be careful about what you do and don't say to a coworker, because they might use that against you if they're the more back-stabbing sort.

    So being "person who is friendly enough and has some safe interests like sports or gardening but doesn't have strong work friends" is generally the position you want to be in.

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Opportunist on Friday May 19 2023, @11:38AM (5 children)

      by Opportunist (5545) on Friday May 19 2023, @11:38AM (#1306983)

      Coworkers are not my friends. I can choose my friends, I cannot choose my coworkers.

      That's also not necessary. All I ask from a coworker is that he does his job and does not impede mine. I don't expect any kind of "moral" support or emotional investment in my life.

      In other words, no, I don't give a fuck about your soon-to-be-baby's ultrasound pictures. And I don't expect you to be interested in my x-ray pics.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @11:58AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @11:58AM (#1306990)

        I suspect you are an outlier, your Venn diagram has two circles, one for friends and another for co-workers that don't intersect with each other. Most people I know have some overlap between those circles, the size of the overlap varies.

        • (Score: 1, Flamebait) by Opportunist on Friday May 19 2023, @08:16PM (1 child)

          by Opportunist (5545) on Friday May 19 2023, @08:16PM (#1307058)

          If you go to work to meet new people and find friends, my suggestion is to get a life.

          • (Score: 2) by GloomMower on Sunday May 21 2023, @12:38AM

            by GloomMower (17961) on Sunday May 21 2023, @12:38AM (#1307183)

            Maybe not why you go to work, but maybe you make friends along the way anyway?

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Gaaark on Friday May 19 2023, @12:44PM (1 child)

        by Gaaark (41) on Friday May 19 2023, @12:44PM (#1306997) Journal

        I'm basically the same: plus, it's harder to reprimand someone you're 'chummy' with.

        How do you fire your 'friend'? Much easier if it's 'someone you work with/works for you/works under you'.

        But yeah. Let me do my job, you do yours, i go home where my real friends/family are. It's harder to do that with someone creating drama drama drama, or showing EVERY SINGLE PERSON WITHIN 100 YARDS their photos of the new babby and the babby daddy/momma holding teh babby and how cute, the babby just spit up!

        Yes, i know it's baby. But annoying parents turn them into babbies.

        --
        --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Opportunist on Friday May 19 2023, @08:18PM

          by Opportunist (5545) on Friday May 19 2023, @08:18PM (#1307060)

          Show me pictures of your spawn and you're actually getting more likely to get fired. Not only are you not working, you're keeping me from doing it. By bothering me with something that is annoying and a waste of my time and yours.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by PiMuNu on Friday May 19 2023, @12:09PM (2 children)

      by PiMuNu (3823) on Friday May 19 2023, @12:09PM (#1306992)

      > management wants ... to convince you to accept lower pay and/or crappier working conditions

      I am sad if you have experienced such an adversarial and evil management culture. I realise they do exist.

      > So being "person who is friendly enough and has some safe interests like sports or gardening but doesn't have strong work friends" is generally the position you want to be in.

      It depends on your values. If your values are focused on finance and job security then what you say is correct. That is not true for many (potentially most) people. "Pay the mortgage and have some fun on the way."

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Thexalon on Friday May 19 2023, @12:38PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Friday May 19 2023, @12:38PM (#1306996)

        I am sad if you have experienced such an adversarial and evil management culture.

        Oh, a lot of those bosses were perfectly friendly about it. It's not that they hated me personally, it's the policies they're working under, and the fact that part of what they're paid to do is keep salary growth under control.

        Company management does what's profitable. Why do you think this study was even commissioned? They think this kind of thing will help their bottom line, and that means it's going to be used for the purposes of convincing employees to put up with stuff they otherwise wouldn't.

        It depends on your values. If your values are focused on finance and job security then what you say is correct. That is not true for many (potentially most) people. "Pay the mortgage and have some fun on the way."

        I'm not saying you actually have to be "boring guy". I'm saying that you don't discuss the fun stuff with coworkers, because it can only hurt you, not help you. For example, if you talk about going to wild parties, even if you didn't do anything that might prompt a drug test depending on how much of a hard-ass your boss or HR is.

        --
        The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Saturday May 20 2023, @01:33PM

        by Opportunist (5545) on Saturday May 20 2023, @01:33PM (#1307134)

        I had to get three managers fired before I finally got a decent one who can do a proper job. There are more crappy managers than you might be aware of.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @12:47PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @12:47PM (#1306998)

      You have to be prepared for those kinds of relationships to end abruptly due to the financial needs of one or both of you or a completely arbitrary decision by managers who might not even know you.

      Not only that, but be prepared for managers to expect to waltz right into your friendships and ride roughshod over them. Could be that "boss" types lack social graces, but it is hard to keep respect for people who interrupt a friendly interaction with a reminder to empty the shredder wastebasket when it's full. Yeah, douchebag. thanks for that advice.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by mhajicek on Friday May 19 2023, @03:08PM (1 child)

      by mhajicek (51) on Friday May 19 2023, @03:08PM (#1307014)

      Work friends can be a benefit in the long run. After that company crashes and burns, they might get you an in at another company, or feed work your way when you've gone independent.

      --
      The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @03:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @03:57PM (#1307022)

        It doesn't even have to be a crash & burn situation. The best customers & projects for my tiny engineering company come from people we've worked with in the past and have kept in touch with as friends.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @11:33AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @11:33AM (#1306982)

    > start new conversations in three phases: creation, incubation and activation.

    While not exact, the process here (and at the former Green site, etc) seems to include the same three steps:

    - Creation --> submit a story (can be AC or from a named user)
    - Incubation --> sits in the queue, read by editors and anyone else interested (I'd like to be able to comment on submissions, same as the Green site allowed pre-"Beta"...do they still do that?)
    - Activation --> makes the front page

    But I guess this is "new" because the audience is limited to Stack users at one company or project?

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by janrinok on Friday May 19 2023, @01:38PM (1 child)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 19 2023, @01:38PM (#1307005) Journal

      I'd like to be able to comment on submissions, same as the Green site allowed pre-"Beta"...do they still do that?

      The problem with this is that the discussion simply moves from the stories on the front page to the stories that are in the submission queue. Then, when they do arrive on the front page everyone who has an interesting point to make has already made it, and they are simply ignored for any further serious discussion. As the point of this site is the discussion itself - we are not primarily trying to compete with news sites or being first with breaking information - the discussions are better managed on the front page than they are in the submission queue. The idea has been discussed by staff and the community several times but it always seems to come back to the same conclusion.

      Some people are already doing a version of what you suggest by finding something interesting in the submission queue and then starting a journal about it. I have no problems with this - that is what the journals are essentially for. However, if you look at the submission queue at the time I release this comment you will see that there are only 7 submissions left. I have been away for almost a week for personal reasons and without me running the bot there is a very limited amount of submissions from the community.

      As a rule of thumb we actually need to receive about twice as many submissions per day than we can publish - so around 16-20 submissions a day is not an uncommon requirement, the excess of course does not get used but hoping to receive the 8 - 10 perfect submissions a day is an editor's unfulfilled dream.

      --
      I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @04:08PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @04:08PM (#1307023)

        janrinok - thanks for the comments, and as always for your contribution to SN! It is nice to hear that this has been discussed by SN staff.

        My memory of the Green site was only a few comments on submissions. Many were along the lines of a "merge" where a commenter would add a link(s) or other material on the same topic or same story--possibly helpful to editors? Comments on submissions were removed if/when the story was moved to the front page, so that was a disincentive to carrying on a discussion in the sub queue. I'd guess that if a sub attracted more than a couple of comments, that could also be a clue to the editors that the topic was of interest to readers...?

        I noticed that the SN queue is low and I've been on the lookout for something interesting...will submit if I do.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Opportunist on Friday May 19 2023, @11:41AM (3 children)

    by Opportunist (5545) on Friday May 19 2023, @11:41AM (#1306985)

    You can actually set your status. Green: I'm available. Yellow: I'm currently not here but I'll probably reply as soon as I'm back at my desk. Red: Don't disturb me I'm busy.

    Learn to use it.

    Seriously, what the hell is this article about? That people can't communicate properly? Learn it.

    Or ... oh, I get it, someone is trying to peddle a new tool that compensates for people not being able to actively communicate and be "social". Ok, carry on. But please don't bother me with your "social" crap, I'm trying to work here.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @12:52PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @12:52PM (#1307001)

      You just know that the administrator tools in Slack (or whatever) are keeping track of everything and creating maps and networks of interactions, possibly even flagging troublesome behavior. You're not the customer, hell you're not even the product, you're the meat.

    • (Score: 2) by Common Joe on Saturday May 20 2023, @03:29PM

      by Common Joe (33) <reversethis-{moc ... 1010.eoj.nommoc}> on Saturday May 20 2023, @03:29PM (#1307146) Journal

      We have a literal handful of clients which could be marked as "away" or "busy", and the users are begging for more avenues (i.e., clients) to communicate. Although I fully agree with your sentiment, I don't think it's quite that simple anymore.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by aafcac on Friday May 19 2023, @11:54AM (9 children)

    by aafcac (17646) on Friday May 19 2023, @11:54AM (#1306989)

    Autistic people finally got a chance to be full members of the workforce during the pandemic, and now y'all are trying to undo the progress? Why on Earth do we need people at work to be connecting? If it doesn't naturally happen, then I don't see what the real point of it is. It's less than 1/4 of a typical worker's life, I fail to see what the problem is. If y'all need all that social connecting, perhaps use the 1/3 of your life that you're not at work, sleeping or commuting to do that and leave the rest of us in peace.

    • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Friday May 19 2023, @12:47PM (1 child)

      by Gaaark (41) on Friday May 19 2023, @12:47PM (#1306999) Journal

      Heh: you hear everyone talking about how 'Facebook keeps me connected with what's going on', but then they spend all their time 'catching up'.

      Just shut up, do the job! Catch up on Facebook.

      --
      --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
      • (Score: 2) by aafcac on Friday May 19 2023, @02:24PM

        by aafcac (17646) on Friday May 19 2023, @02:24PM (#1307011)

        S lot of that comes from the view that people have to work 40 hours in order to have any right to expect to be fed. If the work is being done with all the slacking off, that implies that there's too much time being given to do the work.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @12:50PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @12:50PM (#1307000)

      Such a dumbass comment.

      If you're doing a job you're moderately interested in, and the people around you are too, it's inevitable that you will probably get along with them. And want to discuss ideas. You might even have lunch or a beer with them. How terrible!

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by aafcac on Friday May 19 2023, @02:22PM (1 child)

        by aafcac (17646) on Friday May 19 2023, @02:22PM (#1307010)

        Reread my comment. In that environment, there wouldn't be much work connecting. It would mostly happen on its own. I fail to see why this is even something to worry about. If anything office chatter is just a waste of time in most cases, it would make far more sense to just let people leave if they have to fill the time with chatter.

        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @04:25PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @04:25PM (#1307027)

          My reading of this summary is that this is to help things happen on their own. It is to help the people who might want to connect with other people, but don't feel comfortable in doing it on their own due to their working remotely and not being able to pick up on social cues. Obviously, if they don't want to connect, they don't need to join these chat rooms. Some people are perfectly happy working in isolation and working from their kitchen table, but other people benefit with having some level of social interaction. I, personally, miss having people around. I don't want to be pestered all the time when I'm trying to work, but I also don't want to sit around isolated. Water cooler chat can provide a very nice and needed mental break if you're stuck on a problem.

      • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Saturday May 20 2023, @01:31PM

        by Opportunist (5545) on Saturday May 20 2023, @01:31PM (#1307133)

        And me getting along with them is dependent on breathing the same air they do? If you can't figure out whether someone can do his job properly without sitting in the same room as them, I guess you are not capable of figuring out whether someone is actually capable of his job and base your assumption about their abilities on something other than their actual professional abilities.

    • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Saturday May 20 2023, @01:28PM (2 children)

      by Opportunist (5545) on Saturday May 20 2023, @01:28PM (#1307132)

      Because they don't want that for the same reason they don't want a leg-up for underprivileged people: As long as they can't compete, they ain't competition.

      If these people had to compete purely on their ability to do some sensible work instead of buttering up the boss, they'd be out of their league very fast.

      • (Score: 2) by aafcac on Saturday May 20 2023, @07:11PM (1 child)

        by aafcac (17646) on Saturday May 20 2023, @07:11PM (#1307162)

        That's been one of the major things improving for us in recent years. We still have the worst employment rates of pretty much any disability, but companies are starting to recognize how valuable it is to have people that mostly just want to get our work done and are willing to actually answer questions that higher ups have about what's going on honestly. An entire company of us would likely crash and burn, but a few can be downright helpful.

        It does make sucking up in the traditional sense a lot harder to benefit from. I'm not sorry.

        • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Saturday May 20 2023, @09:38PM

          by Opportunist (5545) on Saturday May 20 2023, @09:38PM (#1307175)

          Autists have two things going for them: They're quite honest and they don't play the corporate game. They simply and plainly don't care about that whole social backstabbing.

          If you can handle their particular needs, what you have there is the perfect employee.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by squeedles on Friday May 19 2023, @12:21PM

    by squeedles (28050) on Friday May 19 2023, @12:21PM (#1306993)

    My day is already filled with more words than I can possibly read and digest. This just adds to the load.

    The thing I miss about being in an office is that I can monitor conversations with partial attention and only jump in when something relevant pops up. Or can get an immediate verbal response from someone who is otherwise engaged without knocking them too far off of their flow because I can see when it might be a good time to ask. And nobody wants a confcall-like voice chat all day, because panopticon.

  • (Score: 2) by SomeGuy on Friday May 19 2023, @06:47PM (2 children)

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Friday May 19 2023, @06:47PM (#1307049)

    Wasn't Microsoft Sharepoint supposed to do that? "It will solve all your employee communications problems! It says so right here in the brochure!"

    So now you need an "app" for that? Uh. Yuck.

    You can't solve "people" problems with technology.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @10:35PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19 2023, @10:35PM (#1307076)

      You can't solve "people" problems with technology.

      That statement might be a fairly debatable point, but I think I agree with you.

    • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Saturday May 20 2023, @01:26PM

      by Opportunist (5545) on Saturday May 20 2023, @01:26PM (#1307131)

      You can solve people with technology though.

      But my layer tells me it's illegal for some weird reason.

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