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Good News for Lonely Teleworkers and Nosy Bosses

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A new webchat service hopes to keep scattered teleworking employees talking. Sqwiggle is trying to hit the sweet spot between always-on chatrooms and video chat software like Skype. Techcrunch reports:

Each company gets their own “Workroom”, with each member getting a spot in a Brady Bunch-esque grid of heads. When you’re not actively in a conversation with someone, you appear to them as a black-and-white still photo that gets updated a few times per minute.

To speak with any other person in the room, you just click their face—bam, you’re connected. No ringing, no answering, just an immediate conversation. It’s sort of like turning to speak with someone in the office, except you still get to wear your pajamas.

The service looks slick, and it addresses one of telework’s biggest problems: maintaining a socially cohesive office. Still, we’re not sure how many teleworkers will be excited to have a camera snapping pictures of them all day long. Introverts in particular will have a hard time embracing this kind of Panopticon workspace. And what if you get caught picking your nose, sneezing, or with a particularly bad case of bedhead? The service answers this concern with a privacy feature that only shows a black and white outline of the user’s face.

Sqwiggle might want to focus its marketing efforts on managers. As the telework movement continues to gain momentum, managers are increasingly concerned about questions of employee oversight. (Indeed this was one of the reasons cited by sources close to Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer when she banned telework.)

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