Staying connected remotely has always been important for millions of global corporations working across time zones. In the era of COVID-19 and social distancing measures, the tools that keep employees connected have become a necessity. Facebook is no exception: Thanks to Workplace, our collaboration tool, we have stayed connected and collaborated effectively throughout these challenging months. We’ve also continued to enhance the platform, which tens of thousands of companies and nonprofits and millions of people are using to work smoothly across multiple time zones during the pandemic and beyond.
Workplace may have come into its own in the past six months, but its story began a decade ago, in London. In 2011, Facebook employees worked and collaborated like any other company with a large global workforce — relying on phones, webchat, email, and distribution lists. People also used their personal Facebook accounts to relay messages to the rest of their team. These piecemeal solutions were especially frustrating for Facebook’s ambitious engineers, who were aching for a way to work faster and more easily communicate with each other.
To address this, a London-based engineer, Chaitanya Mishra, led the creation of a version of Facebook Groups that was accessible only to company employees. These new groups may have been closed to the outside world, but they opened up Facebook on the inside. That’s because one of their main features was the ability to search for colleagues according to their skills and expertise, regardless of their geographical location, and quickly pull them into projects.
Lila Papadoperaki, a London-based Engineering Manager, explains that engineers suddenly discovered a gold mine of talent and collective knowledge that had been invisible to them. “You may not have even known these colleagues existed,” she says. It was a revelation for the engineers. Almost immediately, they abandoned cumbersome email threads and one-to-one chats and dove into the new Groups. Walls tumbled overnight, and projects sprung to life. The foundation for Workplace was born.
“It doesn’t just allow you to find the people you can work with; you can also find all the relevant content so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel for every new project that starts,” explains Papadoperaki. “As soon as you join a new team or project, you’re added to the relevant group, giving you access to all the information you need to get started. Past conversations appear in a structured and easy-to-navigate way, in contrast to chat or emails where you either have to navigate an ocean of irrelevant data to find the things you’re looking for, or you don’t have access to past information at all.”