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Microsoft debuts workplace social app Viva Engage

Today Microsoft (MSFT) debuted a new social workplace app it says is designed to ensure employees stay in touch regardless of whether they work in the office or remotely. Microsoft Viva Engage, part of the company's Viva employee collaboration platform, features all of the same features you'd expect of a modern social media platform including news feeds, profiles, and the ability to post images and videos.

Built on the foundations of Yammer, Microsoft's existing enterprise social networking platform, Viva Engage is available via Microsoft Teams and Outlook as part of the company's Microsoft 365 software suite.

"We did a pretty good job of using technology to meet virtually and to keep collaborating. But while we're perhaps even closer with the people we work with every day ... we're not as close with people across the organization," Viva Engage product lead Dan Holme told Yahoo Finance.

"And those extended social connections at work are ... really critical to employee well being, to making people feel like they belong and are happy and healthy at work."

Essentially, Viva Engage is meant to replace the passing conversations and idle water cooler talk that has dried up in the work-from-home era. While you might still have regular conversations with your closest colleagues via video chat and messaging apps, you likely talk to people from other teams or outside of your immediate circle much less frequently.

Microsoft's Viva Engage is a social media app for the office. (Image: Microsoft)
Microsoft's Viva Engage is a social media app for the office. (Image: Microsoft) (Microsoft)

You've likely experienced this if you've been working remotely, yourself. While it's nice to be able to throw dinner in the oven during the workday, chances are you're not going to run into a coworker in your kitchen.

Workplace communication platforms have massively grown in importance throughout the pandemic, as Slack and Zoom (ZM) became verbs and millions began using Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and more. These platforms can be worth billions – case in point, Slack was acquired in 2021 by Salesforce (CRM) in a $27.7 billion transaction.

Microsoft, which allows most of its employees to work from home 50% of the time, has been pushing remote work capabilities including its Skype and Teams software as a means to stay in touch while away from the office.

Viva Engage is an extension of those efforts, though with a focus on company culture and overall engagement.

Users get a profile page, similar to what they’d see on something like Facebook, and are able to post status updates, photos, videos, and essentially anything else you’d find on a social network.

The twist is that all of those posts are visible to all of your coworkers. So you should probably save those photos of you shotgunning a half dozen White Claw at your nephew’s birthday party for Instagram.

The app also features community groups that you can join to share ideas with employees from across your company. Holme cited an example of a salesperson joining a group to better understand general best practices, or an employee joining an IT group meant to discuss ways to use certain technologies within a business.

You'll be able to post everything from photos and videos to standard status updates. But everyone in your company will be able to see them. (Image: Microsoft)
You'll be able to post everything from photos and videos to standard status updates. But everyone in your company will be able to see them. (Image: Microsoft) (Microsoft)

According to Holme, Viva Engage also serves as a means for workers to keep up with each other without having to follow each other on consumer social media platforms.

“A lot of people at work don't follow their colleagues on social media, and sometimes that's for very specific reasons, right? They're sharing things on their personal social media that they really don't feel comfortable sharing with their colleagues,” Holmes said.

Conversely, Holme explained, there are some things you can share on a work-centric social media platform that you can’t on a public platform. For example, a new product you’re working on, or reaching an important internal milestone that you’re celebrating with colleagues, but can’t mention on TikTok.

Social media platforms, however, are also a breeding ground for toxic conversations and content. To that end, Microsoft says it has worked to create the ability to block specific content and provides the option to shutdown conversations entirely.

Holme, however, also pointed to the fact that some heated conversations can lead companies to implement large scale improvements. He cited an example of a debate about diversity at Microsoft that allowed the company to move forward with its stance that it needs to embrace more diversity.

“The technology gives you new ways of conversations and to respond to them. But in the end, it's helping people understand how to align their own personal beliefs and behaviors with the expectations of the organization,” Holme said.

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Allie Garfinkle is a senior tech reporter at Yahoo Finance. Find her on twitter @agarfinks.

Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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