At Alfresco, we've stumbled upon an ingenious way to keep the company together. We're highly distributed, with no US offices. With everyone working remotely, people can feel a bit isolated at times.
I read in Businessweek months ago about how IBM requires remote workers to congregate (online, over-the-phone, or in-person) every three days to improve happiness and productivity. In trying to figure out how to apply this practice to Alfresco, I thought of Skype.
Being a company with employees spread across the United States and Europe, Alfresco has long used Skype to cut phone costs and as our common instant messaging platform. But with a recent update from Skype, "public chats" have been enabled, giving us one more tool.
Basically, this means that we have group chat rooms that are always open. People come and go, participating or not. In so doing, the team has been knit together as we socialize over Skype and work over Skype.
We now have group chats for the management team, for the solutions engineering team, for support, and so on. Often these chats will rest silent, but when a good conversation gets moving, it's invaluable to team cohesion and productivity.
I suspect that it could help even in office environments where everyone sits near each other. I'd be interested to find out if it works as well for you as it has for us.