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Distributed software development is a new working philosophy that the software industry is currently facing. Organisations may benefit from the situations that this shift has created, although they must also confront new challenges related to them. In this study, the authors focused on the lack of timely adequate opportunities for informal interaction, which has been identified as an important issue to overcome coordination, communication and trust limitations. The authors attempted to confront this problem through obtaining information from the personal activities of remote colleagues. In this respect, the authors propose introducing and defining collaborative working spheres (CWS) because the authors argue that CWS permit the identification of opportunities for interaction at appropriate moments. This concept is illustrated with the design of CWS-instant messaging (IM), an extended IM tool that supports the CWS concept. This tool was tested by 16 distributed software development (DSD) workers during an initial scenario-based evaluation. The results show favourable evidence towards both the perceived usefulness and ease of use of CWS-IM.