Remote and distributed work. The COVID-19 pandemic. The rise of millennials into the workplace. The complexity of tools.
“We saw these trends, and it was leading to things like burnout, and people having negative experiences at work, because the tools and the day-to-day experience weren’t keeping up with these trends,” said Jennifer Dennard, co-founder of Range.co, a collaboration software provider.
“How we really think about the problem of increasing engagement and making work more enjoyable” she continued, “is around the day-to-day experience. So historically, companies have tried to solve problems of workplace culture or burnout through things like big company offsites, once a year, or holiday parties, or even happy hours, once a month. And while those are fun and create bonding experiences, then you go back to the daily grind, so to speak. And if that daily grind is grinding you down, it really doesn’t change that fundamental experience.”
Range, she explained, is software built for teams from a human perspective, strengthening and empowering team communication “around things like daily standups for developers, the cadence of meetings, the way in which goals are held accountable, all the kind of day-to-day and week-to-week habits. And in the context of that we’re weaving in best practices in terms of how teams operate, which helps kind of just reduce the meeting load overall, and give developers back flow time.”
Just as important, she emphasized, is the idea of weaving play into work, to create a sense of belonging and connection with the team through games, or sharing your mood, or teams answering team-building questions. The key, Dennard pointed out, is to do it within the flow of work, instead of something that’s done once a month or once a year. “And that,” she said, “really changes the day-to-day experience, which is really what leads to contentment and happiness for folks on the team.”
Dennard said one of the things she and co-founder Dan Pupuis found with all types of folks, but especially developers, is that getting on a Zoom call for a happy hour every week, or a lunch call every few days, is really not very fun over time. “It can be, but it often, like burns people out even more, because they’re already on meetings, they’re just trying to get back to their work,” she said. “But what we found is that creating multiple ways for people to engage how it suits them. So for instance, engaging in a written format through team building questions, like, uh, would you rather dance to every song that you hear or have to sing along with it? Things that are just simple and fun and engage people in writing, or creating opportunities for people to engage live. We do a half-hour meeting every few days, it’s optional. And people can come and just play remote games. And that’s things like drawing games – we love a game called Gartic Phone. And those really help folks to engage without the pressure of having to carry the conversation the whole time, you’re just doing something fun together.
Dennard said it’s important to create variety in terms of how to create opportunity for engagement. This way, “the weight isn’t on one moment, and really meets people in terms of their personality and what they’re looking for.”