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Introducing Appreciation Charlie

We’re always thinking about the history (and future) of technology.

One question we puzzled over is: "How can we be intentional with the applications we use whilst practicing digital wellbeing?"

In response to this challenge, Zoe thought to enhance our culture by encouraging internal recognition for the weekly contributions and efforts of the team. To do so, she created the ‘The Appreciation Jar’.

In pre-Covid times, this physical jar was filled with messages (anonymously or signed) addressed to one another, expressing gratitude and praise.

The appreciation jar quickly became an integral part of our culture and business with messages expressing admiration and thanks to individual’s hard work and willingness to support their colleagues in all areas of life.

Why did we introduce ‘The Appreciation Jar’?

To understand the purpose of The Appreciation Jar, we have to consider the importance of gratitude and the psychological benefits it provides in the workplace.

Companies look for the best ways to motivate employees. Often, open appreciation is something that’s overlooked; saved for one to one’s. When someone feels appreciated, it affirms individual commitments and incentivises continued contribution - in other words, positive reinforcement.

The absence of appreciation creates space for a lack of motivation, reduced commitment and a disinterest in self. With work-life effected, this mindset can also seep into your personal life, damaging relationships at home, and yourself.

To tackle this problem and it is a problem, we created something to compliment our culture whilst letting people know they’re valued and that the work they do contributes tremendously to our success.

But wait, something has changed!

2020 is perhaps the year in which the world changed forever, with common behavioural/sentimental practices evolving to meet the demands of a new decade.

Lockdowns and the lengthy periods of isolation that go with them have had a profound impact on how people live and think. Meanwhile, digital has been relied on more greatly for interactions, and everyday life with surges in e-commerce, an increase in self-learning and general online activity. Whereas home, for better or worse, has become work for many.

Given the pandemic, The Appreciation Jar hit a wall. Meaning, we came to address a new question: "How might we maintain engagement with The Appreciation Jar and use this to improve digital wellbeing?"

The way we acknowledge well-being in the workplace had to evolve to meet the new reality of remote working. Old problems of productivity and motivation needed creative solutions.

What else is out there?

Before we spent our time exploring what we could create, we analysed the market.

Preciate

One product that caught our eye was an add-on app in Slack called Preciate. This software: "Is an employee recognition and engagement platform whose purpose is building strong, authentic relationships through recognition and virtual socialising."

It boasts a whole host of built-in ice breakers and themed backgrounds, giving this app potential. Fun always goes hand in hand with appreciation. However, it didn’t include an option to anonymously send messages. And anonymity is one of the requirements of The Appreciation Jar – mystery adds fun and not everyone is willing to share their love openly!

IAppreciate

Another system we explored was iAppreciate. Similar to Preciate, it offered employees recognition, with opportunities to celebrate work anniversaries, daily efforts and a nomination platform for internal awards.

There are a lot of great features in these apps but too much was going on, and too much was being automated. Onboarding an entire company is fraught with challenges as well. So, after some discussion, we decided to pull back from the web and settled on finding something simple yet effective.

The solution

To solve this problem we got our creative thinking caps on and came up with a different solution based on our requirements and limitations. As a result? Along came Charlie, our non-binary Virtual Appreciation Messenger.

We know that sending emails is not revolutionary, but we were keen to prototype our idea in the leanest possible way. It was important for us to keep the product true to our values and that is why we could not just go with anything we found off the shelves. It was not realistic either to allocate resources to create a product in these trying times.

 

What does Charlie do?

Charlie is employed to carry kind messages to Foolproofers all over the world.

A reminder email is sent out every Wednesday to all Foolproofers. This email encourages people to reply to Charlie with messages of appreciation for fellow colleagues. By Friday morning, Charlie’s inbox is full of love and downright hilarious comments.

These messages are then copied, and prepared for departure, to arrive at the chosen inbox by Cake Friday.

But why do you need Charlie?

Why do we need Charlie, if we already have existing apps that can offer the same solution? Well, that’s a great question…

We want whatever process that gets people to appreciate each other more, to be fluid and dynamic, not static. For us, it’s not about swapping the physical experience for an app but creating one that is evolutionary and intimate.

By personifying the Virtual Appreciation Messenger, we could create deeper connections with the team, giving this little project longevity and stability.

Fridays at Foolproof?

Charlie sends kind messages on everyone’s favourite day - Friday. The day we all come together, be it team meeting or Cake Friday.

Here's the response from Qi:

quote

With the rise of Appreciation Charlie, our virtual socials, birthday memes and general randomness on Slack, we’ve been able to keep the teams ‘together’ and connected even in the midst of lockdown.

What’s next?

Charlie has a lot of potential as a product and we now have something amazing to add to our Foolproof culture. We would love to get input from all the Foolproofers in a Hackathon to create the future Charlie. However, we also know we should always test our ideas and collect data before investing in anything. This is where Charlie 1.0 comes in.

We are also thinking about how we automate more of what we’re doing and create an application that is truly human-centred! If you’d like to talk more to us about Charlie or get some tips on doing this yourself, just reach out.


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