The tools of engagement

How we boost our studio’s spirit during a pandemic

It’s a fact. People like to be recognized and appreciated for their accomplishments. Whether in a large corporation or a small start-up, employees that are recognized for their work, accomplishments and hey, even just for being fun to have around feel engaged, valued, motivated and more confident. This is even more important in a creative workplace. At Context, we’ve been working from home since March — a nine-month séjour from breakout room brainstorms and after-work drinks. And yet, our creative juices (and Slack channels) keep flowing.

It’s a small gesture with big impact. We created a tool to show appreciation for each other’s contributions. Similar to a Facebook “like” but with more explanation behind it, it allows peer-to-peer encouragement when someone does a great job, goes beyond what is asked of them or simply, is just great to work with. When you receive a Shoutout, it pops up with your name tagged on our Slack channel. Pre-COVID, during a normal work week, Studio Shoutouts were also broadcast on a big-screen TV. During our catered monthly breakfasts, we’d read them aloud and entered recipients for prizes like gift cards or a “sleep-in day.”

“As you walk by or glance up you got to see a fun little Shoutout to a teammate. I miss that aspect about them working from home.”

Someone types in a post, “Kelly is such a talented developer, thanks for giving 110%!” and posts it with a dancer emoji
Context Shoutouts website entry
Context slack channel has the post previously made on slack and it has various emoji reactions on it.
Automated post appearing on the Context Slack

“It is super gratifying to send or receive one.”

“It feels good to be recognized for your work. For me, it’s definitely motivating.”

“It shows how we all value each other and can boost others with just a few words of positivity.”

Shoutouts started a way to uphold our newly minted values and to recognize one other, but they’ve become so much more. The distinction lies between recognition and appreciation. A study conducted at UC Berkeley found that if people are recognized for their contributions; productivity increases by 23%. But if people feel appreciated — valued and cared for — it shoots up to 43%.

Unable to see each other face-to-face (except during Zoom meetings), this appreciation means more as we navigate uncertain, difficult and often overwhelming times. With the second wave in full swing, we look forward to these warm and fuzzy messages. It reminds us that we’re all in this together, doing the best we can. Whether we’re busy or feeling stressed, this small gesture energizes us to finish a project with a sense of pride and accomplishment. After all, “Sometimes we focus so much on the prize we are striving for that we do not recognize that the prize is those daily interactions with people within those moments.” (Giving Thanks: Recognition versus Appreciation, United Credit Service Inc.)

Since July 2019, as of this post, over 262 Shoutouts have been made!

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