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This tech company uses ‘mood mapping’ to understand how workers feel

The CEO of Range decided to try something outside-the-box to get a better sense of how employees were actually doing.

This tech company uses ‘mood mapping’ to understand how workers feel
[Source images: Rawpixel (grid,clouds)]

Let’s face it, a lot of us are coping with challenges, and these struggles can impact our mood. It’s hard to be upbeat and positive when every day feels like rinse and repeat version of the previous one. It can also be hard to gauge your coworker’s emotions when everyone is remote. To help boost employee wellness, Dan Pupius, CEO of the workplace collaboration software provider Range, decided to have team members report their daily mood.

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“When people are remote, it can be hard to know how they’re showing up to work,” says Pupius. “You jump on these meetings, and there’s not much informal communication going on. When you’re in the office, however, you can find cues. For example, you see someone in the kitchen and maybe they look tired or stressed. That helps you to interpret their behavior throughout the day.”

To measure emotions and add context from afar, Pupius asked employees to add their mood to a daily check-in, using the colors green for happy, yellow for stressed, and red for upset with emojis that reflect how they feel. Employees can also update their mood throughout the day.

How Managers Use the Information

When an employee shares that they’re feeling stressed or upset, simply asking them how they’re doing isn’t enough. “It can’t feel like this is surveillance,” says Pupius. “The key is about gathering context and understanding how to help.”

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If a teammate checks in as yellow a couple of times a week, coworkers can offer to take some of their workload. If they check in as red, managers can take stronger action, such as taking something off their plate or giving them a day off.

While understanding how someone feels can help in the moment, Pupius says aggregating the data creates mood maps that provide valuable insights on the company workflow. If teams start to trend certain way, managers can review deadlines and workloads.

“Maybe people are pushing hard on a project and are starting to feel a bit out of it,” he says. “We started to see trends, and we were able to use them to shape how we structure vacations, holidays, and activities.”

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For example, if the team is feeling burned out due to a big project, Pupius implements a meeting-free week where everyone could go fully asynchronous and not have as much scheduled time. If an external factor is causing stress, such as the pandemic or the California wildfires, the company adds an extra vacation day during the month.

“If there wasn’t a holiday, we made one up,” says Pupius. “We’d celebrate National Waffle Day or something like that. Then we looked at opportunities for the team to connect because a very important part of surviving through tough times is feeling like you have a tribe and you’re part of a group of people working together.”

Making it Safe to Report

For mood mapping to work, employees need a level of psychological safety. “It’s a prerequisite, but it’s like a chicken-and-the-egg thing,” he says. “Is it the environment that allows you to be vulnerable, or is it the vulnerability that creates a psychologically safe environment?”

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To get employees to be open, Pupius says the leader needs to model vulnerability by being authentic and honest, checking in yellow one day or use a green emoji that looks slightly stressed.

“People tend to want to keep up appearances,” says Pupius. “Once one person shares—especially when it’s a leader—other people feel better opening up.”

Mood Maps Can Help with Retention

For companies to tackle the Great Resignation, they need to focus on retention. Measuring employees’ moods in the moment can be a tool for collecting real-time insights so you can act in the moment.

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“One manager told me everyone checked in yellow on their distributed team,” says Pupius. “They’ve been pushing for deadlines, and he wasn’t aware of the toll it was taking. As a result of seeing yellow across the board, they shifted gears and made sure people got some extra breaks. He was 100% sure he wouldn’t have done that without this mechanism.”

Knowing employee’s moods is good for the company and for the employees, says Pupius. “People are leaving companies because they feel disconnected from their teams or from the purpose,” he says. “Making teams feel more connected is good for the company because it can have a positive impact on retention and it’s good for the employees because they feel like a team, instead of a bunch of individuals working from home.”

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