Burnout made me quit. I loved my job and was a good employee. My hiring process was very weird but I couldn’t have done it with Esteban Vargas, my co-founder at Watermelon.
It happened without noticing, but in retrospect I should have noticed. When my job went from pushing teams and having a lot of water-cooler conversations to being a project manager everything broke. I quit after crying on Sunday because I had to work on Monday.
The things that are telltale signs of burnout are:
- Lack of focus
- Not wanting to push harder
- Permanent tiredness
- Disregard for yourself
It looks and feels a lot like depression. If the team culture is not supportive and open it might turn into depression.
Feeling like this has no solution other than quitting and resting from your work. It is pretty much the only solution; you can’t focus so work starts declining. You’re angry so feedback feels harsher. It spirals out of control.
I decided to help people never fall into that void, and that is how we conceived Watermelon.
After the unsatisfactory experience mentioned above, Esteban brought me in to work at Lean-Tech. It has been a great experience. It's was a weird experience though. The company has beautiful and huge offices we can’t use. We couldn’t have an end of the year party for obvious reasons. I have no idea how tall my team is, we have weekly virtual break-rooms that are fun but die as soon as people hang up. We are both social butterflies so we got to fixing it immediately. We did ridiculous stuff, abusing the corporate #general channel on Slack:
- Created groups per city inviting people to go for dinner
- Started a game night
- Pushed non learning conferences instead of the usual friday corporate talks
- Got into hiring to meet the candidates
- Asked weird questions to know people’s interests
- Published memes
- Showed off our adventures of the weekend first thing on Monday
Not everything worked. Not everyone liked it but we got to meet a lot of people doing it and one day decided to do it automatically. In the end, we are both developers and automation is what we do. That’s how Watermelon came to be. We’re turning ourselves into a corporate wellness product.
Team bonding around shared interests
A lot of the burnout that I had back in the days was due to the lack of mojo. The lack of a tribe. I didn’t find my people at that company. At the time of conceiving this product we thought: “Out of the 3,000 people at this company, I should be speaking to the ones who listen to the same music as I do. To the ones who like playing the same board games. To the ones who are weirdos as well.”
Watermelon’s question bank can help co-workers discover these common interests in a serendipitous way. We fight against burnout by asking people about their hobbies, music, series, and even funny stuff on TikTok. Watermelon sends questionnaires like the one below. Then it intersects people into virtual break-rooms based on how they answered.
Organic team culture exercises
HR departments are always looking for new ways to make their employees enjoy each other more. There are some activities that are great for a company-wide town hall meetings. But there’s a galore of activities that are tailored for specific subsets of people.
Think about it for a moment. How complex would it be to organize a company-wide online poker night? An even more critical question is, would everybody enjoy it? Would some people prefer to play chess? Settlers of Catan perhaps?
Watermelon helps you discover which activities are well-suited for which groups of people. Our product builds virtual break-rooms around specific interests. Everything starts with Watermelon’s icebreaker. It reduces the shyness of people speaking out in their room. They’re also taught out to lead the conversation towards an activity, like in the example below.
Turning these psychological insights into a product is hard. But if it works out, people won’t be burnt out at work like I did. We’re on a mission to accomplish this big, hairy, ambitious goal.Watermelon is on public beta, and we’re building fast. We’re biased, but it’s a great solution to fight against burnout. Click here to install.