Popcorn Media’s Ways of Working: The Stress Checker

The Stress Checker

How are you? It’s a question we hear a lot in our daily lives. It’s the right hook in the one-two punch combo of most initial greetings and a way to demonstrate a desire to go just a little bit deeper in your conversation. Unfortunately, it’s also a question that’s floated out there with little intention to show up for the answer. It usually goes more like this:

“Hi, How are you?”

“Hey I’m great, how are you?”

“Amazing, yea things are good.”

And then off we go, back to our regularly scheduled activities fully immersed in our own stories.

Today during COVID-19 – we’re all going deeper together. When people ask how you are, you get the feeling they genuinely care, genuinely want to know, genuinely are checking in on you. And we’re more honest with our answers too. I’ve heard more “bad”, “not good” and “ungrounded” in the last month than I can count and every time it’s a feeling I can connect with because I’ve been there/am there/was just there too.

At Popcorn, we’ve been asking each other “how are you” in a different way for a long time. A fixture of our weekly team meeting is something we’ve called the “Stress Checker”. Early on we acknowledged the importance of employee health in our organization and we wanted to be proactive in how we evaluated and measured it. For us, health needed to be defined broader than just the physical; it needed to cover the many different aspects of our dynamic group and give us both a quantitative and qualitative snapshot of just how our team was feeling on any given week. Here’s a snapshot of what our “Stress Checker” looks like:

Employee*Spiritual/MentalPhysicalWork StressRelationships
(SO/friends/fam)
Feeling
Shaan2262Hopeful
Shaandra3241Motivated
Shaanathon6472Cloudy
ShaanDiego2854Sluggish

*Note names have been changed to protect our teams privacy and do not reflect a group of employees with first names that are just slight iterations of my name 🙂  

We go around and discuss this as a group. We rate ourselves and share our “feeling” – essentially a word that captures and summarizes where a person is at on that day, that moment, that meeting. It gives us a chance to share and to reflect and discuss as a group. It gives team members a chance to check in on each other, to help out with someone’s full work plate or support someone struggling with a relationship. It’s an opportunity for us to show up for each other as humans, not just co-workers. It deepens our trust in each other, demonstrates the strength in vulnerability and dimensionalizes each person. It’s a result of the environment we’ve built and a reflection of our values as an organization.

I don’t take it for granted for a second. Building a culture of openness and willingness takes work. Popcorn is a place to have the hard conversation and share the hard truth. It didn’t happen by itself and it didn’t happen easily. But it has allowed us to be more authentic with each other and have deeper and more meaningful conversations. In a time riddled with uncertainty, changing realities and fluctuating emotions it helps to have a community of co-workers who are more than just the people you work with. It helps to have a tool to check in with each other, and a prompt to unearth honesty when sometimes your personal truth isn’t so rosy. It helps us, and maybe it can help you too.

Shaan Coelho
Head of Agency Operations & Strategy, Popcorn Media
@shaanjcoelho