Faceless Day: Gimmicky office stunts won’t increase productivity or ease stress

Image by Vincent Diamante via wikimedia

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Aug 4, 2015

On July 14, Woffice, a Chinese property service company located in Handan, took part in an exercise that appeared to be quite similar to Halloween. Employees were given the choice to wear a black-and-white mask at the office, in an effort to reduce stress. With faces hidden behind thin plastic, workers could focus on their duties without worrying about the pressures of smiling, the stigma of yawning, and the boorishness of rolling their eyes. So, what mask did all the workers chose? For the day known as Faceless Day, employees at Woffice chose the character No-Face from the beloved anime, Spirited Away, and Guy Fawkes from V for Vendetta.

Now, it might just be me, but I am not sending my resumé to Woffice anytime soon. If a business needs to use masks to ease tension within the workforce, I can’t imagine the monotony of working there any other time of the year. True, unorthodox exercises such as Faceless Day are gaining popularity in offices all around the world, but how about something less juvenile?

I hate the idea of dress codes. I hate it at fancy restaurants, I hate it at nightclubs, and I sure as hell hate it in the workplace. Yes, there is an emphasis on professionalism, but having to wear a suit and tie does not make you a productive worker. It’s funny that wearing jeans to work for a day is considered a perk in some offices.

For a year and a half, I was a Starbucks barista. Starbucks has a relatively strict dress code where male employees have to wear black or beige pants—excluding jeans and sweat pants—while on the floor. I always wondered why the fabric mattered. Who is peeking behind the bar, looking under my green apron, and at my pants? I don’t know, but apparently what I wore made your mocha taste better and myself a leaner thinker.

Needless to say, I wore black jeans for most of my employment and nobody (except the manager) made a big deal about it. Well, a few co-workers pointed it out, but they were merely inspired, and a bit frightened, by my rebellious ways. Don’t even get me started on Fridays at Starbucks. During my stint, only the day partners were allowed to wear T-shirts instead of collared shirts. Ignore my sarcasm, but that was a real privilege.

I believe many companies waste too much time, money, and effort trying to find creative (and not so creative) ways to motivate and calm their employees; Faceless Day is creative, while laid-back dress code days aren’t. Ultimately though, these efforts are not going to see much, if any, return of investment. Don’t enforce rules and then take them away, expecting the workers to be more relaxed. Don’t be gimmicky. A workplace is for grown-ups, so treat employees as such; let them make their own decisions. And if you really want them to relax after a hard product sprint or dinner rush, buy them a beer, give them a day off, or take them on a retreat. Don’t give them something else to wear.

Foko Promotes Photo Taking at Work To Strengthen Communication and Solve Problems

Ottawa-based Foko understands that photographs are the new quick, text-free way to communicate.

Whether it’s sharing our vacation photos, showcasing our accomplishments or taking a quick pic of our afternoon snack, our pictures can tell a story worth a thousand—maybe—more words. And that experience should not be withheld in the workplace.

Communication within an organization is paramount to the workforce, but recent trends have shown that internal communication platforms such as Intranets garner little traction. “There is around 10% [of employees at a given company using Intranets],” said Foko’s cofounder and CEO, Eric Sauve. “If you get 20% you are a hero. I came to a conclusion that companies are really missing out on connecting their employees.”

Simplicity became Foko’s focus as they tried to understand the barriers of communication in an enterprise environment. The result is a familiar Instagram-like app that enables workers, employers and all other members of the company to recognize each other through a medium that is easy to use.

“We came to photos,” said Sauve, “because you don’t need to know English and you don’t need to be a good writer; you just need a [camera] phone and you can participate. Photo sharing is the consumer Internet, from web apps (Pintrest and Imgur) to social networks to new services—the ones that are growing the most are photo centric—like Instagram and SnapChat. So let’s bring it to companies in a way that they can get everyone involved.”

Entering an ecosystem with so many different photo-sharing platforms, Foko finds its uniqueness in terms of privacy, security, and exclusivity. In another words, Foko caters to a corporate-audience. Ones that understands that when dealing with the behind the scenes photography of Fortune 100 companies, a few potential problems need to be addressed, such as HR problems, IT leaks issues, etc. Foko builds the community around the workers; only allowing those associated with the company the ability to view activities within.

This internal communication enables stores and offices in different geographical areas to work together to strengthen merchandise sales, etc., and colleagues with different schedules to catch up and discuss the happenings at work. In addition, Foko also helps enterprises share and promote events and occasions that stems from the workplace, such as charity events, volunteer opportunities, conferences and company parties. Photos are also a friendly way of introduction and acknowledgement, especially in big companies where workers seldom see each other. The ability to welcome a new employee or to acknowledge an old one is something every company, large or small, should have the capability to do.

The use of social media and other consumer platforms are often frowned upon at workplace. If you spend your time posting pictures on Instagram at work, you are probably wasting time, but if you post something on Foko while working, you are building workplace cohesion.

“It’s all in how you used the social media,” said Sauve. “It’s the fact that it’s private that makes all the difference. If you take a picture at work and share it on Instagram: are you sharing secrets, are you sharing embarrassing stuff about the store and does it meet with the branding guidelines of how we interact with the public? But if you share it internally, nobody cares about that stuff.” Sauve added, “Sharing within a constrained group really changes the nature of social media.”

In the upcoming week, Foko is also introducing the private messaging feature to their application, enabling workers to communicate with individuals in the company. Instead of sending a photo to the entire company, you can select the co-workers you would like to receive the picture and reach out to them privately. Say, they forgot their mints at work, well what better way to notify and reassure them that it’s still there—untouched— than with a fresh picture of it?