Overview

“996” is a famous term in nowadays startups in China, which means, work from 9AM, work 9 hours, work 6 days per week. Working in a startup is exciting yet stressful. How to manage the stress is always a focus at startups. In our research, we found that actually people pursuing the fast-paced working style since it gives a boost in their career. Nonetheless, stress are not able to be handled if people working in startups fail to communicate and collaborate smoothly. We propose COMOOD, an interactive vending-machine-like emotion board and a related lighting feedback system, which targets on facilitating communication and helping relieving accumulated stress as a solution for stress management at startups.

Role & Duration

Product Designer, Jul. 2017

Interview, Affinity Diagram, Persona, Ideation, Interface Design, User Testing

Team Member: Nishant Panchal (Mentor), Yiwen Zhu, Chujia Ji, Haoyu Wang, Shanshan Xu, Johnny Gong

The problem

Nowadays, China is facing a transition phase. In light of the success of the entrepreneurial pioneer, Alibaba, various startups are set up in different fields of the area. More and more people of young generation choose to work at startups or start their own enterprise. However, studies have shown that people working in startups are experiencing immense stress from both people around them (clients, employees, customers, and the friends and family) and themselves (self-expectation and pressure on success), much higher than those who work in other enterprises. Through this project, we attempted to dig deeper into the causes and the impacts of the pressure and provide strategies for people working in the startups to get a balanced life.

Design Process

User Research

1. Preliminary Research

To begin with, we tried to define all the potential pressure sources. Through the brainstorm and literature review, we came up with a bunch of ideas related to the work pressure from “off work” scenarios to “at work” scenarios. Our focus was more on the “at work” scenarios, which were further divided into human factors and non-human factors.

2. Survey

According to the possible pressure sources we postulated, we first conducted a survey* to study the stress level distribution among employees working in startups. The results are shown on the right —

- Most of the respondents are people of age 23~26.
- Most of them just started their career within 3 years.
- Though they are young, most of them could deal with their work pretty well.
- Living far away from home /Being single, they seldom experience stress from family or off work scenarios.

However, the survey results still showed that about one-third of the respondents experienced sleep deprivation and other negative emotions due to their work. Based on all above, we narrowed our target down to the “at work” “human factors”. We also invited two respondents to our interview who reported that they were experiencing sleep deprivation and depression in the survey.

3. Interview

Besides these two who experienced pressure from their work, our research also included 5 other interviewees who were employees, CEO and group leaders from Bay West Accelerator or Stoooges (an educational startup). We finally generalized two personas regarding CEO/leader and employee respectively.

Through interviews, we got our personas and journey map which shed light on how interpersonal relationship/communication cause harmful pressure.

Synthesis

1.Persona

2. User Journey Map

After we discovered that failures in interpersonal relationship and communication might be the pressure sources, we focused more on exploring the problems in all kinds of communication including small talk as well as meetings. By formulating the journey map we noticed how bad interpersonal relationship and communication would finally cause unsolvable and harmful pressure.

Through our journey map, we figured out how bad interpersonal relationship and communication patterns reflect on employees' behaviors and how those behaviors then impact their work and finally their mental health.

We saw a few of the behaviors and impacts of bad interpersonal relationship patterns as the pain points. By mediating these behaviors and impacts, we wanted to facilitate communication at startup workplace to finally eliminate the potential pressure source. All those pain points indicated 3 main goals for our design tasks shown below. Finally, they converged on how might we create an open and friendly working environment (physical & mental) to facilitate communication?

Ideation

According to our HOW MIGHT WE statement, we conducted our ideation of the design considering the three proposed design goals. We did the brainstorming through crazy 5 minutes and analogy cards and then organized our ideas through affinity diagraming and semantic differential scale.

To refine our design concepts, we further proposed 5 design requirements which a product in a workplace should meet.

Based on our design requirement, we filtered those ideas which might not be qualified. For instance, sound feedback might be irritating thus is not suitable for the workplace. We finally converged all the ideas into two main concepts — interactive emotion board and lighting therapy and feedback system.

By KT board modeling and Arduino development, we presented our first version rough model for our design. In our concept, mood board should be an intriguing interactive machine which you could use to record the change of your feelings at a workplace and the lighting system could provide extra feedback channel for the overall emotion and provide changing light therapy for each individual.

Prototyping

By KT board modeling and Arduino development, we presented our first version rough model for our design. In our concept, mood board should be an intriguing interactive machine which you could use to record the change of your feelings at a workplace and the lighting system could provide extra feedback channel for the overall emotion and provide changing light therapy for each individual.

By using the light dependent resistor, we developed an auto-tuning color-changing mood light. According to second-hand research*, we found blue light could enhance the work efficiency and support mental acuity, vitality and alertness while reducing fatigue and daytime sleepiness. While for warmer light, it generally creates a sense of comfort. This kind of lighting should be used in more intimate settings where you want workers to feel calm and relaxed. In this case, light could be used to help adjust people’s mental state.

Storyboard

Through storyboarding, we went through the whole user task flow which further illuminates our interaction/interface design.

Sketches

Through sketching, we explored several possible shapes of products. The sketches shown on the right shows the final form of our product. It looks like a vending machine. We wish this intriguing design would promote more motivation for interaction.

Final Design

Other than individual therapy, the lighting system can also provide non-irritating feedback and automatic adjustment to the entire workplace.

Since COMOOD can collect and analyze employees the overall mood distribution. If most people choose the happy mood, the happy emoji will show on the COMOOD screen (as shown in pic ①) and there will be more blue light since it can enhance the work efficiency and support mental acuity, vitality and alertness while reducing fatigue and daytime sleepiness. While if most people are in an angry/anxious mood (as shown in pic ②), then the light will be warmer since warmer light create a sense of comfort. The correlation between mood distribution and lighting is shown below.