This week, in our continuing series, Culture Collective, we’re talking to Christina Wu, Operations Associate at Shine Inc. Christina oversees everything from employee experience to business operations (think managing hiring, accounting & legal processes). Prior to Shine, she worked as a consultant for both startups and large organizations to help build and optimize their sales processes. She said she loves that her work gives her the ability to build community within the company and across teams. Outside of work, she loves cooking with her kitchen gadgets and finding new and fun ways to enhance the cooking experience. She also loves a good workout and enjoys Sunday runs around her neighborhood park to reflect on her week. Read more below.
What are three words to describe your workplace culture and why?
At Shine, we’re building the world’s largest self-care club and we’re working to make the world a more compassionate place. Because of the nature of our mission and how it ties into mental health, we have an incredibly empathetic, creative and diverse team. What comes to mind when describing our workplace culture is emotionally supportive, always learning and a phrase we coined, “Go big and go home.”
The first thing is emotionally supportive. A few of our favorite team phrases we hear in the office often are, “I got you,” and “You got this,” and that really sums up how our team operates. Whether it’s lending a helping hand or wishing someone good luck on a pitch, we’ve cultivated an encouraging culture and we recognize the importance of a quick pep talk, just like our Shine texts. We know that emotional support is so powerful, especially in the workplace, where there is a lot of pressure. We know asking a simple question like, “How’s your day going?” and really listening can help one another feel seen and heard.
To our second point, always learning, one of our key company values is having a growth mindset, which is an important characteristic for any fast-moving startup like ours. We know we can’t know it all, but our team is incredibly talented and can learn quickly, getting data and feedback and continuing to optimize. The key is to not be afraid of failing and to see all experiments as learning opportunities. We’re learning as we go.
And lastly, “Go big and go home,” is a term we penned to express our commitment to work/life balance. It means that when we come to work, we show up and get stuff done and then we go home and rest. We disconnect from email and Slack and just spend time with someone or something that really brings us joy. We know everyone is better off in the long term when we take our down time.
What is your office super power?
I would say it’s my resourcefulness to make things happen. I love a good challenge where I get to think creatively and come up with ideas. I grew up with immigrant parents, so they’ve taught me how to work with what I’m given and figure out how to create more. That mindset has taught me how to stretch out orange juice as a kid to now, stretching out dollars at a startup. I really enjoy figuring out the puzzle pieces and tools needed to achieve the best outcome.
Why is company culture important?
We could not fulfill our mission or build the kind of community that we’ve created without the brainpower and passion from our team. Culture lives not only in the team events or the great snacks, but also in the intangible ways in how the team treats one another. We believe culture is a big part of how we’ll grow our company. It starts with having a strong foundation where we’re aligned on our team values and creating these open spaces to help everyone feel psychology safe to share ideas or feedback and even be vulnerable. To that end, we’ve created a few practices that create trust and belonging on our team and it has had a great impact on our company culture.
We have a weekly gratitude where everyone shares one thing that they’re grateful for that week. We also have weekly reflection on Fridays where the team gets to share three things: one thing they’re proud of, one thing they’ve learned for the week and what they’re focused on for next week. It’s one of our favorite times to connect with one another and learn about how people are doing both inside and outside of work.
What does your team normally do for lunch?
We are all about the snacks and coffee in our office. Some of our team members have even brought back snacks from their vacations for the team, which is just so thoughtful and unexpected. This goes back to one of the key components of our company culture which is surprise and delight. On a weekly basis, we’ll have meals or treats for the office. It’s a great time to take a quick break. We love gathering around our kitchen high top table to chat over a meal or take snack breaks.
What are ways your company brings your team together?
The most popular way our team gets together is our monthly game connect nights, which are our board game nights, but with a twist. So, we’ll have pizza and an ice breaker activity that gives everyone a chance to connect and learn new and interesting facts about other people on the team. Then, we dive into our board games and it can get competitive! So far, our team has been really enjoying Codenames.
One of my personal favorite ways to bring our team together is by responding to our Shine Weekly Newsletter inbox. We’ll have people from our community respond to our
newsletters with their appreciation for what we’re doing and sometimes they even get vulnerable
about how we’re helping them through a tough time. It’s been so great to stay connected to our community and have everyone on the team personally respond to them.
If you could propose an idea to positively impact any company’s culture, what would it be and why?
We’ve seen across workplaces that, generally people are working longer hours and are also more ambitious than ever to get things done. We often forget to recharge because we’re busy being productive and then we burn out. It’s no surprise that the World Health Organization officially recognized burnout as an occupational hazard just this year. Burnout is a chronic stress that employees feel when they’ve been emotionally and physically depletedand negatively impacts overall productivity and life satisfaction.
Research has shown that job stress in the U.S. has cost more than $300 billion in turnover, absenteeism, diminished productivity and medical, legal and insurance costs. Everyone experiences burnout differently so it’s important to take note and start paying attention to stress and thinking patterns. Through a Shine survey, we found that most employees think that mental health days are beneficial, but few people feel empowered to even ask for them or take them. The number one thing employees need to know is that their company leadership also sees mental health breaks as a necessary way to recharge. So, for companies, what’s important is to share their stance on well being and self care. It will make their team feel appreciative of all the hard work they’re putting in and feel supported in taking the necessary time off to reset and recharge.
To support our teams mental health, at Shine, we created a no questions asked policy for taking a self care day and created that as a type of PTO that employees can request and take. We also have a weekly Shine meditation on Wednesday mornings. It just takes 10 minutes and usually we have a big turnout.
And, this year, we actually started a campaign called National Mental Health Break where over 70 companies joined us in giving their employees a mental health break in May. These companies helped challenge the notion that you can’t be ambitious and take care of yourself — you can do both and it’s crucial to do both. It’s a lesson that our founders learned first-hand while building Shine and so that also became a core value of our company (Go big and go home). As a part of that campaign we created two great resources for both employees and employers on how to ask for mental health breaks and talk about it in the workplace.