Keeping up motivation and inspiration

As a UX designer I am also interested in good experiences in general, and an interest that is growing stronger is how to create a nice experience at work by trying to make people feel that their work is valuable and that it actually makes a difference, but also that it’s just fun to go to work.

Some of the things I’ve tried are related to my previous blog post about bringing your users closer, but I have also sent postcards to remote teams, having a cake with fireworks brought in at the end of a routine meeting and purchased flowers to a back-end team that does a tremendous job week after week, but seldom gets the oohs and aahs during sprint demos.

A few weeks ago I attended the always inspiring UX Open unconference here in Stockholm, and took the opportunity to suggest an open space session around this. It turned out many people were interested in the topic, and we had a great discussion with a lot of awesome examples. I believe I captured most of them, but if you took part in the discussion and find something missing, let me know in the comments!

A siren to let everyone know that you have released? Bring it on! Photo: m.a.r.c

Visualizing progress

  • At the end of every sprint, the team gets a little plant to take care of. At the end of the project, there is a jungle.
  • “Three years ago today” – post something about what the product/service/site was like at some earlier point in time to visualize what you have improved since then.
  • Visualizing progress in migrating content from an old web platform to a new one by moving marbles between plastic cylinders.
  • At one company, there is a physical release button that you are allowed to push every time you do a release, no matter how small. The button triggers a web camera to capture your face, sends the photo out to everybody and also makes sirens on every floor go off. Then the photo is printed and hung on a specific wall.
  • In another company, the teams print an A4 sheet for every feature released and hang it on the wall. At the end of the year you can look back on how much you actually have achieved.
  • Turning sprint demos to a happening, with music and light show, having executives test a new feature on stage etc.

Rewards and recognition

  • One consultancy company rewards the team with champagne if the client is happy with the project. Tried and true!
  • At a newspaper, they have a traveling trophy (an ugly stuffed rabbit) that can be awarded to an individual or a team that has done something in line with the department’s values, e.g. for being courageous and doing something that is outside of their comfort zone.


  • Focused feel-good techniques at retrospectives, like everybody turns to the person to the right and tells her two awesome things she did during the sprint. Then everybody turns to someone else and does the same thing and you leave the room feeling invincible.
  • Having somebody in the team who cares specifically about how the team members are feeling about the work and the project, and makes sure to discuss it one to one with everybody. Sometimes it can be a hurdle to bring up stuff like that at daily scrums.
Desk covered with pictures of corgis
Corgi craze at Hemnet. Photo: Patrik Wibron

Breaking the monotony

  • Serving unexpected refreshments at meetings, like popcorn at 8am.
  • When it’s someone’s birthday or someone returns from parental leave or similar, there is a tradition to do some crazy things with their desk. One guy who loves corgi dogs found his desk completely covered in corgis of all shapes and sizes. Another had everything down to the smallest paperclip wrapped in aluminum foil.

Making actual work more fun

  • One team has been conducting guerrilla usability tests of the website out and about in the city, equipped with iPads, a bag of interview questions and candy.
  • At the start of large projects, after having gone through the requirements and what HAS to be done, always end with the question: how can we make this more fun? It could be going to a field trip or including something new that the team wants to learn as part of the project.
  • “Time reporting beer”. At the end of the month, many consultants gather and have a beer while doing their boring time reporting.

Tactics for breaks

  • Not as part of a routine, but what started as two people going out to have an ice-cream ended up with the entire company joining for ice-cream in the sun.
  • Instead of a routine coffee break, try to get some variation. If you can’t have a table tennis table, like some companies do, you could always get a chessboard and a Mix-Max game.
  • Have breaks for physical exercise. One team has a swimming pool nearby and one person doubles as a front crawl instructor for the others. They also go out hunting for Pokemons together.
  • One company has a set of small health and fitness-inspired goals, like standing 20 minutes at your desk instead of sitting. When you complete the entire set, you are allowed to take a little present from a box, and in return put a present there yourself for the next team member.

So those were some examples of what people do. Now, I would like to get more examples from you, dear reader. Did you ever try something that was successful or did someone expose you to something unusual that motivated you or just was plain fun? Please add a comment and let me know!

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