Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mailroom Day

Today, and every Thursday, is my Mailroom Day. It's a concept I came up with to diversify the workload in Fangamer's mailroom, and I think it's been going well. More or less. It was implemented near the beginning of the year, so I think it's time to take stock of its efficacy.

For those who don't know, Fangamer's employees don't have one single role in the company. We have some general roles we tend to play given our specializations--Ryan programs, Heidi takes photography, Dan writes copy--but in such a small company we have too many things to do and not enough people to do them all exclusively. Besides, I think there's an argument to be made for having everyone at least a little familiar with the rest of the company.

I created the Creative Day a while back because I wanted to make sure people didn't spend all of their time in the mailroom or on customer service or getting buried under email and meetings. I wanted to give people a chance to explore other, more creative uses of their time.

Mailroom Day is kind of the opposite. As people started to diversify the use of their time, the mailroom started to become neglected. It began to fall on fewer and fewer people to keep things running, and those few people were running ragged trying to keep up.

The idea of Mailroom Day is that, if everyone in the company can focus at least one full day of their time to the tedious tasks of the fulfillment side of the company then, perhaps, we would all have more time to work on other things. Mailroom Day tasks included packing and shipping orders, customer service, folding and packing shirts, and other hands-on work. In short, all of the simple, easy tasks that I find fulfilling but never have the time to do anymore.

Mailroom Day works... kinda. As it is, we still have at least one person working in the mailroom full-time, which seems unfair. Still, that's pretty typical for whoever our newest employee is, and that's pretty much what I did for the first several months of working for Fangamer.

Still, I'm not sure how seriously people are taking their Mailroom Days nor how focused they are during it. In fact, as much as I enjoy the time I spend in the mailroom, even I find myself not spending a whole day there when my time comes. I work with partners a lot, and everything is always suddenly more urgent when it involves them.

Which makes me wonder if Mailroom Day was, perhaps, unrealistic. It's not entirely solving the problem I hoped it would, and though I think it would solve that problem if everyone was committed to it, I don't have any good way to enforce it, and I'm not even certain I should. I mean, if I can't even live up to it, I can't exactly call other people out on it either.

Still, the mailroom is an important part of the company, so making sure it's taken care of is an important problem that weighs on my mind. I'll keep searching for a solution.


  1. This, like every new thing we try to implement in the company, has fallen by the wayside in recent months. I've noticed a pattern within Fangamer that we sometimes get everyone on board to try a new thing, then people eventually forget about that new thing and gradually dip back into their old habits.

    I've also noticed fewer people taking their mailroom day seriously now, myself included sometimes, but there's no actual "boss" in the company to get us all back on track. There's nobody looking after everyone. We're all reliant upon ourselves to whip ourselves into shape, and not everyone is up to that task.

    Mailroom Day and Creative Day are both good ideas in theory, but putting them into practice and forcing people to get in the habit of sticking to them will take significantly more work than relying on everyone's willpower alone.

    I'd love to talk with you sometime and try to come up with ways to help people stay on track with things like this. I'm very interested in helping everyone keep a steady schedule, but I dislike the feeling of being a "mom" to my coworkers :(

    1. Heh, you and Laura both feel that way.

      I think it would be nice to have a personnel manager. Not to have someone who bosses people around so much as to keep everyone on track. Someone who knows what everyone else is up to and why they're doing ______ instead of _______. Someone whose job it is to keep an eye on the big picture, so that they can make recommendations on the best way for people to spend their time to help the company stay on track.

      That's a tall order, though, that would require someone very organized, personable, and clear-minded to be both effective and not come across as "bossy." Good managers are hard to come by.