Office TVs Are A Wasteland. Here’s the Fix.

Full disclosure: this subject has bugged me for a long time, and I recently started helping out a company called Props that is providing a glimmer of hope. There’s a plug for them later in this piece, so brace yourself.

I tour a lot of office spaces, and I’ve seen my fair share of ping pong tables and bean bag chairs. (No judgement— I’m actually sitting in a bean bag chair right now.) But the office novelty I encounter most is actually something that no one seems to be talking about: TVs.

Without fail, every office I visit seems to have big, flat-screen TVs on the walls that are adding little or no value.

If you know what I’m talking about, it’s probably because they’re hanging on your walls right now. Chances are, your office TVs probably fall into one of the following buckets.

The “Confusing DevOps Monitoring Screen” is quite common. In addition to being useless to most viewers, chances are anyone who knows how to read these screens has far more efficient ways of consuming the same information.

The “Confusing DevOps Monitoring Screen” (source: adform.com)

The “Unreadable Business Dashboard” is theoretically relevant to your whole company, but its high density of information, small labels, and lack of context make it nearly impossible to digest at a glance. These visualizations are the stuff of my nightmares.

The Unreadable Business Dashboard (Source: zapier.com)

“Static Content Loops” are easy to read, but contain boring evergreen content like logos, customer case studies, promo videos, and other company propaganda. These can be great for reception areas, but making your team stare at them all day is low-grade form of torture.

Static Content Loops (source: nutshell.com)

A slightly better alternative is the “Sales Leaderboard,” which is a popular gamification tool in sales departments but typically neglects to acknowledge wins in other areas of the company. Like the DevOps screen, I’ve seen these confuse and frustrate team members who have to look at them all day but aren’t involved in impacting the content.

The Sales Leaderboard (source: crmgamified.com)

Saddest of all are the “Ah, forget it” TVs that aren’t even turned on. These aren’t conference room TVs designed for presentations — they’re in hallways, lobbies, and open work areas. It’s as though they were accidentally unplugged one day and no one ever cared enough to turn them back on. When I see this at an office, I can’t help but think “this is a place where people give up.”

The “Ah, Forget It” TV (source: blutecs.com)

The unfortunate truth is that most of these TVs get mounted on the wall with the best of intentions, but quickly prove to be more about ego and appearances than actually creating value.

I became convinced that we could do better, so some teammates and I spent a few RJMetrics hackathons trying to build a system to cure these woes. The result, which took our company by storm, has now been spun out into a standalone business. It’s called Props and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted for my office TVs.

With Props, the eight TVs that span our office seamlessly and synchronously rotate through a stream of the most timely information about our company. Props does this by crowdsourcing the most important events from our various third-party services.

Slack is the most important Props integration. When team members react to Slack content in pre-specified channels with the special “Props” emoji, that content is automatically propagated to the TVs along with the photos of those who upvoted. Props is the most popular emoji in our Slack implementation.

Props also has a number of other integrations.

  • Twitter and Instagram integrations allow you to display social posts matching certain search criteria.
  • Salesforce and Pardot integrations push new leads, closed deals, and other key events automatically.
  • Github and Gitlab integrations allow you to highlight commits from certain repos to recognize the work being done by your engineering organization.
  • The PagerDuty integration can allow alerts to take over your TVs to inform your team about active outages or other issues.
  • The Zendesk integration can push completed tickets to the screens to recognize the work being done by Customer Success.
  • Props Apps allow you to include things like images, weather, and third-party webpages into the Props rotation.

When it’s all said and done, there is a new Props event happening at RJMetrics every minute or so. The upvotes delivered via Slack inform an intelligent algorithm that ensures important events get ample screen time. Best of all, the tax on our team’s collective time is effectively zero.

You can also subscribe to a daily digest of Props, which sends an e-mail early each morning with the most-propped events from the day before. This ensures I never miss anything that was up on the big board.

Uniting two floors. Shortly after Props was rolled out, an office expansion forced us to split our company between two floors. Props has us all celebrating common wins and keeps us all connected to the pulse of company success even when we’re not all sitting side-by-side.

Positive reinforcement. There is no shortage of research showing that the modern workforce is best motivated by positive reinforcement, evidence of impact, and short feedback loops. Props strikes a healthy balance between frequent recognition and unobtrusiveness.

Emergency Alert System. Without any special effort from our leadership team, Props has become the fastest way for team members to surface and consume emergency information. Whether it’s a fire alarm, building security situation, or funny smell in the kitchen, Props gets the word out about what’s up.

More than just work. Wedding photos, birthday wishes, donut deliveries, engagement announcements, and even ultrasounds have all made their way to Props. Our team is tight — people share what they are comfortable sharing and give Props to what they feel truly deserves them. These things combine to keep us all close, connected, and honest with each other as the company grows.

This one turned out to be a well-executed April Fools joke

The product is still pretty new and the team would love your feedback. You can sign up for free at PropsBoard.com and link up your Slack account with just a few clicks. Good luck and happy propping!

CEO at @RJMetrics, Improviser at @phitcomedy, usually talking about startups, running, or rap music

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