The average American adult spends over 10 hours a day using electronics, according to a Nielsen Company audience report. This device usage has been heavily criticized as a reason we are allegedly more antisocial, but technology can also bring us together.
Just look at Durham-based startup Plan2Play, which will present at CED’s Venture Connect summit (March 17-19 at the Raleigh Convention Center). The app fosters company culture by allowing employees to add their interests and availability and connect with other employees on the platform they might not have interacted with otherwise, increasing employee satisfaction and productivity while reducing turnover.
When Founder and CEO Louise Fahys formed Plan2Play around a year ago, recognizing loneliness as a problem in society and the workplace was a large influence.
“It’s (loneliness) a factor in the workplace,” Fahys said. “I think it’s a factor for a lot of people, especially now. I’m very passionate about it. You look at the millennial generation and what’s going on there with device usage and everything else. And so for myself, I just spent a lot of time wanting to find people to do things with. But I noticed I was always putting barriers in my way.”
Fahys, who has a background in software engineering, said she would assume others were busy socially, likely because she didn’t want to face any rejection that would come if they said no. Or she didn’t feel she had time to organize something and wasn’t sure what fun things were going on around her.
Running her software service company Code A Site, she also noticed employees were more productive when they participated in activities with each other.
“It was founded under the idea of using technology to remove barriers and create real-life interaction,” Fahys said. “We did a lot of research over the last year, trying to figure out where we fit best, which looks like right now from what we’re doing to be in the workplace because it’s a great way to get people connecting with each other.”
One of Fahys’ inspirations in Plan2Play is author Brené Brown, whose theory is that connection is why we are here.
“We’re all hard-wired to connect with each other,” Fahys said. “It gives us purpose and meaning. Without it—and I believe this, too—without it, there is suffering.”
For the companies, it provides a potential win-win opportunity for both top management and employees.
“The impact I would love to have is being able to help an employer retain their employees,” Fahys said. “But not only are they retaining their employees, but we’re having an impact on that employee’s mental and physical well-being as well by helping them create their social connections and basically do other activities that they may have barriers to doing right now.”
When Plan2Play users enter the app, they can select activities they’re interested in, like fitness, community service, team-building or even just going out for lunch. From there, users can create their own events or wait for other users to ask from both within and outside of their organization.
The app targets companies that are between 50 and 1,000 employees at $3 a user per month. At the moment it serves five pilot companies in the Triangle with around 500 individual users. New companies can sign up for a one-month trial that is free for the first 25 employees.
With studies showing that 20% of employees leave in the first 90 days, Plan2Play could be a determining factor in keeping an employee.
“That experience of bringing someone new into your company, a part of that is not only making sure that they have a laptop and things like that,” Fahys said, “but also getting people engaged with them for that connection so that they feel welcomed.”
Although the Plan2Play app only launched last month, in the startup’s next release, there will be an option to create a ‘program’ to encourage employees in a department to spend some time with a newly on-boarded employee—by grabbing coffee, for instance.
Fahys said she is excited for the opportunity to tell Venture Connect attendees about what Plan2Play is doing, potentially gaining more customers and funding. To date, the company has been bootstrapped.
Don’t miss Plan2Play present at Venture Connect on Tuesday, March 17, in Room 301A/B as part of the “Life Digitized” category.