June 24, 2020

How Marie Schneegans, CEO at Workwell, Stays Productive

Marie Schneegans, CEO at Workwell

Marie Schneegans is the CEO and Cofounder of Workwell, a platform that informs employees of all the events and services available in their workplace. The idea for the platform came to Marie years earlier when she worked at financial giant UBS. Feelings of loneliness and disconnection in the huge company led her to create the app Never Eat Alone, which helps employees connect for lunch. She quickly realized her mission went well beyond lunch companions—she wanted to improve the overall happiness and quality of corporate life. That resulted in developing Workwell, which raised $1.5M in 2016. We chatted with Marie about her day-to-day, how she stays productive, and the way she thinks about wellbeing.

What are your main responsibilities as CEO of Workwell?

We have a distributed team of engineers in San Francisco, LA, Cairo, Hanoi, and Paris. I work to make sure everyone is happy with their work situation and communication is easy.

I also spend my time developing my network, meeting prospective business partners and investors, and evolving our product to best align with our values.

Describe what a typical day might entail for you.

I strive for a daily balance between focus time, wellbeing activities, calls and personal development. I start my day with some physical activity like tennis, yoga, or Thai-boxing.

Then I’ll spend a lot of time in the collaboration app we use, Notion. Since our team is spread over different time zones, most of our work is asynchronous. I’ll also work on our current focus with the product, as well as have a sync call with my team and my double, Amity, daily.

How do you handle the everyday challenges of work and being an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship is a real roller coaster. This is why my wellbeing routines are so important. They help anchor and prepare me for its daily challenges as well as help me be more adaptable.

It’s also important to be surrounded by the right people. I trust my team and we share a common goal. I also have several mentors who help me work through business challenges. Currently, I’m learning to breathe like a warrior with one of my coaches and I have therapists I speak to regularly to help me mentally.

What was the trigger or moment that you decided to start working with an assistant?

Being dyslexic, I knew when founding my company that I would need support with a variety of tasks. I’ve always struggled with written communication so I knew I would need support for all my written work.

As an entrepreneur that faces new challenges everyday, it became obvious that having someone to take over a lot of these tasks would allow me to focus on our product and alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress. I also know that my assistant will do many tasks better than I would.

How does your double help you?

Amity helps me with everything. She writes drafts for all my written communication in our inbox collaboration tool, Front. She also manages my calendar to make sure I have uninterrupted focus time as well as time for sport.

She helps with aspects of HR (managing employee expenses, paying salaries), books my medical appointments, manages payments with several bank accounts, makes my travel arrangements, and finds great new places to eat.

What has having a double given you more time for?

I spend less time on admin/emails/meetings and more time with my team and product. My double has taken so much off my plate and allowed me to be more present (and have better sleep!).

I think every entrepreneur would benefit from handing over time consuming tasks to a trustworthy assistant. I’m very happy with the way Double matched me with my assistant and how the Double app makes it really easy to collaborate.

Are there things you know you should delegate but have a hard time letting go of?

One of my key strengths is delegating. From the start of working with Amity, I’ve trusted her with everything. There’s really nothing I wouldn't delegate to her.

What's a favorite experience or memory you have from working with your double?

I really enjoy our daily sync calls. Working remotely can take away the human relationship. Our calls deepen our work relationship, are the perfect time to delegate more, and give Amity more insight into my projects and needs. We also laugh a lot!

One of our favourite projects to do together is organize company offsites. We prepare the schedule and think up topics for our dinners. Then she finds all the accommodations, chefs, and places where we can do fun team activities. Amity makes sure as much as possible is prepared ahead of time so once the team is together things run smoothly. For our last offsite, we actually enrolled the help of an extra double, Solena, to take over some tasks, which was really helpful.

What have you learned in your current role?

I‘ve learned a lot through trial and error, especially with regards to recruiting. In the beginning, I didn't have a process. But it’s important to have one and stick to it. I've learned to put the bar very high and never give up when looking for the ideal candidate. And this is how I now approach all of my professional relationships.

What are your go-to sources for learning and staying informed?

I like to read TechCrunch and loved the book The Great CEO Within by coach Matt Mochary. Before bed, I usually stick to non-work related books and comics to expand my mind, learn, and disconnect.

I’m also a part of the Interact community and fellowship. We all have different backgrounds and it’s inspiring to hear mission-driven technologists share their thoughts on how to make the world a better place.

What's your favorite productivity hack?

I have a few. First, Double! Having an assistant has been amazing for boosting my productivity. Another basic but key hack is to add everything in my calendar and stick to it.

I also make time to completely disconnect for an entire week at least once a year. This helps me clear my mind and get creative. During these breaks, I have lots of ideas and when I return feel more productive.

What brings you joy outside of work?

Work actually brings me a lot of joy, which is my mission. That’s because every day is a balance of things that make me happy and help me move forward. What also brings me joy is laughter, spending time with family and friends as well as helping people and mentoring.

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