We are very thankful that our product was not negatively affected by the pandemic. However, just like any other company that was non-remote before COVID-19, we’ve had to adjust our internal processes and procedures drastically. What has also greatly changed is collaboration within the team and communication. All of a sudden, we were no longer able to simply head towards someone’s desk if we needed something from them or even spend lunch breaks together. Instead, our full communication processes switched to remote.

Our culture before the pandemic

Previously, our team had greatly enjoyed our in-office rituals. For instance, we looked forward to our company-wide Friday drinks after work, joined in sports challenges that changed on a monthly basis, participated in the yearly Vienna Business Run and had our own Bitpanda football team.

For our monthly all-hands meetings, team members representing the company's wide range of nationalities (we have over 44 different ones) would prepare a traditional breakfast from their home country for all others.

Our quarterly team events and our legendary company trips were also something that everyone at Bitpanda was always looking forward to as they were great fun and contributed immensely to a strong team foundation. Facing new reality, we had to respond quickly but encountered some uncertainties: How can we keep our great culture at Bitpanda? Should we just pause all initiatives until we are back to “normal”? Should we try out new remote rituals?

What worked for us?

At Bitpanda, we like the approach of trial and error, and since there was no manual on “how to successfully transition your company culture from office to remote during a global pandemic”, we decided to be creative and try out new things. Read on for what we did.

Mental and physical well-being

A top priority for us throughout these unprecedented times was to ensure the well-being of our team members. We started off with a home office survey and, at a later stage, proceeded with a well-being survey to understand the needs of the teams. Based on the feedback we received, we decided to promote several initiatives.

The ergonomics adjustments we had been offering in the office for a healthy working environment were switched to online 1:1 sessions with our occupational health specialist where she helped improve everyone's home office settings to high ergonomic standards.

In addition, we offered webinars on corona vaccines in Austria to ensure any and all information about vaccines was also made available to non-German speaking team members. For last year’s mental health day, we prepared an information guide on how to prevent long-term stress and suggested some short-term stress relief practices for between meetings. In addition, from the very beginning, we offered free anonymous consultations with psychologists.

As last year’s Vienna Business Run could not take place, we took part in the B2mission instead, allowing our team members to compete in a month-long running competition. This turned out to be the best way to keep physical distance while being socially connected.

Furthermore, as one of our very own Pandas is an amazing Yoga instructor, he volunteered to offer online Yoga classes to all our colleagues and they were very well received. Finally, we offered free myclubs classes to everyone who enjoys working out from home while the gyms remained closed.

Events

The highlight of 2020 was definitely last Christmas - our remote Bitpanda Xmas party! Our two hosts, who are Bitpanda team members, got tested and walked us through the night from the office, while more than 200 team members joined the show remotely.

During the weeks leading up to the party, team members had already been engaged in the preparations by voting for their company value heroes and participated in an Xmas outfit challenge. During the party, our vivacious hosts staged a pub quiz, charades and a prize raffle for all our team members online.

For all our remote events, we collaborated with Takeaway Pay to offer Lieferando vouchers for everyone to choose and enjoy their delivered dinner. This is almost like catering during a real Xmas party, only better, because you can choose your own food :D.

The final highlight was courtesy of our Bitpanda DJs who took turns in entertaining us through a long and much needed night together. What made this experience so meaningful was that it was a lot of fun and DIY staged by team members only. We would like to thank all our internal team members that performed and prepared this memorable party. Oh, and did we mention that everyone received a branded Bitpanda Santa hat to be aligned on the dress-code and home office Christmas gifts?

Connecting in home office

Since our teams were used to extensive quarterly team events, we did not want them to miss out during home office times. Teams were able to decide if they wanted to participate in a face-to-face activity in compliance with Corona restrictions or meet remotely (for which we offered a wide range of possible online activities).

During one of these events, one team decided to play Among Us together, which we then extended into a company-wide event. Needless to say, it proved hugely popular with everyone and people played until late into the night, including one of our CEOs. We have also started to host our first team events in a virtual world called Mibo where you can mingle with your colleagues and have side conversations.

Picture perfect communication

In order to stay connected on a weekly basis, we also launched our internal picture challenges, which have become very popular. Every week we suggest a new topic to our team members and they are asked to post their picture featuring the topic underneath. The picture with the most upvotes wins a voucher to support a local business. Some examples included  #ratemysetup (winner in the picture below), #ratemylockdownbuddy (winner in the picture below), #ratemyhomeofficeoutfit, #ratemycurfewactivity and many more.

Another initiative to stay in touch was the launch of an app called Donut. Donut intros randomly pair people around the company to meet for short virtual coffee breaks. This way, not only new joiners, but also seasoned team members that may not have met before, are able to meet each other by chance in a very fun way. Donut intros also bring back some of the small talk you would usually enjoy while grabbing a coffee in the kitchen or when meeting someone in the elevator at the office.

Panda Talks and so much more

Even more initiatives that celebrated a comeback despite the remote setting were our all-hands meetings online, our onboarding bootcamps, language classes and our panda talks during which team members present a topic they are experts in to everyone who is interested.

Finally, every team has created its own rituals, such as open online meetings, where everyone joins and works on their respective topics but can unmute themselves to ask questions if needed (to resemble working in the office) or daily stand-ups or weekly tea times.

It is also important to acknowledge that people are struggling during these times and also have other responsibilities next to work. So, if someone prefers to shut down their laptop and not spend every free minute with colleagues, this is also perfectly fine and can contribute to a healthy work-life balance.

New challenges await

All in all, some initiatives were more successful than others. We did not try to simply copy-paste the initiatives we had had in place before COVID-19 but discovered new meaningful ways to connect remotely instead.

So what's next? Well, new challenges await us! In the meantime, we have opened new offices in Krakow and Madrid and are moving to new headquarters in Vienna. We are planning to work in the scope of a hybrid model with a good balance between home office and shared desks. We will keep you posted!