The impact of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, is being felt around the world. In response to these unprecedented and uncertain times, Canva has requested all employees work from home as a preventative measure. Maintaining the health and safety of our team and community is our priority - and so is making sure they can do their best work while feeling safe and engaged. In this blog, head of Canva’s Vibe team, Chris Low, shares how Canva is using technology and creativity to help spread the good vibes to all its remote employees worldwide.
Canva’s humble journey started in our CEO and cofounder’s mother’s lounge room in Western Australia. Eight years later, a now global business with offices in Sydney, Manila and China, our 800+ strong team is testament to our ability to maintain a happy, engaged and productive workforce.
In December 2019/January 2020 Australia overcame one of its worst national disasters with fire storms ravaging our lands, during which we witnessed the great Aussie spirit, pure grit and bravery, hope and overwhelming stories of kindness, generosity and charity. Meanwhile the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas, Philippines also in January meant our team members in Manila had to adapt to new work schedules, while our colleagues in China were starting to feel the first waves of the coronavirus outbreak hit home.
Now the pandemic is spreading. We’re witnessing unprecedented times, with many people in panic mode - ranging from pensioners, business owners, parents and their school children, in limbo wondering what the next few months will look like. We’ve seen people battling each other for the last roll of TP, stockpiling goods, abusing retail staff for nation-wide enforced rations, mass organisation-wide layoffs - it could be said this pandemic is bringing out the worst in everyone.
Being located in Sydney myself, I’ve personally witnessed polar opposite ‘vibes’, only months apart.
With governments around the globe urgently trying to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, Australia has imposed a number of strict regulations to slow down infection rates:
- Shutdown of principal places of social gathering - including registered and licensed clubs, entertainment venues, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sports venues and places of worship;
- No international travel to any country;
- Some states closing their borders for domestic travel;
- Restaurants and cafes are restricted to takeaway only;
- Cancellation of events like the ANZAC Day Memorial Services;
- Postponement of national sporting events including the NRL and AFL tournaments; and
- Encouraging all people to stay at home, practice physical distancing of at least 1.5m if it’s absolutely necessary to enter into the public domain and good hand hygiene.
What does this mean for our people? Our extended communities? Our users?
Our priorities are to, above all else:
- keep our team, and their families safe by introducing work from home measures;
- do our part to slow community spread of the virus to help protect the most vulnerable; and
- ensure we continue to serve our design community with the highest standards.
But what happens to team morale, and the culture Canva is so lovingly known for, when all face-to-face contact, in-person meetings, international and domestic travel, and other events are put on hold to work from home?
In this blog post, I’ll share how the Canva Vibe team is taking our mission further by lifting morale and engagement across our remote workforce.
The Virtual Canva Vibe
Now more than ever, the need for good vibes and a strong company culture is intensifying. So much so, our ‘Vibe Team’ has been working tirelessly over the past couple of weeks to ensure that when the time came for the entire 800+ Canva workforce to work remotely, the same culture could be felt across the world wide web, straight to everyone’s home office/couch/dining room table - wherever their best work is done!
Our Vibe Team is a dedicated group of individuals (roughly 1 to every 25 employees) whose primary purpose is ensure there is a strong internal culture, and therefore a wonderful work environment that inspires everyone to do their best work - to have that fire in their belly to continuously learn and improve, as well as feel supported and truly love what they do each day.
To that end, with our now completely remote workplace, the Vibe Team has developed a dedicated internal website as a one-stop-shop key resource to help bolster our team’s strong sense of belonging and camaraderie.
An ever-evolving platform, currently the site includes:
A dedicated space where super top line updates (also known as TL:DR content) are shared for the global team; they will be updated on a ‘as they happen’ basis.
More social channels
Additional Slack channels have been created with working from home (WFH) tips and tricks, how-tos and a bit of fun; these include #wfh-fashion-challenges, #wfh-food-and-bev-challenge where teams can spice up and share their working from home outfits, join the daily cook-along and ‘rate your mates’ plates and #best-of-zoom-meetings where our team can show off their best Zoom backgrounds and calls.
Content that is normally played across our digital screens within Canva’s Sydney offices, are now being broadcast virtually through our new ‘intranet’. Updated daily, the purpose of this dashboard is to inspire lunch options, recommend good books, recognise ‘Canvaversaries’ and birthdays, and welcome our newest recruits (known as ‘Canvanauts’).
It’s important we continue to implement as many BAU activities as possible - for it is these quirky little internal communication pieces that add up to make Canva’s well-loved culture and vibe.
Just because we’re not in the office, doesn’t mean we cannot celebrate our people’s birthdays! It’s important to the ongoing vibe and culture of Canva for everyone to maintain a sense of connectivity, celebration and acknowledgement.
A central area containing all the key information relating to COVID-19 and WFH policies. Includes country-specific government updates and mandates, new company-wide announcements, as well as toolkits for BAU activity to proceed remotely, ensuring we’re working as a collective as seamlessly and cohesively as possible.
In this current climate, we are extremely lucky to be able to keep up our livelihood and work from home, especially as there are other industries that don’t have this opportunity. One area that has been impacted massively are our local cafes, restaurants and commercial fruit and vegetable suppliers; and closer to home, our very own suppliers to Canva. We see this as a great opportunity to embrace our values and offer support to these communities in need.
All our team members receive a daily lunch stipend whilst we’re a 100% remote workforce - and during this time we’re encouraging everyone to think about the communities that have been greatly affected by the current situation when it comes how and where to spend the allowance.
To that end, our people can:
Receive the stipend in their fortnightly paycheck to spend within their local communities, supporting their local providers.
Help local suppliers and provide food to local charities 🙏
Rather than receiving the stipend in one’s paycheck, it’ll be donated to either Wayside Chapel or OzHarvest. We have chosen these charities as they reflect the values that we ourselves embody and echo our philosophy of being able to bring people together through good nutritious food.
Help local suppliers and receive a home delivery hamper 🥖
Most of Canva’s food and beverage suppliers have lost up to 80%-90% of their weekly clients and are facing uncertain futures. To ensure they are able to keep operating we have pulled together a weekly mixed hamper that showcases their amazing seasonal produce and smallgoods.
The hamper will be delivered every Tuesday and contain the following:
- Fresh bread from Bread & Butter Project;
- Half doz. free range eggs;
- Fresh fruit and vegetables from Rami (who supplements our Canva veg supply);
- Farm veg, Hebron Farm (Canva’s Farm);
- Freshly Ground Coffee from Kua Coffee; and
- Flowers from our florist Selena Murray
Our resident chefs have developed weekly menus, shopping lists and how-to videos to inspire.
The video series showcases how easy, and cost-effective, it is to pull together a healthy breakfast and lunch using limited resources. Updated weekly, the videos include step-by-step instructions on how to make pesto linguine through to the ultimate in 2 minute noodles recipes.
Health and Wellbeing
Our resident Health and Wellbeing Coach has transformed a whole raft of wellness plans into virtual ones via Zoom - including fitness programs like chair yoga, how to deal with 3:30itis and a series of stretches and functional movements to get the blood flow moving.
Here’s an example of one of the many exercises shared with our teams, to keep our bodies moving and help us all be less sedentary:
An example of one of the many simple how-to videos our resident Health and Wellness Coach provides on the daily.
Clubs from Home
From #wine-club and #music-club, through to #pasta-club-official and #mindfulness-club, the virtual club scene is strong at Canva. Keeping our employees engaged and active in the company - beyond their remit as per their job description - is an integral part of our culture.
We have over 360 active clubs currently at Canva, with many more by the day moving to a virtual format; their value is enormous to building strong long-lasting relationships with other members of our team, the cross-pollination of ideas and information and knowledge sharing.
Moving 800+ people completely online is unchartered territory for many, so the development of our WFH (working from home) tips resource offers insight into some of the best ways to work with remote teams, as well as how to stay productive while watching Netflix plus much more.
We’ve also developed a comprehensive ‘Remote Working Toolkit’ which includes resources for individuals, teams and leads; such as guidelines for remote work, WFH productivity reimbursements, list of tools available for remote collaboration such as Slack, Zoom, Trello, Jira, Coda and the like.
Canva University has also launched a ‘How do you remotely do it?’ series, including a number of panels, sessions and deep dives on working remotely.
Currently featuring four shows - hosted by some of Canva’s most charismatic team members - these dedicated podcasts are critical to boosting engagement across our entirely remote organisation.
Over 42 million people listen to podcasts weekly, that’s more than people go to the movies! A statistic that will sure rise given the current #coronavirus climate. This form of communication:
- allows us to reach our employees with a format they’re used to;
- is easy to digest;
- has the ability to engage a global team - podcasts allow us to make important information available on demand immediately to others in different timezones; and
- enhances peer-to-peer connection.
It’s extra important to look after your headspace when working remotely for extended periods and during times of uncertainty. To effectively support the mental health of all our people, Canva is providing every employee with:
- 13 free video consultations with a psychologist via the company’s EAP providers;
- Access to a comprehensive resources library on managing one’s mental health during times of isolation
- Mindfulness and meditation app subsidies - these practices can be incredibly effective in times like these. There are plenty of really great apps out there (Headspace, Calm, Smiling Mind etc) and Canva will help cover the subscription fees
- Access to a number of virtual webinar series covering key mental health topics, as well as strategies for copying and building resilience.
Whether you’re looking for soap or kids panadol, this dedicated area includes an interactive map where team members can upload ‘shopping hotspots’. It also allows you to ‘pin drop’ companies that have had to close their doors, but are still alive and kicking online - so we can continue to ‘shop local’. Finally there’s an area to ‘Hitch a Ride’ - where if you have a car, you can list your availability to help out other Canvanauts if needed.
Virtual Friday Night Drinks
We’ve developed a virtual ‘Friday Night Drinks’ Zoom meeting which features live performances to support the local entertainment industry that has been so disadvantaged by the outbreak of COVID-19.
An initiative to help keep the internal wins and celebrations alive, and continue building connections with each of our teams - while we’re all remote. From virtual games of Pictionary and Bingo as an ice breaker, through to dedicated dress up meetings (Canva is big on dress ups - especially at our Season Openers - we’ve had Under the Sea, Game of Thrones, Hawaiian just to name a few), exercises with our resident Health and Wellness Coach and specialised cooking tutorials with our group of chefs.
Why keeping the vibe alive is important
I am a firm believer that ‘keeping the vibe alive’ (or culture) is absolutely paramount for any organisation, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty. For us, we know our culture and vibe is the backbone to our success; our great people develop our great products. It takes a village to constantly lead the charge and work to become one of the world’s most loved brands.
We hope these initiatives will help us ride this wave of uncertainty, by providing an environment for our people to be the best they can be, deliver their best work and ensure we continue to deliver a service that is exceptional.
We’re not professing to have all the answers, we’re learning as we go - this is unchartered territory, and we are well aware there are organisations that do not have the luxury or flexibility to implement the measures we have - but every little effort can add up to something more impactful.
If our methods mean less people commuting to and from work, with less touchpoints running the risk of infection, it’s just one small step to help keep our communities safer. Secondly, if our initiatives inspire other organisations to implement little changes to make their respective teams and communities safer, more cohesive, then that too is a win. Thirdly, our people come first, second and third - during this time of crisis each and everyone’s well being is of the utmost importance - it takes a village to build and maintain a business like ours - and if we can do our bit to ensure our global teams have what they need to be good humans and to excel in their work and home life, then we’re ensuring we’re doing our bit to be a force for good.
What else are our people doing to support the broader community?
We, as an organisation, are offering all public health organisations (PHO) around the world with free lifetime licences for Canva Pro. This initiative comes in response to the surge of misinformation surrounding the virus, as PHO’s struggle to fight back against myths and rumours gaining traction in the public domain.
Canva’s in-house design team is volunteering its services to PHO’s in need of further assistance with delivering effective visual communications.
We have also launched a collection of new health-related templates including flyers, posters and social media posts designed with pre-populated content based on the information supplied by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
All of our farm produce is being donated to Wayside Chapel, local communities and OzHarvest. We’re also producing finished meals for our nearby charity organisations, to continue to help those in need during this global crisis.
Regardless of where you are in the world, 2020 will be one of the toughest years yet. We all need to rally together to build resilience and courage, help each other out, share information/resources and learn from each other so that together we can come out the other side of this global crisis stronger and more empowered than ever before.
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