Culture in the time of coronavirus: Five things Canva is doing to maintain its vibe

Canva founders

Canva founders Cliff Obrecht, Melanie Perkins and Cameron Adams. Source: Supplied.

Sydney unicorn Canva is famed for its sexy-but-still-cool office space and strong focus on community (they have a head of vibe, for Pete’s sake).

But, about three weeks ago, like almost everyone else, Canva moved to remote working. The office dogs lounge on sofas instead of roaming the lunch hall. The rooftop deck is empty, the bar unmanned. Ten of thousands of Tim Tams are, I presume, abandoned.

But, this is Canva. It isn’t going to let a little social distancing squash its spirit.

Here’s how one 800-plus workforce is staying connected during COVID-19.


Canva’s rooftop terrace, in busier times. Photographer: Priscilla Pho.

Free lunch

Canva is renowned for its farm-grown home-cooked lunches, dished up for free to the workforce every day. With no staff on site to feed, it’s instead offering a daily dining budget, and encouraging employees to spend it at their local sushi or burrito vendor.

Online socialising

Coffee dates, mindfulness, pasta club, tea club, wine club, handstand club — you name it, there’s an online club for that — Canva is taking social events online, with scheduled Zoom meetings and everything.

There are also company-wide Netflix nights, for those less interested in learning.

Actually, online everything

Twice daily, employees can tune into remote fitness classes, from circuit to yoga, with Canva’s resident health and wellbeing coach.

Teams are also holding online ‘innings’ to celebrate their wins. Some watch a movie, some have a socially distant pizza party, some play online games or watch comedy. The digital world (and only the digital world) is your oyster.

Finally, on Friday nights, Canva is hosting comedy and music gigs via Zoom, to help support employees’ local favourites who no longer have a pub to play to.

Offline something

Staying connected is all well and good, but there is such a thing as too much video-chat. Canva’s ‘meetless Wednesdays’ provides a full day free of meetings and conferences, and a break from that awkward picture of your own face in the corner of the screen.

And some serious stuff

And finally, yes, Mel, Cliff and Cameron do know this is serious. There are some things no amount of virtual drinks or live(ish) music can make up for.

So, the startup has also offered to cover the full cost of counselling for employees, if they feel they need it. That’s on top of regular webinars from experts with tips on how to cope with any stress and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

OK, so we can’t all be multi-billion-dollar unicorns. Your business may not have the resources to offer such a comprehensive work-from-home wellbeing package.

But in business, we take inspiration from the top. Canva’s focus on people hasn’t hurt it so far. So why would that change in times of crisis?

You’d be surprised how far a chinwag and a glass of wine can go.

NOW READ: Androgogic has had a fully remote workforce for 15 years: Here are five lessons learnt

NOW READ: Canva’s Melanie Perkins calls on business leaders to “take bold action” on COVID-19


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