To put it mildly, 2020 has been an unusual year. Life at SiteGround made no exception, and we had to make lots of hard decisions and changes in the way we work, live, and do business ever since the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside-down. In the midst of all that, we were surprised and humbled to receive 12 awards in total for our efforts to create an amazing workplace for our employees and contribute to causes that we believe in.
We won our first two awards for the year from the Employer of Choice Awards – the COVID-19 People’s Choice Award and Best Office and Working Environment, and later on another 10 awards from Career Show 2020, which is the highest number of trophies among all the 326 applications! Here is a bit of background on how we got here, and why it means so much to us, especially now.
Our Company Culture
Ever since the beginning of the SiteGround team in 2004, we set out to build a workplace where people feel they belong. One of our core values has always been to invest in our team’s wellbeing, comfort, and happiness. We kept building on that through the years, going out of our way to take care of our team members in every possible way: working conditions and office environment, health and wellbeing, work-life balance, company benefits and perks, and more.
In 2019, we invested in constructing a new HQ building in Sofia, which is among the most technological and green offices in Bulgaria. Covering an area of nearly 10,000 sq. meters, the new SiteGround HQ is built in accordance with all requirements of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification – the most widely used system for assessing ecological construction in the world. In addition to our carefully crafted office spaces with focus on environmental design, we try to provide our team with all means to keep an essential work-life balance and sustainable life. Those include children’s playgrounds at the office, where colleagues can take their kids, electric cars, free charging stations, and bicycles, shorter working hours on Friday, extra paid days off for volunteering, and more.
In March this year, just before the lock-down, we had just opened our company restaurant with our own chef team, who would cook savoury breakfast and lunch for all our employees in our HQ every workday for free. In all our offices, you could see our teammates having breakfast or lunch together in our kitchens, playing sports in the play rooms, or arguing for their life over some board game. We were also just about to announce the fifth edition of the annual SiteGround Team Festival – an epic 3-day event with our own music stage and international guest bands, open-air festival grounds with lots of workshops and activities, which is the most anticipated event of the year for most SiteGrounders.
Keeping Our Company Spirit During the COVID-19 Pandemic
But then, the Covid-19 crisis started getting worse and worse very fast. We decided to close all our offices indefinitely almost overnight, because of the safety of our team and their close ones. This became a new challenge for us because even though our work happens mostly online, we have never been an online or remote company. We had to act as fast as this sweeping pandemic was developing, and learn to adapt to the new realities on the go.
We cancelled all business travel for our team, and started taking extra safety measures in all our offices since the beginning of February, when the COVID-19 situation started getting serious worldwide. In the beginning of March, we decided to switch to remote work entirely, for our employees and their families’ safety. We encouraged everyone from our team to create comfortable working conditions at home by providing them with all essentials from our offices such as additional work laptops, large monitors, ergonomic work chairs, even desks when needed.
Ensure Our Community Wellbeing
We had to find a way to adapt most of the benefits that we were offering to our team in our offices, to a remote environment. Instead of closing down our newly-opened company restaurant and laying off our entire chef team, we decided to keep it operational under strict safety measures. We launched the SiteGround Home Meals program and continued to provide daily fresh food deliveries to our teammates and their families in Sofia, Plovdiv, and Stara Zagora for free. If you’re a working parent and have to work from home, homeschool your kids, and think about the daily menu every day, this is just one extra thing that we take off your plate to make sure you can work from home more comfortably.
In order to keep taking care of the wellbeing of our team members, even when we are apart, we launched the SiteGround Online Wellbeing program. It started with an all-team GetFit challenge, which included live streaming of workout routines with our office coach, and online yoga and pilates classes. We also launched online mental health workshops, including one-on-one online counseling with a psychologist, which are entirely covered by the company and strictly confidential. To make sure we keep adding useful online workshops to our wellbeing program, we started doing regular team surveys to ask what topics they were most interested in in these unusual times. Personal finance and online cooking classes were among the top choices, so we added these to the upcoming calendar as well.
Increase Team Communication
When working remotely, and especially in a situation like the COVID-19 crisis that nothing can prepare you for, it’s essential that we keep communicating, both on a one-on-one basis, and as a whole as a company. In addition to our Internal chat channels and online meetings, we started organising regular online games, quizzes, escape rooms, etc. to make sure our team members can still have multiple ways to interact with each other in and out of work, like we used to when we were still in our offices.
Our Founder and CEO started hosting all-team virtual meetings from their homes to discuss the latest company news, updates, and plans or just check in with everyone when we can’t see each other in person. To make sure the conversation was not one-way, we launched a Q&A form before the meetings, and encouraged team members to post questions, then vote for their favourite ones, and the most popular got answered during the SiteGround online Assembly meeting by our CEO and our Founder. Not surprisingly, the top two questions were “When are we coming back to the office?” followed by the paradoxical “Will we still be able to work from home when our offices reopen?”. I guess you can never please everyone.
Our HR team also took the initiative to set up Open Calendar days and encourage each and every one of our 600+ employees to book a call with them to provide feedback, make suggestions and proposals on what more we can do to make our remote work more pleasant and comfortable within the ever-changing situation.
Find New Ways to Make an Impact
In addition to taking care of our team members and their families, we wanted to find new ways to help others in need. SiteGround became one of the main donors of the major hospitals in the main cities of Bulgaria, like Sofia, Plovdiv and Stara Zagora. The total SiteGround donations to medical institutions exceed 545,000 BGN in financial support and medical equipment, including a 60,000 EUR donation to Madrid’s municipality, where we also have an office, to help their battle with COVID-19. We also wanted to engage our employees in our donation initiatives, so we launched an internal program for any team members who have friends, family members working for any medical institution in need anywhere in Bulgaria, we would donate up to 10 000 BGN based on their needs. With this employee-driven donations we managed to spread over 67 500 BGN to medical centres in smaller cities all over the countries.
For the past 9 months, we have added more than 180 new employees to various SiteGround teams, all trained entirely remotely. We can only imagine what it’s like to join a new company in these unusual circumstances and not have the chance to meet most of your team members in person. But hopefully, we live up to their expectations and even in the current situation we manage to show the SiteGround spirit, albeit online. A sweeping 70% of our team evaluated SiteGround’s company environment and our actions during the Covid-19 outbreak with the highest vote among all the 36 companies competing in the Employer of Choice Awards this year. For us, knowing how our team members truly feel and how they appreciate our efforts is the biggest award. It is also a never-ending process, so we hope we’re looking at what’s next together.