Remote but reachable: Creating a global Luno community

Sophie Hinder-Walbank
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5 minute read

I’ve always enjoyed the social side of work and have never been one to put up walls between my work and personal life. If we became friends at work, then it’s likely we would be friends thereafter! 

So you can imagine my excitement at the end of 2019 once I had accepted my new role as Internal Communications Lead at Luno. Flights to our Cape Town office? Booked. Linkedin exchanges with my new global team mates? Sent. Pre-drinks at Luno’s London office? Drunk. I knew this was going to be a totally different experience from the corporate world I had been used to, and I was PUMPED.

Fast forward a couple of months to my first day at Luno, sat in my manager’s kitchen in a location just outside of London (sounds more top secret than it was), with the two of us looking puzzled at my new macbook as a somewhat frazzled Wikus from IT helped us navigate his first, on the fly “at-home” remote IT set-up. Because only a few days prior to me starting my first new job in six years, Luno had announced its trial week of ‘work from home’, just in case. I remember we spent my first lunch break traipsing around the gloomily empty aisles of Kelly’s nearest Tesco superstore, stocking up on frozen food and loo rolls. Just in case

Little did I know that our farewell hug on only my third day would be the last time I’d see an in person Lunaut until nearly a year later... 

… and for someone who had relied so much on making things happen through personal interactions, those first few months in my new job were hard. Because I had to be patient: it took longer to understand how things worked, to experience those little nuances that tend to give a business its personality, to build relationships with key stakeholders, and most importantly, to make friends! I’m so grateful that Luno was set-up for a quick pivot to a remote experience because it already had so many distributed teams across the globe.

In those early days, like many companies, we jumped on the Zoom phenomenon of team social quizzes, and our internal comms ramp up consisted of more regular leadership comms and All Hands, just to feel connected and to offer some certainty in a world that seemed to be rapidly spiralling out of control. As a team, we did our best to motivate each other by tapping into the vastly talented employee base with our ‘Creative Series’ initiatives which included online cooking with Joel, meditative drawing with our designer, Lauren, and the all-important desk stretching with Rae.

If I was able to see a silver lining at the time, the pandemic allowed me to meet and unearth the awesome talents of my amazing new colleagues. We were all rooting for each other, and if I hadn’t been sure about what sort of culture I was joining, the pandemic showed me that Luno was a company filled with peers who were emotionally mature, supportive of each other, with a tongue-in-cheek attitude at all times. 

We did pretty well during that 18 month period, despite the chaotic nature of cleaning the offices, opening the offices, closing the offices, re-opening the offices. If my former colleagues thought crypto would be a roller coaster experience, how about Covid… 

It wasn’t until I experienced some personal challenges during the UK’s third lockdown that I felt a real yearning to see this mysterious group of people, who until then had just been half-bodied heads on shoulders. So as soon as the UK government allowed us to, that’s exactly what I did.

And I’ve never looked back. Popping into the office for half a day once a month soon turned into every two weeks, then every week, and now it’s multiple times a week. Because I’m not just visiting a location from which to work, I’m there to see my friends. My “colleagues” (if I dare to use that word) are a group of people that I have shared the most insane, mind blowing but also unique experience with. We lived through lockdown the Luno way, with our employer being the most consistent and guiding force in our lives. These days, we work hard and we play hard, and my goodness we have fun together. I’m so pleased that this feeling generally appears to be replicated across our global business, and although each person’s experience is different, many of us feel part of a bigger community, as well as a number of smaller communities.

So now that I’m a fully-fledged supporter of the hybrid (remote but reachable) approach to work, it’s inspired me to evolve my own Internal Communications team at Luno. Having asked Lunauts what is most important to them in a remote world, they told us that it’s critical for Luno to prioritise the factors that all contribute towards a feeling of community, such as social connection and personal wellbeing. We have responded by forming a new People Community team which is dedicated to creating a community of people who share things in common, care deeply about each other, and work closely together towards a common purpose about which they care. 

The team has been founded around some core principles, just like our Remote but Reachable approach to work. These principles include showing support and kindness to one another, recognising that all Lunauts are individuals, and most importantly, having fun! What do these principles look like at Luno? It’s the goal of our team to deliver first-class communication, party-pumping socials, and wellbeing initiatives, all creating a sense of community. 

As People Community Lead, it is my job to ensure that Lunauts have as many opportunities as they need to feel connected to each other both remotely and in person, and we identify opportunities to support their wellbeing as well as creating a sense of belonging and community. 

Who are the team behind creating this community? Each of our Belonging, Wellbeing, Social and Charity teams have local members across our global office base, ensuring each region is being well looked after! As an example, we have a team of Luno socialites who dedicate their time to putting on a whole calendar of fun, including ping pong tournaments in the London office, virtual conversations between Lunauts from all offices to discuss the importance and challenges to our collective cultural heritage, and rooftop sunbathing/ braai events from our Cape Town rooftop. And although the team is mainly made up of enthusiastic Lunaut volunteers who give up their time to these “passion projects”, Luno plans to commit even further resources to the Luno Community cause. Keep your eyes peeled for more information on this!

So if I could summarise Luno’s approach to making sure its people stay connected to each other, we definitely have a “best of both worlds, so why choose” attitude. And that’s my kind of thinking!

Avatar Sophie Hinder-Walbank
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Sophie Hinder-Walbank

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