Insights about InnoClub, the well-being of Innovecsers, and the mutual influence between hobbies and success at work

#Interview
April 28, 2022 12 min read

Choose a lifestyle, not a job. The company’s corporate culture encourages a balanced life and helps to develop beyond the mere profession. That is why the InnoClub community was created and is successfully operating, gradually expanding and uniting 12 communities of interest. Their participants, leaders, and coordinator of the platform are active people, who are passionate about their favorite cause, really care, and are ready to drive others.

More detail about InnоClub, features of each community, and the importance of keeping the “balance wheel” in life in an interview with Olha Havlytska, Community Relations Coordinator at InnoClub by Innovecs.

Olya, you work for the company as a Community Relations Coordinator. I know that for you it is not only a job but also a lifestyle. Tell us more about your role: what are your responsibilities and how does it all intertwine with your hobby?

I have been running for about 4 years now. And it’s not just a tick in my calendar. This is my lifestyle, the same daily need as brushing my teeth in the morning. Running helps me not only to keep fit and feel good but also to achieve my goals. You set yourself the goal of running a half marathon, and a neural connection is formed in your subconscious that you will achieve goals not only in sports but also in work, for instance, complete the project, a difficult task, bring the case to an end. That is, sport affects not only your well-being but also your progress at work.

One day my friend Anastasiia Chaikovska (Innovecs Internal Communication Specialist and running community leader) invited me for a run with the company. I joined several times. And later they opened my dream position — Community Relations Coordinator — and I was offered to join not only jogging :). I like to communicate with people, encourage them, and help them develop. This has always been interesting for me, and I decided to give it a try. From day one, I immersed myself in the world of communities to navigate the needs and characteristics of everyone and understand how to organize their work best to keep people interested.

My task is to help and support community leaders in holding meetings, training, meet-ups, and organizing challenges and activities. I work on InnoClub’s growth strategy, order branded merch, solve infrastructure issues, and help build community members. Every once in a while I come up with ideas about challenges and competitions.

In the IT industry, a lot is said about the well-being of employees, which largely depends on the corporate culture of the company. In your opinion, what do we mean by saying that a company cares about well-being?

As long as everything is fine with the well-being corporate framework, employees will never complain of emotional burnout. It is easy to fall into this state if life becomes a routine — sleep, a trip to work, and a way back home. So even the work that you once enjoyed, ceases to please because it doesn’t make sense anymore. The burnout process looks as follows: first, we literally get high from our favorite work and do our best, and then there comes a moment when we want to work overtime and go beyond ourselves. However, this condition is a precursor of future burnout.
To avoid it, you need to spice up your life and not just focus on work processes, but add a little hobby and communication.

I agree that other than employees, employers themselves are responsible for well-being too. And it’s great when companies motivate their employees not only to improve their performance and grow professionally but also to develop personally. Everyone has something in life that inspires and refills resources whether it is dancing, running, reading books, drawing, traveling, etc.

If corporate culture encourages you to combine work with activities that inspire you, your well-being should not be a matter of concern. Another sign of “norm” is balance in all spheres of life. One area cannot develop in the absence of another. Otherwise, you start to feel out of balance. It is crucial to understand your limits and keep yourself balanced — relax, do hobbies and communicate. I must point out that the corporate culture of Innovecs’ well-being is an important component that is reflected in actions, not words.

And how exactly does the company take care of well-being? Are there any unique offers?

In addition to HR projects and various activities, the company operates based on InnoClub — a large community that brings together more than 10 communities of interests and hobbies of employees. Some of them have up to 30 people, and others number from 70 to 100 participants such as the investment community. People meet, discuss favorite topics and get together for different hobbies. Every employee can join any community that inspires, get acquainted and train with other teams, develop not only professionally, but also improve in their hobbies.

The number of communities is growing every year. Every Innovecser can become both a member and a leader of the community. Most often, the community is headed by the person who submitted the idea to create it or the most active participant. Currently, InnoClub has about 12 communities: running, fitness, chess, mindfulness, classical yoga and fly-yoga, football, table tennis, and classical tennis, E-sports, sports, and extreme recreation, public speaking, and the investment communities. Of course, this list will expand.

And how did it all start? How did the idea to create InnoClub come about? Which community was the first and who initiated the development?

I joined the company when the launch of the InnoClub community was being prepared. Even before my arrival, there were already running, investment, tennis, and table tennis communities.

The table tennis community was the first. This is quite a gamble, you get engaged really quickly. Until a few years ago, employees gathered at the company’s old office for lunch to play and relax. Once upon a time, one of the most proactive participants — Dmytro Kryvenko, Advanced Software Architect (Solution), invited Innovecsers to compete with teams from other IT companies. Unfortunately, winning was pretty far from us, but from the moment of that attempt, the participants wanted to pursue their hobby on a more serious level. Later, they hired a coach, exchanged knowledge, and after a while, they were able to play at a decent level not only with other IT companies but also to compete with professional athletes. Last year, our participants went to the Ukrainian Table Tennis Championship.

The running community started to develop particularly when Anastasiia Chaikovska, an Internal Communication Specialist at Innovecs, became the leader. She involved a trainer, encouraged participants to run, set goals, and shared their results. Everyone gathered for a morning ‘SunRiseRun with company’ jogs, did plogging in the Holosiivskyi forest, and collected garbage.

The investment community emerged with the arrival of Oleksandr Zhminko, Business Development Representative at Innovecs, who held meetings and lectures on effective investing and financial literacy.
This is exactly what happens in every community. Active people inspire others with their enthusiasm, and a community is formed around them.

Today, there are about 12 communities of interest under the InnoClub umbrella. Tell us about the most active of them. What have you already implemented and what are your plans for the future?

Because all of the 12 communities are created at different times, each is at its own stage of development. Some are in the process of growth, others are in a particularly active phase. The most active communities often organize challenges, and competitions and participate in various external projects. For example, the running community organized a Running Challenge in the summer with the specific goal for participants to run 50 km/month. Also, everyone gathered together at SunRiseRun — morning jogs and breakfast together. They also organized plogging in Holosiivskyi Forest.

As a special encouragement to run in the cold season the running community organized a challenge, increasing the distance to 60 km/month. Oleksandr Zagrebelnyi, our coach and part-time QA Manual, encouraged participants to perform exercises to strengthen the musculoskeletal system every week. Of course, people shared their successes on social media and discussed the benefits of such marathons. And the most diligent runners received prizes.

Last year, we revived the fitness community, where you can train with both a personal trainer and a group. Strength, functional training, and stretching are available both offline and online. In the future, we plan to hold a wellness challenge on a healthy lifestyle because fitness is the ability to maintain balance in both training and functional nutrition.

Many people join the yoga community, which operates in two formats — classical yoga and fly yoga, which not only strengthens the musculoskeletal system but also improves the digestive system. Classical yoga classes are held online. The leader of the community is our classical yoga trainer Kateryna Chaika, who works in the company as a Talent Sourcing Specialist. We invite an external trainer to fly yoga classes. Participants also take part in challenges to perform certain types of asanas and then share their achievements in chats and social networks.

The mindfulness community is also gaining momentum. It is a place where employees can get available information on psychology, share experiences, gain skills of psychological care for themselves and others, and learn to prevent stress and burnout. The leader of the community is also our employee Diana Nahirna, who has a degree in psychology and works as a Technical Writer at Innovecs. At the weekly discussion meetings, participants discuss topics of self-realization and awareness, learning and self-development, romantic and family relationships, sports psychology, and life challenges in general. An 8-week meditation course was held in the winter, where participants learned to enjoy life here and now.

Sports communities include table tennis and classic tennis units. Fans of classic tennis were divided into two groups: beginners and a more professional team. The leader of the community is Olga Prykhno, Chief Operational Officer at Innovecs. An external coach was involved to teach table tennis. Our participants have honed their skills so much that they win prizes in the championships. Classes usually take place in the morning. You play some tennis, and then during the day, you are determined to win.

Last year, a football community was launched for football fans, led by Artem Voronin, Junior Designer (Motion), and coached by our former employee. Another sports community that competes with professional players is the Ice Hockey community, whose leaders are Alex Lutskiy, CEO of Innovecs, and Volodymyr Lutskiy, IT Procurement Manager. We also have an e-sports community for playing Counter-Strike under the leadership of Maxym Prykhno, a Technical Support Specialist in the company. Later we will talk more about the important projects they have implemented over the past six months.

The community of active recreation and extreme sports unites people who are into travel, hiking, and extreme sports. In the fall we went to the mountains and rode motorcycles. There are many more interesting trips ahead, and that is a whole other story.

The investment community is one of the first and largest in the Innovecs, where the meet-ups with representatives of investment funds and various consulting companies are held. Anyone interested in how to increase funds and invest effectively can join the community. In the future, we plan to host a large conference with the participation of market leaders.

The chess community is currently being rebuilt. We plan to hold classes online, involve a coach, and host chess competitions and tournaments.

Public Speaking community, where you can hone public speaking and presentation skills, as well as get rid of barriers to communication and public speaking. Among the leaders of the community are our colleagues Tetiana Rudenko and Danil Brovko. The idea is to meet in informal places for classes such as cafes or museums. The core of the community are people who like to participate in conferences and are active in the public sphere. We plan to invite a professional trainer speaking, who would also help participants in the development of a personal brand.

How do you encourage people to become community leaders? Do they agree easily?

Often active people do not expect encouragement. They are so passionate that they strive to share their passion for hobbies with teammates. So they find me, tell me about their initiative, share their knowledge, and we start a community. Leaders are those who are ready to drive others, motivate, and be pleased with the results of their colleagues. The company, of course, encourages, for its part, to provide the organizational infrastructure for the implementation of initiatives. As a community coordinator, I love that each of us can make an invaluable contribution to the development of teammates.

And how do you manage to keep the enthusiasm of the participants? Isn’t community activity declining?

We support the activity of each community, taking into account the development factors that are common to any community: the presence of a leader, interesting activity, regular meetings, commitment to community traditions (challenges, championships, sharing our jogging screens, photos after training, sharing impressions), joint chats, branded merch, and slogan.

People become motivated when they see the results of their regular training. Oftentimes, some things seem impossible to us, but when we achieve them, we realize that we do not know the limits of our capabilities. The participants of the November 60 km challenge admitted that they could barely run even 2 km before that. But the training paid off. So when people see their progression, nothing can be more motivating to move forward. For our part, we support and create new traditions that push people to action. We encourage people to share their results on social networks, and corporate chats and we reward the most active participants.

Are the communities open only to employees of the company or also to external participants?

Most of our communities are open to all IT professionals, both from Innovecs and other IT companies. In addition, you can become not only a participant but also a coach. There are some restrictions to participation in the tennis and e-sports communities, as there is a certain membership limit.

External IT specialists can also join the activities in the community. But to receive additional benefits and privileges, you need to join Innovecs.

Does remote work somehow affect community involvement?

For people who are passionate about their work and profession, it can be difficult to switch to another activity during the working day. Since most of our communities are remote-friendly, employees don’t have to go to the gym to train or to a chess club to play chess. You open the laptop, turn on Teams and play chess with your companion. Fancy some training? You quickly put on a sports uniform, join online training, then take a shower and continue working. Participating in the InnoClub community serves as a switch.
We always keep a record of our meetings, and a teammate who is out of the office regularly or on this particular day can practice to a record at any time. The remote format allows you to be flexible and adapt to each employee.

The company has several offices and plans to open hubs in different countries. Is there the same level of access to the community for workers from these countries?

Wherever an employee is — in Australia, Poland, Romania, or elsewhere — everyone has the same level of access. We provide this by adapting the language of instructions, communication channels, and time features to regional needs.
Indeed, we plan to diversify communication channels that will attract people from other countries. That is, in the running community, in addition to Telegram, we will use other channels of communication, for example, the Strava application. Fitness classes will be conducted in English as well. Even time zones are not an obstacle, as most can view the record. There will be no restrictions. In any country, people can join the meeting, communicate, and share their experiences.

And how can I apply to participate in the community?

Innovecsers can find all information about the community on our corporate portal Lifeboard — here you can register via the link, view missed workouts online, and learn about certain life hacks to perform complex exercises, such as yoga.
IT professionals from other companies can apply to participate in the community on the InnoClub page. Also, information about each community with the ability to register will soon appear on the Job site.

From observing different communities, do you think there is a relationship between hobbies and productivity that everyone is talking about?

Certain neural connections are constantly being formed in our brain. If we are accustomed to actively pursuing a hobby, our success there is also projected to our work. Life must be balanced and developed evenly in all spheres. Think of the “balance wheel”, which has a place for family, friends, work, health, self-development, and recreation. If the development of one area reaches 10 points and the other just 3 points, then this is an uneven distribution.

Psychologists say that the more even each of the areas of the “balance wheel”, the happier a person is. To my mind, the company creates a work environment where employees feel happy and balanced. After all, in addition to professional development, they have the opportunity to evolve in other areas. By taking part in communities, you can communicate, make friends, take care of your health and grow personally.

InnoClub’s slogan goes like this: Choose a lifestyle, not a job. How would you briefly describe this style?

At Innovecs, you are not confined to a desk whatsoever. This is the place for your professional development and being around an awesome team. There are many opportunities for personal and professional evolution. This is your lifestyle. In the morning you train in the tennis community and then proceed to work. In addition to lunch, you have a workout again, and in the evening when the work is done you play table tennis with teammates.

This is your active lifestyle. You are interested, you enjoy the day, you want more, and your work goals are fulfilled in the same rhythm as you do your hobby. Easy and effortless. You don’t force yourself to work, you like it.

The company promotes and encourages this. If you are really into running, do not give up this habit. At Innovecs you can find like-minded people, make friends and continue to grow career-wise. Some Innovecsers joke that we have a sports camp because there are always some events — training, challenges, competitions, and championships. No Innovecser does not take part in any community, and all this happens within the working environment. We encourage everyone to choose their community and enjoy life at Innovecs.

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