Working Life and Competitive Sports Side by Side

Working at Bitcomp was already quite flexible before the Corona pandemic. You could work remotely as you wished: you were not forced to sit in front of your computer through the office hours. Whether your day schedule was focused around evenings, mornings, or the small hours of the day, you could choose your perfect time for working. Only expectations were that it would be good to be available between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and to inform when you can be reached. Even these were mostly so that the supervisor knew you had not fallen during your work day. Trust both ways was and continues to be an important factor in successful remote work. Surveilling employees has never made any sense for either party.

So, when the Corona pandemic started and the offices were closed, there were not huge crises over the change in working conditions. Instead, new ways to maintain well-being during work days were found. Daytime walks and jogs, remote exercise sessions, yoga, riding excursions, agility… More goal-oriented sports enthusiasts begun to take advantage of training time outside the afternoon rush hours. New and even more free ways to combine working time with spare time were born. This has also enabled combining doing work with very actively doing sports. Indeed, there are several actively competing athletes at Bitcomp. We interviewed two of our athletes competing on a national championship level. Cross-country skier Anni Kainulainen and thaiboxer Lotta Honkanen tell how they have been able to combine their athletic careers with their professional careers at Bitcomp.

From Ski Track to the Office and Back

Bitcompians first got acquainted with Anni as our sponsored athlete. However, once Anni’s financial administration skills became apparent, the collaboration quickly grew in to employment.

“I work part-time and typically around 5-15 hours per week. There is a lot of variance between weeks. Usually there is more work around the middle of and at the end of the month, whereas the beginning of the month is usually quieter. I can be flexible with my schedule, so I work when there is work to be done and when meetings fit in the calendars of busier co-workers. However, generally speaking my work is mostly focused on 2-3 days each week,” Anni recounts.

Anni Kainulainen

Photo: Touho Häkkinen

During a practice season, Anni’s usual training schedule includes around 15-20 hours of training per week. Equipment care, organizing things, and traveling also take time. There is a lot of traveling for competitions and training camps. Travels often take a lot of time and add to the total load.

“Typically I have one rest day per week. On the remainder of the days, I train twice a day. On a long course day (3-4 hours), I usually train only once, although at times I may also go jogging in the evening. My training mostly consists of versatile endurance training (skiing, roller skiing, running, mountain biking). Once a week I hit the gym,” Anni tells.

Photo: Touho Häkkinen

Flexible working time has definitely been the most important factor not only in scheduling days but also in generally balancing out the season. Anni has been able to adjust work and sport schedules according to seasonal variation.

“When sports require more energy, I work less, and when there is a lighter season sports-wise, I work more and also organize other sports-related issues,” Anni explains. “For me it is important that I can also work during nights and weekends. I often go train during mornings and have meetings in the afternoon. I can do practically all my work remotely and fit it into my schedules flexibly. I often do independent work during nights and weekends.”

Working in Thaiboxing Rhythm

Lotta’s competitive career has advanced at the same pace with her professional working career. When she started working at Bitcomp in 2019, athletic career did not yet greatly affect work schedules. As her first professional Finnish title fight approaches, Lotta continues to work full time and aims to take care of work during a normal work week.

“My typical training week starts on Monday with a group training. Tuesdays tend to be double training days, so the morning starts with gym. During the day I have a private training session with my coach. Since our (combat sports) gym has group trainings of other disciplines on Tuesday afternoons, we need to hit the gym well in time to get out of the way of the first group. On Wednesday I have the second group training of the week. Thursday is my second double training day. Although on Thursdays, the private Muay Thai practice is only supplemented by a light swimming training in the morning. On Thursdays we rush to the gym already around midday. Friday is a traditional sparring day and on Saturday we do a longer training, either as a private training or as a group training for the competitors,” Lotta tells of her grueling training program.

Lotta takes full advantage of Bitcomp’s flexibility so that she can train in between of working hours.

Photo: Jarno Nurminen

“This has been great. Like I mentioned, in addition to thaiboxing, we have several grappling sports and boxing training running on our gym. This means you can’t use the gym for private or thaiboxing training every afternoon after so-called office hours. For my sleeping rhythm, sufficient rest, and overall scheduling, the training week it’s definitely better that the practices don’t have to take place nighttime after the last groups of the evening finish their training. Flexible work time is an ace up my sleeve also when I happen to have a personal appointment during a double training day,” Lotta relates.

Since the beginning of March, Bitcomp has employed more elements that support physical activity of the employees. Bitcompians can now use over an hour of their weekly working time for physical activities. Whereas some may see this as a waste of money used for salaries, at Bitcomp we trust that the hours spent exercising return the investment as healthier employees. Additionally, Bitcomp has been using Smartum application already for a long time.

“Over an hour of working time to use for training is an incredible perk, and many of my training partners have openly expressed their envy for it. What’s more, I use the Smartum perk to pay for my gym membership. This allows me to save a lot in the strength and conditioning costs,” Lotta rejoices.

The Flexibility of Work and Support from Co-Workers Help

Lotta and Anni both find it important that everyone can train as they see best for them and their life situation. They both have been able to compete whenever they have wanted to without work getting in the way.

“The support from co-workers has really felt good. I won couple of medals in the Finnish Championships in January, which we celebrated during our monthly recreational afternoon. Overall, it is nice how the hobbies and different life situations of employees are taken into account and how our special days are celebrated at work,” Anni points out.

“All in all, competing and using flex time for matches or training seems to be a very natural thing at Bitcomp, so no one has seemed perplexed by it. Every time I have let my team manager know that I’d need this or that date off for a match or training trip, is it possible to have it a day off, the answer has been that of course it is. My team mates have also been ready to fill in for me at a meeting whenever one has occurred simultaneously with these trips,” Lotta says. “Several co-workers have expressed their support for my athletic career and my own team mates experience the ups and downs of athlete life with me. It really warms my heart any time a co-worker from or outside my team let’s me know about their support or expresses genuine interest towards my sport.”

Once her home office crew even asked Lotta to instruct Muay Thai training as their recreational afternoon activity.

Anni got congratulatory flowers during Bitcomp’s recreational afternoon.

Excellent atmosphere at work and flexible policies are a significant advantage for an athlete. Sports take a toll on a person and at times one may feel that they should be able to do more or better work.

“When I started, I was a beginner in my work at the financial side, and many times I have wished that I could do more. Especially in these situations it has been important for me that I can always ask for help and get it when needed. Culture, in which you don’t have to be scared of or hide your mistakes, is really important, because everyone fails sometimes,” Anni says.

How to better support employees’ well-being and physical exercising is something that is constantly thought of at Bitcomp. Sedentary work is extremely detrimental for the body and it can cause problems, if taking care of one’s physical health is ignored. For this reason, Bitcomp’s offices have a light remote training session together on Tuesdays, held by an instructor of a fitness center in Jyväskylä. Each office has their own recreational afternoon once a month, designed so that you get to meet your co-workers every once in a while.

Trying out new sports is a popular part of Bitcomp’s recreational afternoons.

“In general, the company’s attitude towards exercise and sports is really positive. It is considered an important part of employees’ everyday life and well-being. For example, it is totally fine to suggest another time for a meeting because you’ve already agreed on a training at a certain time. In other words, work and working out actually compromise with each other, instead of work dictating the pace,” Lotta tells.

“I think our people management has been well executed and employees are appreciated and trusted. I like that the organization is so humane, agile, flexible, and has such a low hierarchy,” Anni states.