COVID-19 — How a pandemic affected the way Fitvia working


fitvia, an e-Commerce Start-Up for healthy living based in Wiesbaden, is today in our spotlight. With this article you will gather insights about methodologies, tools and best practices to enhance the team spirit and keep business flowing in times of fully remote work. As a future glance we want to raise awareness for an upcoming article in late summer, which will focus on multi facets digital change management at fitvia.

fitvia was founded in 2014 by Sebastian Merkhoffer, a German entrepreneur, by the age of 24. He was a big tea-drinker and experienced that tea had quite a rusty image and no innovative tastes, next to the classic ones. He started his own business and contacted influencers around Europe to promote his tea on their social accounts — back then a quite unknown way of promotion. By now, fitvia grew within six years to over 800,000 customers and 100 employees and is based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

The team runs social accounts and webshops in 5 languages, incl. German, Italian, Spanish, French and English.

In 2019, the Dermapharm AG bought 70% of the fitvia entity. Dermapharm is a leading manufacturer of patent-free branded pharmaceuticals for selected markets in Germany. In December 2020, Dermapharm bought the minority stake of 30% from Sebastian Merkhoffer.

COVID-19 — How a pandemic affected the way of working

It was January 27, 2020 that the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Germany. Many stayed relaxed — thinking it will be fine after all -, yet the first became restless, wondering what was in store for us. Explosively, it became clear: the situation turned into a global pandemic. The development was so rapid that companies were quickly asked, How to regulate the office situation?”, without clear government regulation at this point. So was fitvia. With the company vision to “make the world a little healthier”, the decision was quickly made: on March 16, 2020, it was time to pack one’s things, wave goodbye and switch to home office with the aim of health protection of fitvias employees and a role model function within society.

As many advantages as a general home office option provides, the compulsion to work entirely remote is sobering, especially for a company that used to have all (international) employees in one office location. The lack of contact with colleagues may lead to a feeling of loneliness, the daily exchange and connection is missing, motivation can suffer.

So how to proceed? What are the best practice options to counteract these feelings, which methodologies and tools can be implemented? And how can new employees be recruited and integrated in the best possible way?

Digital Recruiting & Onboarding

“Before COVID-19” it was crucial for us to meet applicants in person and to invite them onsite to a glance of their future work space. “During COVID-19” we had to adapt. Starting with methodologies of attracting future employees, we enhanced our appearance on various channels such as LinkedIn with informative graphics, interviewed & introduced fitvia members frequently and included more employer content on our social media channels like Instagram.

Speaking of digital interviews, tools such as Google Meet have proven their true worth to fitvia. While we always took advantage of digital meeting tools in our international recruiting, we now extended the use to our national talent acquisition strategy more widely. We also laid an eye on the involvement of future team members in early recruiting steps to generate personal touchpoints and involved a send out of corporate product kits before the final interview.

Within the onboarding process we work with structured onboarding plans that include information flows as well as digital 1:1 greetings with various team members across the company. On the first day a digital company presentation takes place, a “welcome-mail” with the introduction of the new starters is sent and a digital welcome lunch is proposed.

Digital Communication

Acting as a digital company by nature, digital communication tools such as Slack have always been in our use. With various possibilities such as chatting, (video) calls and conferences, survey options and further, Slack facilitates the daily contact. Quite important are formats to enrich team feelings — within individual units as well as within the whole fitvia workforce.

From our experience, daily ‘stand up calls’ are an efficient methodology to give every member of a team the stage for a few minutes — professional and personal wise. Weekly team-formats, in which only business-related topics can be discussed, add their value. Furthermore, company-wide Townhall-Meetings have been working very well at fitvia to communicate fundamental information & updates hands-on to all employees.

As a digital project management tool we can recommend Monday with a simple yet efficient surface. As an outlook we are excited for our Brand & Content Management tool Frontify, in which diverse content can be efficiently managed and accessed by all members of our company.

Fun at Work

I think we all can agree: our work wouldn’t be the same without our colleagues. A typical work day comes with shared projects and collaborative activities, but also with personal chats, laughters and a coffee on the balcony. To overcome this missing part, we came up with different engaging formats of which we want to highlight a few. Over the heated time of Black Friday, digital “Fitvia TV” was for sure getting us in a good mood. This internally produced format in the style of a TV show included entertaining and informative components. Employees entertained the team as TV hosts, star guest Linda Teodosiu played a livestream concert and our sales performance was disguised as a weather map, highlighting “hot” sales zones over all countries. On top of that we transferred our colorful fitvia birthday celebration and our fitvia Christmas party to digital formats, while the last one was accompanied by a Christmas snack box that could be enjoyed while listening to our different department leads who had the stage each for a few entertaining minutes.

Slack needs to be highlighted within this section once again. With the offer of a Birthday Bot, Snack-Roulette, Virtual Lunch Groups with a mix&match function, game opportunities and diverse Health & Well Being Applications, this tool helps to transfer Re-Yawning to Re-Fun!

As an outlook for 2021 we are brainstorming about Virtual After Work Events with perks like a fitvia Pub Quiz, a fitvia Movie Night or a fitvia Happy Hour.

Let’s move!

Let’s assume one is working 8 hours a day. This makes 40 hours sitting in a week just work related. Evening couching not to mention here. Yet an active lifestyle helps to prevent back pain, overweight, a lacking overall fitness and mental diseases. To support active slots on a daily routine, fitvia offered live Online Yoga Classes to the employees and invented a 21-day fitness challenge which was also shared with our instagram community. Next to that we collaborated with Oceans Apart, a Start-Up company for fitness clothes, to ensure that every employee had access to a functional outfit, as well as to a 30-day fitness program guide.


For benefits we went with “first things first” and suggested all employees to take their hardware, e.g. monitors, and chairs home to ensure employee friendly working conditions. FFP2 masks have been offered for take-away. Next to that, large product parcels with the latest fitvia products and healthy snack packages have been sent out on a regular basis. In addition we widened the understanding of our flexible working hour model to encourage our #fitviamembers to take some walks, make sure home-schooling goes smooth or other needs can be fulfilled.

From Home Office back to Office

It is not specifically foreseeable when a return to the fitvia office will be possible, we hope for mid / end of this year. But we already know the following:

It won’t be the exact way as it used to be. And that is by no means meant negatively. As sudden as home office came, we want to ensure a pleasant, smooth and employee-centric return. With a flexible “settling-in phase”, more open home office solutions in the long-run, the focus on digital meeting formats and a desk-sharing concept we are currently mind mapping our return. And once we do, we can’t wait for a legendary return party, which we hope will let eyes sparkle. We believe that “new work” will be found in the middle of personal and digital formats, we build on progress and new work approaches and we trust in a future that offers new perspectives and possibilities.

Want to discuss and dive deeper?

We are happy to connect with you.

Find us on LinkedIn: “fitvia”

or Send us a mail: “[email protected]


Anna Baumeier, Talent Acquisition

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