We talked to Caroline Röden, Co-Founder and CEO of BlueCall about mental health issues in the workplace. Here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Caroline Röden: Covid has really shaken up an entire world, but I must say I’m one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been heavily affected personally. What feels really meaningful to me is that during this pandemic, we manage to shift our product focus in BlueCall towards supporting our customers and their employees and managers in these difficult times, to minimize the negative effects on mental health due to the pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BlueCall.
Caroline Röden: My passion lies in the combination of people and technology, and in founding BlueCall, these two could join together in a company that strives towards making the world a better place. I’m from a family of entrepreneurs and have always known I would start my own company.
How does BlueCall innovate?
Caroline Röden: We are pioneers within the field of prevention of mental health issues in the workplace. This new way of thinking prevents employees and managers from developing mental health issues, rather than ensuring the ones who are sick are being treated and cured, which is the traditional way of looking at this issue in the workplace. We work with various innovative and digital products that give insights and knowledge and enable HR, managers, and employees to take quick actions towards preventing mental health issues. Being lean and agile, we can adapt to the customer’s needs and user’s problems. At the beginning of last year, we saw our user segments diversifying and expanded our product offering towards a 360 mental health solution to address the different segment’s needs. We are always in experimental mode, testing the smallest value creations to solve a need and then scaling the solution once we have enough data of the impact it creates. This helps us focus our efforts on the most impactful ideas, iterate and innovate continuously as a team!
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Caroline Röden: Coronavirus pandemic has been both positive and challenging to our business. On the positive side, mental health issues at the workplace have become one of the biggest priorities for many companies. This has created a sense of urgency within the organization to have preventative mental wellbeing solutions in place. We have also seen our utilization of the digital session with professional therapists increase by 300%. Employees with access to BlueCall have rated it 8.8/10 on how satisfied they are about having BlueCall as an employee benefit.
At the same time, the economic hardships and uncertainty of the future are making companies down-prioritize the issue or unable to act on it. We are testing different packages to ensure we can cater to all businesses’ needs, especially the ones who want to make a difference but find it economically hard to support their employees during these difficult times.
We are also seeing a misleading trend from the employer’s believing that their employees are highly productive, high performing, and generally happy working from home. However, they are likely missing tools/techniques to identify employees at risk that would have been easier to spot if they were sitting in the same room or they are associating productivity and general happiness with having no mental health issues.
BlueCall needed to adapt our tools and techniques for managers / HR to be able to lead and care for their employees remotely. E.g., Our burnout test helped one of our customers identify that nearly 50% of their employees were at risk of burnout and were having trouble sleeping and planning their recovery. This is despite the fact, all their check-ins and current measurements highlighted they were highly productive and generally happy.
Like with other companies, BlueCall as a team also had to cope with rapidly moving into mostly working from home situations that have impacted our teams’ morale and engagement. We are constantly using our tools to equip managers at BlueCall to identify employees at risk and proactively work with them. At an organizational level, we constantly remind our team about planning their recovery, managing their expectations through continuous communications from the leadership team, creating a manager’s forum to learn from each other, and high importance on informal socialization, e.g., digital after-works.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Caroline Röden: Being a startup, we have to be lean and make the best use of our resources. This means constantly being adaptable and making difficult choices that are in the best interest of our company, including our users, customers, and the team. As we are working in this mode constantly, we were able to easily adapt to the new situation. The main lesson learned was to reflect our communication in product value to align to our customer’s current challenges due to the pandemic but to make them realize that the value we delivered is applicable for a modern workplace, pre or post-pandemic.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Caroline Röden: The most useful tools have been the communication channels like slack and Google meet. Also, collaboration tools like Miro and Figma help us replicate a physical whiteboard in the virtual environment that helped us maintain an agile and collaborative working style at BlueCall.
Pre-pandemic, the BlueCall team has been working virtually as our CTO is based in Barcelona, and our tech team is spread across Europe. So in terms of ways of working, we were already organized to navigate the effects of the pandemics. We just needed to ensure that the best practices were carried forward with a growing team.
From a management perspective, we needed to adapt on how to practice what we would have done in a physical environment virtually to ensure our teams would stay engaged and connected. E.g., Greeting everyone in slack every morning, highlighting small and big achievements by the team in our kudos channel, encouraging spontaneous virtual coffee/Fika sessions, and maintaining healthy virtual water cooler talks through sharing weekend pictures or what we are having for lunch.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Caroline Röden: The ecosystem of health care services is ever-growing, and it’s really impressive to feel the forces in the market and the shift towards digital. The shift benefits all of us, and we believe that there’s room for a different type of complementary service within our field.
Our competitors are primarily the traditional health care providers who provide psychology services post mental illness, with a heavy focus on care are treatment.
With our new product strategy in 2020, we provide a 360 digital mental wellbeing solution focused on insights, knowledge, and everyday action by employees and empower HR and managers to proactively work on the mental wellbeing of their teams. With this new strategy, we are well placed to stay competitive and disruptive in providing preventative mental wellbeing services to employers and their employees…
Your final thoughts?
Caroline Röden: BlueCall is humbled and privileged to work with 65+ employers that care for their employees and prioritize their wellbeing. However, there are still companies that downplay the importance of mental wellbeing for their employees. Similarly, the social stigma attached to mental health issues is reducing but not fast enough. Hence, what we do at BlueCall is not only to provide a 360 digital preventative mental health solution but constantly challenging the stigma and misconception, one company and one user at a time! Pandemic or not – Mental wellbeing at workplaces should be a top priority at all modern workplaces.
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