Monday, May 23, 2022

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Partners We're Proud of: Sonder

Partnering with Honan since 2016, Sonder was established by three friends who wanted to build a purpose-led company that offered an innovative safety offering. Initially focused on promoting safety among international students in Australia, the organisation has expanded to focus equally on employee wellbeing and safety. We spent some time with the brand to learn more about emerging trends in the wellbeing space and the new world of work.

1. The crux (mission/WHY) of your business or organisation.

We are an Australian wellbeing and safety company on a mission to reduce the complexity of the health care landscape by providing a single entry point for employee and student care. Our solution is a technology-driven platform supported by 24/7 safety, medical, and mental health experts. This is backed up by a physical responder network that can be onsite within 30 minutes for time-sensitive scenarios, plus a capability to deliver unique and timely data insights which drive meaningful business decisions.

2. Where did the idea for Sonder originate?

Our company was founded by three friends who wanted to build a purpose-led company that offered an innovative safety offering. When they decided to leave their public service roles, Craig Cowdrey , Christopher Marr, and Peter Burnheim agreed to combine their unique skills and passion to start Sonder.

3. Your partnership with Honan commenced back in 2016! Tell us a little about what Sonder looked like then vs where you are now.

In 2016, we focussed mostly on safety for international students in Australia, as a result of an early strategic partnership with Allianz. In 2020, when Australia’s international borders closed, we expanded our offering to focus equally on wellbeing, which attracted more customers in the corporate and government sectors that were interested in a fresh and holistic approach to employee wellbeing and safety.

4. What are the top 3 trends in employee wellbeing right now?
More holistic.
Over the years, many well-intentioned organisations have introduced a myriad of piecemeal wellbeing initiatives that were mostly short-term solutions that did not address underlying issues. Health-savvy organisations are now considering a more holistic approach considering both physical and psychological elements - at work and at home.

Higher profile.
As organisations have learned and iterated, employee wellbeing has evolved from a tick-box task delegated to a junior HR person, to a higher-profile, strategic, company-wide responsibility that is now on the agenda of CEOs and boards.

Enhanced measurement. Wellbeing advocates who have traditionally struggled to secure appropriate funding for their wellbeing initiatives due to a lack of budget, skills, and/or tools to access quantitative metrics, are now reporting a greater capacity to measure wellbeing, thanks in part to increased funding and new reporting requirements for their executive team.

5. At Honan, we’re always inspired by businesses that are brave enough to do things a little differently? Tell us something unexpected or truly different about Sonder.  

When we started, we were told that our promise to get in-person responders to the scene of critical incidents within 20 minutes was impossible. But this only fuelled our ambition. We quickly proved that we could tap into our networks, and build new networks, with former or off-duty service personnel (including military, ambulance, police, firefighters, and now social workers, medical clinicians, and psychologists) to successfully deliver on this ambitious promise.

6. What is one belief you would like to dispel about employee wellbeing in the workplace?

Organisations that are looking for easy wins and low-effort solutions are often banking on self-help apps as the answer to employee wellbeing concerns. But 51 percent of our support cases are caused by something other than the issue first stated by the member, which illustrates that their concerns are multilayered, so a Dr. Google-type of self-diagnosis can risk inaccurate patient assessment. Furthermore, as Rudd and Beidas said, “standalone digital interventions ignore decades of research about the importance of social support and may further isolate individuals who need human connection the most.”

7. For businesses that are new to employee wellbeing, where’s a good place to make a start?

The first step is to define what wellbeing means for your organisation and what ‘good’ looks like. From there, you can determine the parameters, measurable attributes, and indicators. Then you can start measuring, reviewing, and improving. To help organisations do this, we have produced various free guides, including:

8. What are 2 key issues in employee wellbeing that businesses should be aware of/prioritise post-pandemic?

  1. 24/7 support. As the pandemic has blurred the lines between work life and home life, organisations need to consider how to support their people at all times of the day and night - whenever and wherever their team members need support.
  2. Holistic wellbeing. The introduction of workplace guidelines ISO 45003 has helped organisations to understand that a focus only on physical wellbeing and safety is not enough. Psychological wellbeing and safety (especially since the pandemic) are equally important, as is the consideration of a holistic approach to employee care.

9. Named the most innovative tech firm in 2021 by AFR BOSS, can you explain the role innovation has played in Sonder’s success?

Innovation and continuous improvement have been part of our journey since day one - which keeps us on our toes and makes Sonder a very fast-moving place to work. It’s also part of our accreditation commitment to The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS). As the first technology company to become accredited to ACHS to their EQuIP6 Standards, we take that commitment seriously and we are always trying to improve both our product and our level of member care. For interest, our AFR BOSS Most Innovative Companies award was for our Sonder wellbeing model, which combines our tech+human support in a holistic and innovative way.

10. What are you most excited about for the business over the next 6-12months?

The pandemic has amplified the need for scalable, immediate, easily accessible, 24/7 medical, safety, and mental health support for students, employees, and their families. The new world of work (and study) has opened many new doors for organisations in Australia, and across the world.  We look forward to seeing many of these discussions translate into new opportunities to achieve Sonder’s mission of supporting people worldwide to live life with confidence.

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Honan Insurance Group Pty Ltd is now fully owned by Marsh Pty Ltd. To find out more, speak to your broker or read the announcement