Auntie provides a helping hand on the early support model – Intrum

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At Intrum, a debt collection and financial service company, the work is done by experts, and the challenges of well-being at work are those often faced in expert work-related fields: automation, at an increasing rate, takes care of simple work tasks and the remaining tasks require the expert and their time to think.

The use of an experts’ time is also challenged by changes in the operational environment and the occasional busy pace of work. Auntie joined Intrum as a pilot in 2019 and provides a preventive service in the early support model. Since then, Auntie has established its place as one of the tools Intrum uses to promote and maintain the well-being of its employees.

Occupational health care does not cut it for early support

According to Intrum’s Senior HR Specialist Sini Mökkönen, Auntie has reached the goals set out for the service, and the desired positive impact on workplace well-being has clearly been achieved. The whole mental well-being package of Intrum’s staff has been successfully reinforced by Auntie.

What Intrum realized in 2018 was that workplace well-being can’t fully be taken care of through occupational health care. Instead, a more active approach to manage workplace well-being needs to come from within the company itself. An assessment was made at Intrum to find out what kind of partners are necessary to effectively support workplace wellbeing in addition to occupational health care.

Meanwhile, news coverage related to the deterioration of mental health and well-being at the workplace began to rise. The same challenges were identified by Intrum. The company decided to take an active approach to ensure that its staff’s work ability is maintained both now and in the future. To support this decision, Auntie was selected as a partner to support workplace well-being at Intrum.

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The best thing about Auntie is that it’s easy and fast, the discussions are positive. You leave the discussion with a good feeling, as “in I’m doing just fine”.

Sini Mökkönen, Intrum

In the spring of 2019, Intrum’s HR Specialist Sini Mökkönen started a new project on workplace well-being. The project focused on accessing the effectiveness of practices used by the company at the time, and where reform could prove beneficial. Additionally, the costs to the company from occupational health care and sick leave were thoroughly examined.

Based on the assessments made, it was clear that operating models required reforms and there was a need to increase preventive measures to ensure workplace well-being. In a short few years, Intrum has achieved great progress on how preventive support is given and the work continues.

New practices made permanent

The first to receive reforms was the early support model. The premise of the reform was that absences due to mental health reasons needed to activate early support procedures much faster than absences from, for example, the flu. Otherwise, it is already too late. Intrum perceived that mental health-related issues can and must be taken into account as a part of work ability management.

Individual support

The work community at Intrum had for a long time received some benefits that support and promote work ability, from cultural and sports vouchers to electric tables. However, individual needs were not considered. Decisions regarding support for work ability were made primarily with the needs of the work community as a whole in mind. Since the basics were so well covered at Intrum, the focus could be shifted towards further development and a natural direction was to account for individual needs. Since what works wonders for someone does not necessarily work for another at all.

Medication and a two-week sick leave?

Absences due to mental health reasons are commonly long or moderately long. When a person has to take time off due to mental health-related challenges, support and help are simply too late at that point. We must be able to react accordingly and help these people before they reach the point when they need to take time off.

Sini began to wonder if there were any other ways to tackle this challenge, other than the employee going to occupational health care where, more often than not, the person comes out with some pills and sick leave. Also, the threshold to approach occupational health care with mental health-related challenges seemed to be rather high. In many cases, the person seeking help does not consider themselves sick, but they do feel that they need help.

The thought process among some dealing with these challenges was “I’m not so unwell that I need medication and 2 weeks of sick leave. I’ll manage.” In worst cases, the person is left all alone with their challenges, and as time passes they eventually end up on sick leave anyway.

Auntie came in as a suitable alternative to occupational health care in these cases, specifically due to its solution-oriented approach. Intrum and Auntie fit together well, as both deem it vital to provide staff with as low as possible threshold support and help.

At Intrum, Auntie was piloted by 10 volunteers who all found themselves in situations where they would benefit from such support. All 10 participants gave great feedback on the service and the effects reflected positively on their work as well. After that, the decision to fully implement Auntie’s services was easy to do.

Impressive progress in a short amount of time

According to Sini, Auntie is still receiving very positive feedback within the company. People who use the service get a new drive and often feel that things will sort themselves out. They also receive new tools which they can use to positively impact their situation. Additionally, according to users, conversations with Auntie professionals affect your overall mood in a very positive way. Based on the feedback, users feel that in a short amount of time you can make impressive progress with the challenge you are working with, and realize that “I’m going to be all right, just as I always have.”

In addition to individual sessions, Intrum has widely utilized the webinars that Auntie offers to its customers. Webinars on recovery or resilience for example. This type of training has also been liked and found helpful within the company. Auntie has also been involved in organizing workshops and training for customer service staff and managers.

Auntie is positive

The best thing about Auntie is that as a service it is easy and fast, the discussions are positive. A lot of work has been done at Intrum on promoting workplace well-being, both alone and together with partners. However, Auntie has been one of the most impactful positive changes the company has implemented to support workplace well-being. Auntie has also been a great solution from the point of view of cost management.

Sini was pleasantly surprised by how popular Auntie packages have become among the staff. This signals that the employees proactively are able to identify situations where talking to a professional can bring clarity, new skills and help them recharge. The conversation can be therapeutic or coaching – the positive effect is certain.

During the corona pandemic, Intrum has made it possible for any staff member to activate an Auntie-package as they see fit, no separate registration is needed. During the coming of the second wave around September – October 2020, there were signs of increasing personal challenges and this was reflected in the workplace. During this time, the activation of Auntie’s packages at Intrum spiked, and it was crucial that the service was already familiar and easily accessible to staff. Currently, all indicators of workplace well-being are at a good level and there is a clear positive trend. Auntie will remain an important tool within Intrum’s toolkit to promote and support workplace well-being in the future as well, states Sini Mökkönen.