The city of Porvoo decided to try something bold and completely new in the autumn of 2019 by being the first municipality to start using Auntie.
According to work ability coordinator Kerstin Johansson, the introduction of Auntie was done specifically with the early support model in mind and to be ready to resolve challenges as they come up within the work community. They saw the need to be proactive and react before more sick leave had a chance to build up. Last year at the organization of the city of Porvoo, absence due to mental health-related challenges was the number one reason for absence for the first time.
The three factors that influence sick leave the most are management of psychosocial stress, healthy and safe practices at work, and the effectiveness of workflow, which means having good management, a good atmosphere at work, and being prepared for sudden changes.
The organization of the city of Porvoo includes central administration, social and health division, education division, and all public utilities; together almost 3,600 employees. The Auntie service is used throughout the whole organization at the city of Porvoo, and evenly in different units. Auntie packages were initially implemented in those teams in which challenges had been identified based on well-being at work surveys. The use was then expanded to cover other needs as well.
"Those who have used the service spread the positive message to others. That is simply amazing about Auntie."
Kerstin Johansson, Work ability coordinator, City of Porvoo, Finland
A project titled Work Ability Management started in Porvoo four years ago as part of everyday management, where Kerstin is the project leader. The project acts as a way to reform the active support model.
Besides work-related factors, many other things are going on in people’s lives that affect well-being. It is well known that what is going on in life affects how you work, and work psychologists only deal with work-related matters. Therefore, the City of Porvoo wanted to provide an early-stage low-threshold service to its employees.
Auntie is humane
What people fell in love with about Auntie was its humane approach and attractive appearance; they create the impression that you are talking to someone wise but also relatable. The way of thinking of Auntie and the city of Porvoo were found to be aligned. The stigma surrounding mental health is not that large when problems are easy to approach and made normal.
Kerstin has studied solution-focus and coaching, and even though she does not have time to do work related directly to them, the concepts are always present. Kerstin completed one Auntie package as well. She found it very valuable and praised her coach, an Auntie professional, saying they were great and professional. She had nothing but praise for the other Auntie’s people she had come across with as well. In situations in which a person feels awful and does not feel that they can even fill in the self-evaluation form, the Auntie professional has been in contact and the service gets underway. You are left with the feeling that Auntie professionals truly care.
Auntie is a personal trainer of the mind
Auntie received positive feedback about how pragmatic it is, for example, the exercises that guide you on how to stop a train of thought on the verge of derailing and causing negative emotions. Another source of positive feedback was how for many it was easy to connect and find chemistry with Auntie professionals as they have a good understanding of business and work life.
It is especially good about Auntie how there is a responsibility on the person doing the package as well; they have to experiment on their own between sessions about how to change their habits and the ways they are used to doing things. The content of the package also easily adapts to the discussion. It is good to talk to a person from outside so that confidential matters remain between the two. A new way of seeing things can be both refreshing and enlightening.
The entire work community is impacted
Kerstin heard feedback from multiple managers of how the use of an Auntie-package by one member affected the entire work community. Through Auntie, you can get a new approach to and a broader perspective on how you look at things. Kerstin found out that one member using Auntie often results in changes in behavior on a larger scale within the work community, as those who have used the service spread the positive message to others. That is simply amazing about Auntie, says Kerstin.
Kerstin discusses often with managers about how people are doing in the workplace, how much sick leave there currently is, and how its reduction can be affected by effectively supporting the employees. When a manager notices that a team member might need help through another type of discussion than work mentoring; Kerstin, other HR members, or the occupational health care can have the person start on a package with Auntie to support them and help find a solution.
Managers have their own services
The challenges managers wrestle with can be quite different. So, it’s great that they have their own programs, the Leader packages, which allow them to assess and analyze their situation. By reflecting on their actions and behavior, managers can improve on their leadership skills, which affects the well-being and vitality of the entire team. Nowadays in working life, at least three generations are working at the same time, and all place different demands on leadership. It can be difficult for managers to adapt their leadership style to different generations. Kerstin says that it would be good for everyone to work as a manager for a year so they would know what the job is like.
A positive aspect of Auntie is also the support it can offer to managers; they can direct their team members with more complex or difficult challenges to discuss them with Auntie professionals instead. Some other strengths of Auntie include how easy it is, how practical it is, its low threshold, and how the use of the service does not show up on the personal healthcare records of the user.
Auntie is easy for HR
Cooperation with Auntie has been great, and it has been easy for the HR department. Auntie’s contact person is active, and their support is excellent. You always get answers and help quickly.
The diversity of the packages is also an advantage, as they are not limited to specific topics. In addition, Auntie’s webinar lectures have been popular, and both employees, as well as managers, can attend or watch the recordings according to their schedules. Finnish and Swedish have naturally been the most used languages, but Estonian and Russian have also seen some use. In addition, there are plans to request an Auntie professional to hold a lecture on workplace well-being for the organization.
Kerstin has been happy to talk about Auntie to other organizations, along with the praise it has received from the employees of the city of Porvoo. The service is quite a big investment for an organization, but it’s a great preventative service to have available as a step before occupational healthcare. Auntie is worth consideration and at least a try. There are so many good things about it, says Kerstin Johansson.