Thoughtful wellbeing strategies at Thoughtworks

Starting up and rapidly growing a new office location is never easy. Just ask global consultancy company Thoughtworks Netherlands. Relying on a strong company culture of wellbeing and close partnership with Auntie helped ensure the burgeoning business would succeed.

Strategies for mental health support

For Thoughtworks, wellbeing strategy starts with company culture. It’s one of the reasons people want to stay. Covid hit the close-knit company hard. “We went from seeing colleagues all the time to near complete isolation,” explains Ellie Lang. “Suddenly the whole organisation was not getting those personal interactions anymore.”

Ellie started as a consultant at the company’s German operations, but moved into a new role as head of people for the new Netherlands organisation. Knowing what it is like to be a consultant, she could easily relate to the challenges employees experienced at the new office. 

She was facing a new office where nearly all employees were experiencing a major change in their lives – a new workplace, a new role, and for many, a new country with a new language, customs and climate.

Rapid growth, from five to over 30 employees, many new to the country, created noticeable additional pressure on the company culture. Auntie's services were enlisted to support the Netherlands team, helping them adapt to a new living and working environment.

Investing in employee wellbeing

“With Auntie’s services, we wanted to give everybody a space to talk to someone if they needed it,” explains Ellie. “ We needed nurturing where insecurities could be aired and constructively addressed.”

Auntie packages like “S.O.S.”, “Leading Me” and “Born to Lead” helped employees understand their boundaries, build confidence, and for those moving into leader roles, to prepare for those new responsibilities.

Part of the impetus for choosing Auntie came from prior experience from another Thoughtworks office, but Ellie’s own experiences taking Aunties packages also played a major role in the future success of the partnership.

“How can you promote something if you haven't tried it yourself, right?” she says. “It ended up working really well for me. I was facing my own challenges with the move to the Netherlands and taking on a new role.” Her own experiences helped create a strong launch for Auntie services in the new organisation. Instead of “you can try this”, it became an inclusive message of “let’s try this.”

Impactful initiatives with real results

Overall, Ellie has seen great personal development, stronger self-esteem, and visible changes in many  employees thanks to the partnership with Auntie. Auntie’s support for leaders packages, for example, made the difference for senior consultant employees who were applying for a leader role.

Another area where Auntie helped in this environment of change and rapid growth was avoiding becoming overwhelmed. It is really important to recognize what you can realistically take on. Auntie packages guided Thoughtworks Netherlands employees not only to prioritise, but also learn how to say no when they really did not have capacity for more assignments.

“It’s about making sure they take care of themselves,” says Ellie. “And sometimes the ability to say no is about overcoming expectations you think others have about you. You may have a self-image or cultural stigma that creates pressure to always do what someone else says rather than make your own decisions.”

Mental wellbeing is promoted through several strategies, including informative and interactive events with Auntie.  For example, last year Auntie held a webinar with Thoughtworks Netherlands about cognitive ergonomics, and more recently about the signs of burnout. These sessions can lead to small daily actions that result in impactful change, encouraging people to do a little check-in with themselves. If they need help, easy access to mental wellbeing support is key.

In her role as people lead, Ellie also incorporated Auntie services into her regular check-ins with team members. “Personal growth is a major aspect of Thoughtworks culture, so these monthly conversations are opportunities to address any challenge an employee may have, personal or work-related. Then we can use those conversations about growth and capability to encourage taking specific Auntie packages, sharing experiences and tips throughout the journey.”



"We can use those conversations about growth and capability to encourage taking specific Auntie packages, sharing experiences and tips throughout the journey."

Ellie Lang, Head of People, Thoughtworks Netherlands

The meaning of true partnership

“Working with Auntie has exceeded my expectations in terms of what a partnership can be,” she continues. “Figuring out how to improve and make things better, figuring out how to get through obstacles that need more attention. I think Auntie has  always been there to help us navigate those situations.”

Being empathetic to the context of an individual and an organisation is also essential. Even with anonymous services, the perceived stigma some people may have around mental health can make certain situations difficult. “The understanding from Auntie helped us get through the difficulties and find solutions,” says Ellie.

“The way Auntie structures its services and helps guide users to the right support really makes a difference,” says Ellie. “It was very accessible and easy to understand. Because it was simple to follow, people self-selected a package that suited their needs.”

From English to Dutch, all the languages needed by the Thoughtworks Netherlands team were available thanks to the extensive network of Auntie Professionals. Online also meant it was easier to arrange sessions compared to in-person visits. The check-in service with Auntie Professionals further helped users find just the right level of support.

Ellie reminds us of the growing trend of mental health awareness. She predicts new hires will soon expect employers to offer services like Auntie as part of their employee benefits. “We spend so much time at work,” she explains. “Employers simply have to take concrete actions that show they care and prioritise all aspects of employees’ health and wellbeing. Intent is just the beginning. Dedication and action make those wellbeing initiatives successful.”

About Thoughtworks Netherlands: Thoughtworks, a global technology consultancy, has a rapidly growing organisation in the Netherlands. The Dutch department became an Auntie customer early in 2022, changing to the Auntie Plus later in the year which gave them unlimited check-in sessions with an Auntie Professional.

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