In January 2023, health and safety technology company Sonder launched its employee care platform in the UK and Ireland.
Sonder is changing the way businesses support their people to live well and perform at their best. The company does this by connecting employees to 24/7 personal safety support, medical advice and mental health care through an easy-to-use app.
In 2021, The Australian Financial Review named Sonder Australia’s most innovative technology company. Since then, the company’s business has boomed in Australia and New Zealand. Corporate clients include Woolworths, McDonald’s, KPMG, Bupa and Toll Global Express. In September 2022, Sonder raised $35m in capital. Now, with Austrade’s support, Sonder is taking its platform global.
‘Today, work-related injury and illness costs $28.6 billion a year to the Australian economy,’ says Craig Cowdrey, CEO, Sonder. ‘Organisations can no longer afford to live without modern, integrated employee care programs. Supporting staff is good for people and good for business.’
Sonder connects employees to the right care at the right time. It is the first platform of its kind to be accredited by the Australian Council for Healthcare Standards. Sonder offers a suite of proactive self-help tools, self-assessments and safety alerts as well as clinical care services and on-site critical incident support on demand.
‘If a parent has a sick child in the middle of the night, they may have to go to the emergency room,’ says Cowdrey. ‘For Sonder members, they can chat to a nurse and get triage and care from a Sonder specialist. As a result, Sonder prevents a trip to the hospital 25% of the time. And 30% of the time, Sonder prevents a trip to a general practitioner. The 24/7 access and peace of mind for that employee is priceless.’
Mental health is estimated to cost employers $8,600 a person or 7 weeks a year in lost productivity. Sonder research shows on average, every dollar invested in the platform is returned 17 times.
‘We recognise that every organisation is unique, and every person has a different set of health, safety and wellbeing needs,’ says Cowdry. ‘Which is why no two interactions with Sonder are the same.’
According to Hayley Baxendale, General Manager, Woolworths Group, ‘We are looking after 180,000+ people. Our people team don’t always have the capacity and expertise that individuals need. Partnering with Sonder gives us a high degree of confidence that our team is going to be looked after.’
Sonder client McDonald’s Australia employs over 115,000 people. This makes it one of the largest employers in the country.
‘With Sonder, we have an opportunity to provide a much broader experience than a traditional employee assistance program. This, in a format that’s familiar to our young, digital-savvy workforce,’ says Emma Napoli-Hala, McDonald’s Australia’s Chief People Officer. ‘We have a big responsibility to ensure our crew are supported whenever, wherever and however they need.’
Sonder care specialists will answer a member’s call or chat in 15 seconds or less. If clinical care is needed, members are transferred to a registered nurse and can be referred on to medical practitioners within hours. In distressing or traumatic situations, Sonder has a private network of responders ready to travel and meet the employee’s needs in person.
Sonder’s full suite of products is now available in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland.
‘There are many reasons why the UK is our first major Northern Hemisphere location,’ says Cowdrey. ‘There are a lot of similarities between markets in Australia and the UK in terms of the language, legal and regulatory environment.’
Cowdrey is now operating out of Sonder’s London office to expand the company’s business.
‘Having been a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officer posted offshore, I have an intimate understanding of Austrade’s power and what it can do for Australian businesses abroad,’ says Cowdrey.
Austrade is helping Sonder navigate the regulatory and legal environment in the UK. Austrade is also supporting Sonder with brand and product marketing, and in-market introductions.
Sonder’s vision is global, with a roadmap to expand into Canada, the US and Southeast Asia.