WORK TO BELONG – A CERTIFIED PROGRAM FOR REDUCING LONELINESS AT WORK
|WORK TO BELONG – A CERTIFIED PROGRAM FOR REDUCING LONELINESS AT WORK
|WORK TO BELONG PROGRAM
|B04. New Relationship Models
|Executive Creative Director
|Chief Creative Officer
|Executive Creative Director
|PR and Comms Consultant
Why is this work relevant for Creative Business Transformation?
Traditionally loneliness in society has been tackled reactively after it occurs, and based on demographic factors like age. HelsinkiMissio instead started to address the issue proactively in environments where loneliness can hide and flourish, starting from workplaces. We bundled HelsinkiMissio’s old services and created a new sellable product, the Work to Belong program, which transformed the organisation’s whole operating model. The transformation brought them more resources and made them more secure in times when businesses cut donations. In the end, the new operating model and business model created for this work benefits the whole society through business innovation.
The Covid-19 pandemic cast a shadow on business-to-business charity work, when the uncertainty of the future hindered the budgeting for non-work relevant activities, like donations. At the same time the amount of experienced loneliness was rising to a new high: 33 % of Finnish people were feeling it while working more from home. Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This has a direct impact on Finns’ business performance.
HelsinkiMissio is the oldest charitable NGO in reducing isolation and loneliness in Finland. In 2020 they were facing two fundamental challenges; their fundraising was at risk, while more and more people were feeling lonely. Their old operating model of appealing for annual donations from businesses during Christmas was not going to solve the rising need for funding. Our objective was to solve both of these challenges at once.
We had to change the perspective in our objectives from asking businesses to do charitable work and donations to encouraging businesses to invest in their staff wellbeing. Healthy feeling people function better in doing business and as a society in general.
Strategy & Process (30%)
We had to figure out the bottlenecks in the current fundraising process. Mainly, the businesses were not seeing enough benefits in simply giving out donations to charities. Corporate philanthropy was easy to dismiss when costs had to be cut. Therefore, we needed to give something more concrete back to the supporters. At the same time, we wanted to fix the seasonal donations and get recurring annual payments to support the cause.
The approach was based on the insight that loneliness is an organisational problem, not individuals’ problem. Similarly to corporate environmental actions, loneliness could be tackled by whole organisations. HelsinkiMissio had already been educating companies about loneliness being a health hazard. What they were lacking was the tools to market this service as a sellable product and scale it up.
The solution was to create a program that works as a commitment to reduce loneliness in workplaces. After the four part program, the company gets a certificate like the Great Place to Work™ or Green Office. The Work to Belong certificate implies to own personnel and outside the company that they care about their employees. The effects could be seen in employee wellbeing, culture, work efficiency and eventually in profit.
Experience & Implementation (35%)
Pilot program was launched in March 2021 with two major Finnish corporations with over 7000 employees combined. Immediately, the executive director of HelsinkiMissio was interviewed on Finnish national television about the new service. While the program grew with participation, HelsinkiMissio had to recruit new staff to cater their needs and develop the program concept further.
The four part program, which consists of staff survey, bespoke plan, implementation and yearly audits, has been yearned for after its launch. The certificate has been developed and priced with annual fees differently based on the organisation size. The program is easy to scale, since the fixed costs of developing the program have been tackled and the variable costs per new participant are low. Another large corporation has already signed on to participate in the program, which increases the number of people helped to well over 16 000 within the first year.
For HelsinkiMissio, the program has already proved to be working, while it has generated a new constant stream of annual revenue. Companies are not just looking for another certificate sticker on their front-door and website, but rather real proof that they care about their employees, so the benefits are two-folded.
Business Results & Impact (35%)
Overall, in the year 2021, 28 major organizations and businesses have contacted HelsinkiMissio to help their employees in battling loneliness in workplaces. Within the first few months, over three times the first year’s objective in revenue was accumulated. The new service will ensure HelsinkiMissio a steady income for years to come, which helps them to predict and develop their operations in general.
No longer is HelsinkiMissio dependent on the annual Christmas campaigns for corporate donations, which has shifted their operational model from a charitable NGO towards a service organisation that helps their customers in a structured manner. The current pandemic showed us that the HR’s welfare budgets are not as easily cut as donations due to economic shifts or crises. This program has deepened HelsinkiMissio’s relationships with the companies they work with, since enhancing employee well-being will always be important.
Since the funding rate is so high and effective, HelsinkiMissio started to develop an affiliate program with funding from Work To Belong. School to Belong is a certified program for reducing loneliness in elementary schools, and it is already being piloted. This will eventually result indirectly for example in less bullying and more motivated students.