About the company

A rapid-response multilingual app tracks an individual’s personal safety and can connect them to a network of professionals within 20 minutes. Sonder bridges the gap for those who are in need but not in such dire situations that they require triple zero.

Then Sonder support team are trained in mental health first aid, complex problem solving, medical triage and much more. Alerts, environmental scanning and a direct line to our 24/7 help centre mean you’re always looked after.

Industry: Health / Technology

Location: Sydney

Pictured: Tyan Kaveney, CFO

The on-demand safety app that’s Changing Lives.

William Buck talks with one of their clients, Sonder – an on-demand support network that offers round-the-clock assistance for mental health and preventative safety – on the mental health burnout that’s arisen from the global pandemic and what organisations can do to support workforce wellness. We chat to Ryan Kaveney, Chief Financial Officer, Sonder, on the challenges ahead, and the changing role of business leaders.

The COVID-19 impact on safety and mental health

COVID-19 led to a rapid shift of businesses relying on remote working and having to adhere to stricter safety regulations. This change according to Mr Kaveney, confronted companies with a number of challenges including focusing on employee’s physical safety and how to protect them remotely.

“Organisations have been struggling to look after the complex needs of their people,” he explained.

”Before the crisis, many businesses had disparate tools and support services available, but they were completely underutilised. Without using these tools and services to their full potential, engagement and productivity levels suffer.”

In an exceptionally short period of time however, the pandemic put health, safety and wellbeing at the forefront of all businesses and leaders and suddenly, they were required to provide a better solution to safeguard and support their people.

How Sonder responded to the crisis

Sonder’s immediate priorities were its people and customers.

”Our entire company is centred around the ability to manage crisis situations for our partners, so one of our first objectives was to contact key customers and executives to understand how we could help,” said Mr Kaveney.

He urged that actively reaching out and providing constant communication is crucial, especially when you’re managing remote relationships and wanting to provide reassurance.

“In the early days of the pandemic, we had major impacts with partners and our support network. We have a large presence in the international student sector and when borders shut down, this crippled some our existing partnerships along with forcing us to hit pause on launching new ones,” said Mr Kaveney.

“Again, it was all about keeping the dialogue open and providing regular updates.”

Like other businesses whose revenue was impacted, Sonder re-examined its spend and looked at options such as universal pay cuts for a short period. The constant changing forecasts have been brutal but required. This meant the goalposts and timings of revenues were always changing.

“As a start-up ‘cash is king’ and we had to ensure that with all the moving parts, we had enough runway to carry us through.”

“Support measures like JobKeeper and support from various key partners, such as our landlord and other large tech providers, played a huge role in enabling us to support our customers and helping us to prepare for the post-pandemic recovery,” said Mr Kaveney.

The world’s renewed focus on health, safety and wellbeing (HS&W)

As companies started to consider how they need to manage a new safety culture, Sonder saw a spike in the up-take of its services. Throughout the crisis, Sonder’s customers relied on Sonder to provide welfare checks on employees and students, assistance for those in quarantine and mental health support services.

“Our teams reported that as a result of our transparent and consistent communication, our culture remained strong and our people felt more connected to our purpose that ever before.”

“We knew that COVID-19 would redefine business practices and create macro trends that our service could support. This meant we needed to manage the short-term headwinds and ensure we had enough runway to steer us through,” said Mr Kaveney.

Sonder continued to focus on product development and velocity, as well as enhanced investment in its own support network.

Mr Kaveney said it’s been rewarding to see this strategy pay off, with significant new customer wins and expansion with existing customers.

The positive impact to Sonder’s workforce

With the heightened awareness of mental health and risks now being regularly discussed at executive and board level, Sonder is committed to educating the market on how to plan around emerging risks and ensure the safety of employees. One of Sonder’s strategic decisions was to ensure that investment was made accordingly, and its product roadmap and support network was prioritised.

“A remote culture has been a big success for us,” said Mr Kaveney.

”With the extra flexibility, our teams have the option to work remotely or in person at our physical office. We’ve got the collaborative space as well as the tools to continue to support productivity and innovation either in person or virtually.”

“We’ve been committed to frequent communication each week and maintained our weekly all hands lunch which is a mix of business updates, external speakers and fun, depending on the week,” he said.

The future outlook for Sonder and HS&W

Sonder’s vision for the future is a really bright one – the organisation is solving a major problem and providing real support every day. The macro trends in remote working, mental health and risk management will drive an accelerated adoption of Sonder, and we’ve seen this play out this quarter.

“I’ve learnt that the definition of the word Sonder is the realisation that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, and this has never rung truer to me,” said the proud CFO.

”Being part of an authentic executive team has been critical in getting through some difficult periods and it will play to our strengths for staying focused on what’s ahead.”

“Any organisation that understands the importance of prioritising a health and safety framework will benefit from a safer, happier, and more productive workforce.”

For more information on Sonder please visit the website


< Back to Covid-19 Resource Centre

Be Informed

Be Informed is William Buck's regular newsletter, filled with up to date news and relevant advice for individuals and businesses.

Get in touch!