Client case study

A single gateway to support for Woolworths Group

Who is Woolworths Group?

Woolworths Group is the largest retailer in Australia and a major retail operator in New Zealand, housing leading supermarkets and consumer retail brands such as Woolworths, BIG W and Countdown in New Zealand. Serving over 29 million customers each week and employing a diverse and multicultural workforce of nearly 185,000 team members - Woolworths Group has significant influence on Australia’s population. Team members are at the heart of everything they do, they care deeply, and their leaders are committed to creating better experiences for their customers, communities and each other.


Australia’s essential workers, including those in retail, have shown resilience and resourcefulness throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Supermarket workers faced disgruntled customers, fatigue, stress, and other health concerns. Existing challenges were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and across all levels of the workforce the line between work and home life blurred. Store and line managers were taking on the role of mental health carers, financial advisors and trusted confidants. To better protect and safeguard the safety, mental health and wellbeing of their team members in an ever-changing environment, Woolworths Group looked for a solution that would further enhance their support program.

One that would allow them to care for their team members in a deeper, more meaningful way, further reduce the barriers to help, and provide the organisation with more visibility and insight into

hidden blind spots so they can be one step ahead in preventing organisational wellbeing challenges going forward.

The need of support for high-threshold issues accelerated in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included:

  • Increase in suicidality and self-harm
  • Family and domestic violence
  • Physical toll and fatigue on frontline team members
  • Psychological pressure across the workforce
  • Uncertainty and anxiety related to job security

Since launching the service to over 185,000 team members and their families in November 2020, Woolworths Group has seen a drastic change in three key areas:

Single-point of access to 24/7 support

In partnering with Sonder, Woolworths Group has simplified the way their team accesses help by providing a single gateway to all of their benefits and support systems. From medical advice to financial aid, personal safety and mental health support, team members and their families can get trusted advice on any issue through chat or a telephone call via one simple app.


of Woolworths team members reaching out for mental health support used chat as their preferred communication


More importantly, there are no limitations on their location, the time of day, or how many times they need to access help. For a workforce that’s predominately made up of shift workers, roundthe-clock support is essential so that members can quickly and easily access the right care at the right time. In fact, 46% of Woolworths team members have reached out to Sonder at night.


of Woolworths support cases were made outside of 9-5 access hours provided by traditional EAPs

Member Story

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a team member working at a major capital city store was feeling increasingly withdrawn from work. Every day, they risked exposure to COVID-19 while dealing with distressed customers and panic buying. Their performance was suffering, and fearing that they would lose their job, they opened the Sonder app and reached out for advice via chat.

Using a holistic approach to assess the member, a Sonder nurse listened to their concerns and, through gentle communication, uncovered that they were struggling with multiple interdependent issues, including anxiety and financial stress. Sonder reassured the member, directed them to the appropriate financial support package, and referred them to a psychologist for further support. Help did not end when the call finished - the Sonder health team set up regular follow-ups to continue supporting the member on their journey to better health.

Like 90% of members reaching out to Sonder for mental health support, the member first engaged with the service using its chat function. With texting being the preferred form of communication for many, Sonder’s tech platform helps break down the barriers to seeking help by providing a less confronting approach - allowing earlier intervention on problems before they cause real impact.


Comprehensive, holistic and human-centric support

Having a conversation with someone (even virtually) can be invaluable to a person, especially during challenging times. When a Woolworths team member reaches out to Sonder, a real and compassionate person is on the other end, ready to listen and help.

People’s lives are made up of interconnected factors and experiences. A person’s mind and body, who they are, and their environment and social situations all play a role in ‘being well’. A bad day in a person’s home life can impact their performance and interactions at work.

Instead of taking each issue raised at face value, the Sonder team use a holistic and empathybased approach to carefully consider all aspects of a person’s life. This full-spectrum, humancentric model lets them identify any ‘hidden’ underlying or compounding issues so that the right and personalised mix of treatment, resources and follow-up care can be provided to the person at the right time - before they get out of hand.


Sonder members receive help for several, often related issues beyond what's first presented


And when virtual support is not enough, Sonder’s team of on-the-ground responders are less than 20 minutes away - ready to assist in difficult or time-sensitive situations such as workplace aggression and injuries, suicide ideations, hospital escorts, welfare checks and more.

Member Story

Not all situations can be supported virtually. Sometimes extra helping hands are needed in real life - fast.

With police and ambulances on the way after a traumatic stabbing incident involving two customers and a security guard, the manager at this busy suburban Woolworths location quickly locked down the store and called Sonder. Multiple team members and customers witnessed the distressing event - as a result, the store manager knew that appropriate care was needed immediately.

Understanding the severity of the situation, two Sonder responders quickly arrived on-site and provided immediate psychological first aid to those affected by the incident. Those identified as at-risk were triaged and referred to a psychologist for dedicated support. All other team members and customers impacted by the incident received follow-ups from Sonder in the weeks following the incident to reinforce the support available through Sonder, if required.

Unlike traditional EAPs, Sonder’s comprehensive human support team is set up to provide dedicated guidance to leaders dealing with critical incidents.

Data-informed wellbeing insights

Leveraging Sonder’s advanced analytics platform, Woolworths Group now has visibility over their blind spots with real-time trends, data and key insights into its team’s wellbeing. These are broken down by individual businesses across their workforce. With access to this information to predict organisational wellbeing issues before they cause a significant impact, Woolworths leaders are now using this crucial data to make informed business decisions to better allocate resources to support their teams and set up preventative measures in the areas causing the most concern.

Woolworths Group care deeply for their team and their families.

After launching across the entire business, Woolworths and Sonder have continued a close partnership by sharing their learnings and collaborating in their efforts to deliver the best care for team members and their families. Consolidating providers across the business has provided additional benefits to Woolworths Group, including replacing the existing employee assistance program (EAP).

In October 2021, Woolworths decided to adopt the holistic wellbeing model, including EAP services, provided by Sonder. This was as a result of widespread adoption of Sonder across the business and improvements on the wellbeing of the wider team.

By consolidating the number of providers, Sonder streamlines Woolworths’ wellbeing offering and improves the team’s support journey with a more holistic experience. And when safety incidents or personal crises occur, Sonder is there to manage situations and minimise impact efficiently. Leveraging their robust network of support services, the Sonder support team is now fully embedded


into Woolworths’ risk and safety framework. Sitting on Emergency Management Team meetings in response to critical incidents and extreme weather events, Sonder is there to provide their expertise and assist Woolworths in managing natural disasters and other major public safety events. And by integrating into Woolworths’ on-site security and corporate incident centre, all parties are now notified of any critical incidents, such as in-store violence, theft, and emergency medical events. This means relevant and individualised trauma support can be given to affected team members without delay.

Since its launch, Woolworths team members have described Sonder as “an angel in your pocket”, connecting them to the help they need at the touch of a button. As of June 2022, Sonder has supported over 21,000 cases and dispatched almost 200 Sonder responders. More importantly, the increased accessibility has led to a significant usage uptake of Woolworths support services, leading to quicker response, lower thresholds and more personalised care.


of members reported they would not have sought help at all without Sonder

Organisational wellbeing & safety.

There's so much more to share

Sonder is reimagining health, safety and wellbeing support. Sonder proves human centric care leads to earlier intervention. Sonder impacts one person at a time to drive meaningful change across an organisation. Sonder understands people and how to support them.

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