Interview with Frederike Schoonheim from Dopper


“Help our employees to ease work pressure and reach out for support in order to guarantee engagement and motivation.”


Normalise the conversation about mental health and lead as an example to inspire, mentor and positively impact the team.

At OpenUp, we strongly believe that a key component in the workplace is to create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. We are proud to say that we are not the only ones working based on this philosophy. 


Companies such as Dopper, are on the same mission to make mental health accessible for all their employees. Frederike Schoonheim, Head of People and Culture at Dopper, shared with us their experience with OpenUp and the outcomes of this strategic partnership.


How did you hear about OpenUp?


It was somewhere this year, I was talking about it with a colleague as we wanted to broaden the concept of our “Dopper Fit”. This is an initiative that we offer to encourage employees to take care of their physical health as well as their mental health. However, mental health is becoming more and more important within the workplace. This is why, as employers, we decided to offer more.



What was the first time you thought about providing our service to your employees?


I would say we were immediately attracted by its ease of reach, use and understanding. OpenUp is really accessible and affordable. We had some conversations with the team about it and that’s how we got started. We also looked at other platforms, but OpenUp was the winner for us, also because of the many languages offered. We are an international company, and we wanted to make sure everyone could benefit from it. Reaching out for support in the language that you feel comfortable in can really make a difference.



What were the challenges you were trying to solve when you chose to partner with OpenUp?


There was not a specific challenge. Rather, we realised more and more the relationship between employees’ mental health and how they feel and perform.


To give you a more specific example: we are on an ambitious mission at Dopper. We want to ban single-use plastic water bottles from the world. And that means that there’s always so much to do. On one side, the beauty of this is that you work because you feel it with your heart. It’s not just a job. On the other side, I think that also gives a little bit of pressure because you feel you can always do more. We had many conversations about this issue with our CEO Virginia and decided to make a further step forward in the mental well-being of our teams. Those were the first steps on the road to here.



Is mental health discussed openly at your company and what is the feeling towards mental health?


We definitely talk about it. There is space to let your colleagues know how you feel and what you are going through. We also have a lot of people in the team who like to talk and reflect on how things are working. So, overall, there is an open culture: mental health is not a topic that we are afraid of. Of course, there is always more that can be done, so extra help to introduce the conversation is still very welcome. 



In general, how does your company work towards ensuring the well-being of its employees?


Next to OpenUp, we offer a personal education budget, which each employee can spend on psychologists and coaches or other forms of support, for example courses and trainings. Every three months we run a performance development plan that touches on different topics. It includes questions about how things are going, what are the ambitions and if the employee feels supported enough. We also have what we call a “talent house”, which includes a yearly assessment to see how everyone is doing in their role. In addition, we take part in the Great Place to Work survey every year. And we do our own engagement survey twice a year. That also provides us with useful feedback to improve.


We are continuously working on it, and we will continue to do so. I think it is fundamental that we as management show the team that we want to take care of their well-being and that we aim to solve any problems that may arise.



How did you launch OpenUp with your employees?


This is a nice story! For the first time last year, in June we had an ‘inspirational week.’ The idea behind it was to pause for a moment the daily working routine and give space to motivation and connections. The whole week was about looking after yourself and getting inspiration. During this time, all the teams were asked to go to an inspirational place and take part in sessions with cards and questions. Some teams went to the beach, some to a park, and others to a nice cafe. And that is also when we launched OpenUp. It was like the cherry on top of the week! After we launched it, we received a lot of positive messages. It was an incredibly rewarding feeling.



Did you get any feedback from your employees since you offered OpenUp services?


Unfortunately, I don’t have the chance to speak to all of them personally, but I see the numbers. And also some colleagues came up directly to me saying they were very happy with the help they received. I genuinely love hearing that someone had a conversation with OpenUp. I had mine too this morning! It was planned in my agenda and I thought this could also be a way to encourage people to be open about it. Of course, they don’t have to, but I think that even just seeing your colleagues saying: “sorry, I have to go, I have a meeting with OpenUp” really helps in normalising the conversation about mental health. That’s also why I reached out to OpenUp myself. I struggle with things too and it was very helpful to talk about these with a psychologist. Furthermore, this allows me to share my experience and motivate others to give it a try, should they feel the need.  


“It is essential to realise that, as management, you have an influence on how things are going in your company – so leading as an example is one of the ways to inspire, mentor and motivate employees.”

Your activation rates are impressive: how did you achieve this and which materials and channels do you use to inform and engage employees?


I think the launch during the inspirational week helped us a lot. After that, we had several meetings with your OpenUp colleagues about how to launch and what to work on. In general, one thing that works for us is using the monthly newsletter that we receive from you: we add some things to it that are Dopper-specific, and we share it on Basecamp, our internal communication system. So every month it’s visible that we are working on mental health. We also promote the masterclasses, the group session, and all the information we get from you.


In general, however, the fact that the Dopper team loves what OpenUp offers makes things smoother. People in our company find mental health an important topic, and they really like that we have a platform for it. So it is definitely Dopper-approved!



What do you think is the role of leadership/ management when it comes to making mental health a topic in your company?


I think that’s a big role. I believe that as a manager you have so much influence on your team. I’m part of the management team and I’m really aware of that. So for me, reaching out to OpenUp and sharing that I also struggle sometimes and that I too talk to psychologists is really essential. As managers, we lead as an example: when we make the topic important, the team will find it important.


“It is essential to realise that, as management, you have an influence on how things are going in your company – so leading as an example is one of the ways to inspire, mentor and motivate employees.”


And this applies not only to Dopper, but to all companies. According to Gallup’s research on organisations, 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager. So this translates as ‘my influence on the engagement of my team is 70%’. And this really is an incredibly high number actually. It’s a big responsibility. When we look at mental health, it is also part of our role to share that we also mess things up sometimes. We are not perfect, and it is valuable to have a management team that is honest about it.  



How do you think your company culture and engagement with OpenUp are connected to each other?


I think we are both strongly mission-driven. That’s what really connects us. We also care a lot about the human side of things: first and foremost, having a team that is actually happy and fulfilled. This is another shared point with OpenUp. It feels like we are like “friend companies”, we’re in this together. We were founded on a mission and our companies embody this mission.


What does mental health personally mean to you?


I think there is a connection between doing good and working with people. Mental health plays a big part in this. This has been a constant during my whole life, personally and professionally. Most of my conversations are about mental health because I simply love it. And whenever I don’t feel at my best I immediately start reflecting: What’s happening? What does this mean to me? What can I do to make things better? It’s all connected. 



How do you personally practice what you preach about mental health?


Besides self-reflecting, what helps me is to do sports because that’s the moment when my mind can rest. And this is good for my mental well-being. Sometimes talking and reflecting continuously can be a little tiring. And then it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Moving my body and going to the gym for example help to break my cycle of thoughts.



What advice would you give to those who will read this conversation? Is there something you want to share with your team and employees?


Make time for your mental health – and I’m also saying this as a reminder to myself! It doesn’t have to be much, the first step is to start with a minute perhaps. But you should do it intentionally. Ask yourself: How am I doing? How do I feel? What is happening? Why do I feel this way, for example? 


I am aware that we often feel too busy for it. We say to ourselves: I don’t have the time for this. I have to move on. I have to reply to this email. I have to look at this project. But, in practice, it’s impossible to be fully focused for eight or nine hours a day. So why not take 10 minutes for checking in with yourself?

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