Kooth homepage on laptop
Collaboration

Powering one of the UK’s largest digital platforms for mental health with Slack

How the team behind Kooth collaborates in Slack to align on messaging and deliver real-time online therapeutic support to more than 5 million people.

Author: Sara Yin7th October 2020

Getting to the psychotherapist’s office is half the battle. Elaine Bousfield saw this first-hand when she worked as a therapist for young people in Manchester. The experience led her to found Kooth in 2001. 

A pioneer in online counselling services, Kooth works directly with the UK’s National Health Service to bring accessible, anonymous and safe online mental health support to 5.4 million people between the ages of 10 and 75. It provides a customised platform for youths, adults and business customers in the form of messages with practitioners, online chats, live forums, articles and more. 

Now more than ever, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to impact the mental health of UK residents, Kooth’s services are playing a critical role. In fact, demand for Kooth continues to rise, as evidenced by a 33% increase in logins since the beginning of March 2020.   

In order to continue delivering a seamless experience to users, the newly remote company collaborates entirely in Slack. From coordinating marketing and sales to supporting product teams and mental health practitioners, Kooth does it all in Slack. 

Chief Commercial Officer, Annie Meharg

‘Slack helps us do two things: it makes us quick and nimble as a remote business, and it allows us to harness a variety of skill sets across Kooth.’

Annie MehargChief Commercial Officer, Kooth

For example, the marketing team publishes their content calendar in a public channel, a virtual space where teams can collaborate and share resources. That channel, #marketing-and-content, is also used to crowdsource ideas for new campaigns.

‘Slack is very much about knowledge-sharing and encouraging people,’ says Annie Meharg, Chief Commercial Officer for Kooth. ‘A lot of solutions happen in Slack.’

Supporting campaigns and community engagement with Slack

Kooth’s promotion workers are on the ground in local communities, driving awareness and providing education about their platform. Slack enables Kooth to quickly find sources on topical issues that promotion workers are coming across throughout the UK. It also helps community engagement workers to bring key trends and conversations to the team’s attention, allowing Kooth’s marketing department to create hyper-relevant, timely and targeted campaigns that promote services to end users.

‘By harnessing real-time insights from our staff on the ground for campaigns, then sharing that info on Slack, we now reach more than one million people each month through Instagram to promote our free service to users,’ says Meharg. 

Meharg has more than 50 mental health promotion and integration workers on the ground working directly with the community. Based all over the UK and always on the go, they communicate in their own Slack channel and add formal content requests in #promotion-workers. With immediate feedback and insights from the front line, they can better serve Kooth’s users. 

New hires also join Slack on day one: they’re added to #koothbuddying and matched with a veteran employee who’s available during a set time period every day to answer questions. ‘We are a hugely remote company,’ Meharg says. ‘I don’t know how we’d cope without Slack.’ 

Finding camaraderie and community through Slack channels

Working as a clinical practitioner is often a high-stress job. At Kooth, practitioners also work remotely and have little face time with their teams, which could quickly lead to a sense of disconnection. 

That’s why the company embraces Slack not only for onboarding and daily collaboration, but also for community and culture. Every new hire has a designated ‘buddy’ to whom they can turn with questions, and Kooth’s workspace has plenty of lighter, topic-driven Slack channels for building rapport, such as #koothpets

‘There’s always something to talk about, which makes it easier to get to know other colleagues,’ says Jo Love, part of the Children and Young People team and one of 120 emotional well-being practitioners at Kooth. 

Jo Love, Emotional Wellbeing Practitioner

‘Without Slack, I don’t know how we’d communicate. I always say it’s our office: you can shout if you need help; you can shout if you just want to chat. It just encompasses everything.’

Jo LoveEmotional well-being practitioner, Kooth

Staying connected and aligned on best practices 

One challenge of providing mental health support is the sheer breadth and complexity of topics covered. Kooth’s practitioners use the #mod-main channel to gather input from multiple practitioners or clinical specialists when moderating their online forums. ‘Our Slack conversations help us align on how we’re approaching certain topics and what we allow on the site,’ Love says. 

During online support chats, practitioners also use the channel #online-team-thread for feedback on difficult discussions. ‘We get real-time support in Slack, and it feels like you’ve got someone sitting right there with you,’ says Love. 

Managers, discussion moderators and practitioners are on call during any given shift, and the team uses the Kyber app for Slack in the#mod-main channel to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. During shift changes, Slack keeps everyone in sync and ensures continuity of service. ‘Slack allows us to link up throughout the night and prioritise any young person at risk,’ Love says. 

The emotional well-being practitioners also check #mod-updates for centralised input from clinical practitioners. ‘Depending on what we’re presented with, there might be rules about what we can and can’t post,’ Love says. ‘We want to approach everything in a really safe, appropriate way.’

Syncing behind the scenes to host live forums

Kooth holds a weekly 90-minute live forum, which it coordinates in Slack. Each forum has a real-time moderator, host and support rep to orchestrate moving pieces, which can often be sensitive. 

‘During live forums, we’re constantly discussing best practices in Slack,’ Love says. ‘Recently, we had over 600 comments in 90 minutes.’

If a young person is at risk, the moderator coordinates with support in a separate thread to prioritise them and allow the host to stay on topic. ‘Slack is really critical, and gives us space to chat to one another, talk through issues and make sure nothing and no one is forgotten,’ says Love.

From practitioners to product developers, teams across Kooth use Slack to collaborate seamlessly and support each other as they provide a safe space for millions to improve their mental health.

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