Atlantic Therapeutics: ‘We’re doing lots of things to keep the family culture alive’
This company does things differently, from ‘no shop talk’ Zoom meet-ups to bingo
Sales and marketing executive Therese Gillespie and global project manager Danny Forde of Atlantic Therapeutics. Photograph: Conor McCabe
A very strong corporate culture has helped sustain 2019 Irish Times Innovation Award winner Atlantic Therapeutics during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had a very positive and passionate culture from the very beginning,” says HR vice-president Elaine O’Neill. “We wanted to define our own culture early on. We were very focused on new employees. We wanted to bring in equally-positive people who shared our connection to the product and the treatment. We weren’t just looking for good accountants or software developers, but people who were passionate about what we want to achieve, which is to change the lives of millions of people suffering from this terrible condition.”
That condition is urinary incontinence. The company has developed the Innovo, a unique wearable device, similar in style to a standard pair of cycling shorts, which contains eight electrodes that contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles with a training and strengthening effect that helps patients retake control of their bladder function.
She describes the culture that has evolved at the company as a bit like a family. “We do lots of things to maintain and sustain that culture. We celebrate everyone’s birthday. When we were still working in the office, we ate lunch together every day. Eating together helps build social connection. We know what our colleagues are doing in their lives outside of work and are able to support them in their personal lives.”
Working from home
Sustaining that culture has been challenging during the pandemic. “When Covid-19 hit, our first job was to help people work from home,” says O’Neill. “In many ways, that was the easy part. We always had that flexibility for people to work from home if they wanted to. The biggest challenge was to continue with the family culture which had been developed over time. It might sound trite, but people miss each other. We miss our work family, we miss meeting up, we miss the social side of that. It’s been a challenge to find ways to stay connected in the new world.”
Fun has played a central role in meeting that challenge. “We have daily catch-ups online. I know a lot of companies do that, but ours is a no-work Zoom. One day we spent the whole meeting talking about dishwashers. When we had lunches together, we could talk about absolutely anything. We have tried to find a way to continue that. We’ve also had online company bingo. It’s great fun. One colleague is very attached to bingo and she took on the role of bingo caller. One of our colleagues in the UK is a qualified yoga instructor, and every Thursday we have an online yoga class. We’re doing lots of different things to keep the family culture alive.”
There is a more serious side as well. “We are using our Active company health and wellbeing programme in any way we can to support people’s health and wellbeing. Last year we had a life-skills coaching programme open to all employees. That helped with mental health in areas like dealing with change, time and workload management, and building positive relationships. I’m really glad I did that. Lots of useful tips and information came out of it.”
Bingo and support
The company is also taking part in the Walktober step challenge, encouraging people to escape from their office chairs. “We have stayed focused on the health and wellbeing of employees; their physical, mental and emotional health. People tell us they miss their colleagues and coming into the office and eating lunch together. It’s not a bed of roses and there are times when people are feeling really bad. Our CEO reached out and asked for feedback. People told us what they wanted to see more of. They liked the bingo and so on. That enables us to personalise our actions. If we know someone is going through a tough time, we can reach out with quite specific supports for them.”
The company has performed very well commercially during Covid-19. “We have been very lucky. Our product is intended for home use and sold through ecommerce channels. When people are spending more time at home, they can take the time to self-manage and address their condition. Without our culture we wouldn’t have been able to capitalise on that. Unknown to ourselves we have been preparing for challenges like Covid-19 for a long time.”