Beerwulf knows how seamless communication can transform an industry. The Heineken-owned beer startup connects craft breweries with beer aficionados and ships cases right to their door. From sharing stories about each brewery to crafting a seamless shopping experience, solid communication gives Beerwulf an edge. In 2020, the direct-to-consumer platform nearly doubled its revenues and tripled in UK markets!
For Jason Yavorska, Beerwulf’s Chief Product & Technical Officer, effective communication goes beyond sending a Slack message. Jason leads a five-person team across Engineering, Data, and Product to ensure Beerwulf’s platform and physical products delight their customers. With tight deadlines, miscommunication from low morale can lead to lost revenue. As a result, Jason views his team’s productivity as directly linked to their mental health and wellness.
Despite efforts towards frequent 1:1s and team building exercises, a year of forced work from home created friction. Jason shares, “We felt this general sense of exhaustion from being forced into suddenly working remotely. Especially after we previously had a very close in-office culture with lots of fun events and hanging out. Small annoyances were building up, many that didn’t feel big enough to address, but were aggregating in a team-wide frustration.”
Jason learned about Kona and started using it with his team in May 2021.
“We weren't having enough difficult conversations. With Kona, we’re talking about our frustrations and helping each other. The team now feels like a safe space to say anything.”
Jason Yavorska, CPTO
Kona works by sending a daily standup message to Jason’s team channel every morning at 9AM Netherlands time (CEST.) The message is simple, “How are you feeling: Red, Yellow, or Green?” Teammates can choose a colored heart that matches their overall mood and select a custom emoji to dive deeper into what emotion they’re feeling. They can even add an additional line of context to dive into what’s affecting them.
At first, a few teammates pushed back against Kona. They wondered why a tool was needed for communication and whether this was too robotic for something so natural. Others only saw it as a way to air grievances, in the same way other anonymous survey tools had been used to inform team all-hands. However, this changed as soon as teammates started checking in with work and non-work updates.
Jason’s team shared yellows and reds for worries about kids, a poor night’s sleep, and stress about deadlines. These frequent, vulnerable moments were often met with kind words from others, creating a feedback loop of support. This opened a door for more interpersonal connection and trust and set a precedent for problem-solving. In a month, Jason’s team felt safe enough to address points of friction without risking judgement or dismissing their problems.
It didn't take long for this mindfulness to translate to empathy. Sean's team started more open conversations and made an effort to understand what others were going through. They took time to pause and reflect on their interactions. They extended this mindfulness to other teams, encouraging more cross-department connection and collaboration.
Kona is growing at Beerwulf! It's already being used across six teams at Beerwulf, from Finance to Engineering to People.
With more teams participating on Kona, Katinka Bezemer (Head of HR) has more visibility on Beerwulf’s health as an organization, without compromising on the privacy of individual check-ins. Kona collects mood inputs into a high-level dashboard, helping managers and culture leaders keep tabs on wider trends like burnout. For Katinka, this was Kona’s biggest selling point, “I was looking at solutions for mental health support. Getting a team psychologist felt way too invasive. Kona seemed much higher-level and could help me give support to those in need without putting too much pressure on our leaders.”
Before Kona, Katinka relied solely on anonymous surveys to understand team morale. However, these surveys were often reactive and expressed generalized anger and frustration. When Katinka issued process changes, she would have to wait until the next survey to understand whether these changes were effective, delaying her by weeks if not months.
Kona helps Katinka view the live health trends for individual teams, pinpointing which teams are struggling and how these health trends correlate with key events. Once she isolates a problem, Katinka can prepare for 1:1s with managers by reviewing their team’s Kona data and suggest process changes that can support entire departments. She can also create company-wide initiatives and track their effects, helping her iterate on the universal processes faster. Overall, Kona provides data on Beerwulf’s health so Katinka can spend less time gathering information and more time acting on it.