To maintain their employee care as they grew, SonderMind partnered with Sparrow for employee leave management.
SonderMind is on a mission to improve mental health access, utilization, and outcomes by providing personalized mental healthcare, including therapy and psychiatry, to individuals in 15 states and D.C. SonderMind’s approach is simple but powerful: use advanced technology to help people find the care that works for them—in-network.
With SonderMind, patients don’t have to worry about signing up for a waitlist or a monthly subscription. They can easily find a therapist who takes their insurance, get seen within one week on average, and meet with their provider online or in person, seven days a week.
In the past three years, SonderMind has grown an astonishing 2,289%, putting them at #243 on the Inc. 5000, Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. SonderMind also acquired two tech-enabled mental health companies over the past year: Total Brain and Mindstrong.
“Those companies are a key part of our growth strategy as we continue to scale,” said Sara Marzitelli, the Vice President, Head of People at SonderMind.
On their impressive growth trajectory SonderMind, has taken steps to streamline their internal processes and enhance their employee experience. One of the ways they did that was by partnering with Sparrow for full-service employee leave management.
Keeping employees’ buckets full
SonderMind is committed to improving mental health outcomes and overall well-being for as many people as possible—including the employees driving towards the company’s mission.
“One of our CEO’s personal goals is to make SonderMind a career-defining place to work,” said Marzitelli. “SonderMind’s entire executive team is focused and aligned on that vision. Everything we do from an employee standpoint keeps that goal top of mind.”
One way SonderMind keeps company employees aligned is with their core values, which encourage curiosity, courage, and authenticity. “We’ve also created a couple of our own words to represent our values,” Marzitelli said. “One is ‘lightful,’ which is all about assuming positive intent from others and coming into situations with an open mind,” she explained.
“Another unique word is ‘bucketworthy,’ which essentially means keeping your personal bucket full and knowing when it’s starting to leak. We encourage employees to take the time they need as individuals to ensure they’re healthy mentally and physically, and that they’re bringing the best versions of themselves to work.”
To make SonderMind both a professionally and personally enriching place to work, the company offers thoughtful benefits that prioritize employee health, happiness, and career development. Those include flexible hybrid work; flexible and unlimited paid time off with a minimum of three weeks off a year; therapy coverage; comprehensive medical, dental, and vision coverage; 401(k) matching, paid parental leave; volunteer days off, robust company holiday schedule and job and leadership training, amongst others.
“We’re always rethinking our benefits and looking at new areas to invest in,” Marzitelli explained. “We’re constantly getting feedback from our employees about what would make their experience better, then using that information to make improvements and develop new programming.”
“Because we’re in the behavioral health space, we tend to have a highly empathetic employee population,” added Marzitelli. “Everybody cares about the person working next to them and is really devoted to our mission, so that’s amazing. We have a truly incredible group of people we get to work with—and we want to take care of them.”
The challenge: Managing leaves internally while trying to scale
One of SonderMind’s goals was to give their employees a straightforward, stress-free leave experience—but leave management and execution proved complicated.
“Before Sparrow, we were managing all of our leaves through an Excel spreadsheet,” Marzitelli said. “It was hectic. Information wasn’t always up to date and we were missing key pieces of data.”
Relying on a manual leave management system wasn’t just confusing—it was also extremely inefficient. “It was hard to be proactive on the HR side about ensuring we were staying on top of everything,” she explained. “Going back and forth between the employee and the people manager took a lot of time and effort.”
SonderMind’s HR team was distributing and filing paperwork, tracking leave dates, and following up with employees in the middle of the leave process—while also trying to handle compliance.
“I was always worried about mistakes from a compliance perspective,” Marzitelli added. “When I came into the role, we were managing 20-30 different types of leaves at different stages, so we spent a lot of time researching state laws and reaching out to legal counsel or our brokers to understand what we needed to do in a timely manner. It was a huge lift.”
SonderMind’s lean HR team struggled to handle leave admin while maintaining their other job responsibilities. “I don’t think we understood how complicated leaves can be in terms of paperwork, private disability carriers, state laws, and everything,” said Marzitelli.
Other SonderMind departments also felt stretched thin trying to assist with leave management. “It wasn’t just HR’s time and effort—it was also the legal team, both internal and external. The team really felt the burden of leaves and it took away time they could have spent working on other initiatives,” she explained.
To maintain their high employee care standards and continue scaling, SonderMind knew they had to switch up their leave system—so they came to Sparrow.
The solution: Turning leave management over to Sparrow
SonderMind needed an end-to-end leave management provider who could reduce backend work and give employees white glove treatment. Marzitelli had implemented Sparrow at a previous company she worked for, and felt confident Sparrow was the right solution for SonderMind.
“I’m the biggest Sparrow fan,” she said. “Sparrow is a true partner, and has helped us improve the leave process from all angles, making sure HR’s process is streamlined and that our employees feel good about everything.”
Sparrow took over every aspect of leave management for SonderMind, including staying up to date on state leave laws, filling out employee and company paperwork, coordinating communication between SonderMind’s HR team and employees, and calculating payroll for employees on leave.
“I no longer have to be involved in the leave process on a day-to-day basis, but I know the Sparrow dashboard has been really helpful for our payroll and benefits person in understanding what she has to do when,” Marzitelli said.
Sparrow’s dashboard categorizes SonderMind’s various employee leaves by type, displaying key pieces of information like leave start and end dates, employee location, and applicable state leave laws.
“We recently had a pretty complicated leave scenario where somebody went out for the birth of a child, but then had a medical situation in between,” added Marzitelli. “Sparrow’s dashboard helped our benefits person visualize the overlapping leaves and ensure our employee was paid on time. And I think that’s true not just of the complicated leaves but of all of them.”
Sparrow has been especially helpful when it comes to maintaining compliance. “When you’re managing leave on your own, the risk is so much greater if you don’t get it right,” Marzitelli said. “You want to make sure you’re doing it correctly and consistently, filing the appropriate paperwork, and that no one is getting short-changed for any reason.”
Sparrow Leave Specialists are experts in state leave laws. Their knowledge, combined with the meticulous way they file paperwork, reduces SonderMind’s compliance risk and gives the HR team more peace of mind.
However, the best part about working with Sparrow, according to Marzitelli and her team, is the way SonderMind employees have benefited. “Leave is such a critical time. When people go out on leave, more often than not it’s exciting, but there are also plenty of times when it’s not exciting. It can be a hyper-stressful time in someone’s life, and there’s a lot to worry about,” Marzitelli said.
“If we can take our employees’ stress away and make their leave experience more seamless, they can spend more time focusing on their family or getting the care they need or caring for a loved one, which at the end of the day is the most important thing,” she added.
Sparrow Leave Specialists reach out directly to SonderMind employees taking leave. After they explain what to expect before, during, and after leave, Sparrow Leave Specialists fill out paperwork for the employees, liaise with their healthcare providers if necessary, answer any pay-related questions employees have, and hand out resources to ensure a smooth return from leave.
“We got feedback from one of our employees who had a complicated leave, and she was so grateful to have a team behind her who she could trust,” Marzitelli said. “Sparrow reduced a lot of her stress, so she could focus on caring for herself and her family during that time. The tools we use are meant to simplify our lives, and Sparrow does that.”
The result: More time to invest in their mission and take care of employees
Partnering with Sparrow has been nothing short of transformational for SonderMind’s benefits team and employees. “We’ve gotten so much time back with Sparrow, which means it’s a major cost savings as well,” Marzitelli said.
By taking paperwork, compliance, payroll calculations, and employee communication off their plates, Sparrow has freed up SonderMind’s HR team to do what they’re best at.
“Working with Sparrow has given us more time to focus on strategic initiatives that help us attract new talent and improve employee retention,” Marzitelli said. “Because that’s what we love doing.”
Recently, SonderMind has created new programming for manager training, implemented a new HRIS system, and created a series of new remote and hybrid employee engagement events.
“We’re a small team, and now with Sparrow’s help, the work we’re doing in the day-to-day can be more thought-provoking and meaningful,” explained Marzitelli.
“Outsourcing leave management gives us more bandwidth to align to company goals, and helps our team feel more motivated and engaged with their tasks. We have more runway now to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make SonderMind a career-defining place to work.”