“Investing in wellbeing helps reach employees their full potential”

Kalina Pleil, People Operations Specialist at Labster

Tell us, Kalina: What exactly do you do at Labster, and how have you experienced its growth?

I joined our People Operations team at Labster over a year ago and since then I’ve been part of various different and impactful projects and processes such as global onboarding, managing employees’ lifecycle, helping the People team with data and metrics, as well as managing and administering benefits and entitlements. I’m always truly excited about developing new local and global benefits for our amazing Lobsters!

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After joining Labster, I experienced a full spectrum of growth stages – from scaling up to workforce reduction. It’s a rollercoaster being part of a scale-up and there is never a dull day – you have to be comfortable with change and look forwards by helping to drive outcomes that positively impact all of our Lobsters!

What would you say sets you apart regarding your HR strategy to retain talent? Has the value you place on your employees’ well-being played a significant role?

Absolutely! Throughout our rapid growth, expansion into different regions, and other changes in recent years, we’ve always tried to be an organization that considers employees’ well-being as a top priority. 

We value and encourage feedback and most importantly, learn from it – continuous learning is one of our core values, as is have fun! To provide a few examples, our employees’ benefit from unlimited holidays which we actually encourage them to take.

Everyone has a legal minimum but we encourage people to take extra to relax on a long weekend, or take some time for themselves. We have company-wide mental health days a couple times a year, as well as company holidays where the whole organization shuts down and can really switch off to allow time for self-care

This year, along with ifeel, we have listened to our employees’ needs and have started panel discussions around topics such as stress, work-life balance and depression.

Often spearheaded by our team members who are willing to share their knowledge, experiences and break the stigma around discussing these topics in the workplace. We also have Employee Resource Groups such as our LGBTQIA+ community who arrange talks to educate people on allyship and more. 

Everybody can be 100% themselves and we believe that we can learn from each other and achieve great things when everyone is different and able to be themselves. Recently, we’ve also moved away from “maternity” / “paternity” leave towards a more inclusive parental leave where we don’t differentiate between location, gender or the situation of becoming a new parent.

Similarly, we’ve also launched a Freedom to Choose Policy, which supports all team members globally to ensure their reproductive and gender-affirming rights, autonomy, health, and safety.

Has the digital transformation had any internal impact? How have you taken care of the work environment and the employee experience?

We have 5 office locations and team members working remotely from over 30 countries in the world. Even before the digital transformation in recent times, we were used to working in a hybrid and remote environment using all the same tools some organizations have only just started using since Covid-19. 

We value our flexibility and trust that we are all working together towards a common goal – making science education more accessible and engaging.

However, we also know that human interaction is important to create stronger bonds between team members and supports the wellbeing of our employees. Whenever possible, we encourage our teams to go into offices and have facetime with their teams if they can, and also organize team offsites with the main focus being on collaboration and fun. 

employee experience

Our CEO regularly visits different office locations and connects in-person with our Lobsters all over the world. We’ve also organized a digital, company-wide event and we were able to, irrespective of location, celebrate our wins all together and simply have fun!  We’re really excited for every opportunity to connect with our passionate and kind teams!

Your claim states: Reimagining the future of education. Do you think you have ever had to “reinvent” yourselves to foster commitment and motivation?

I wouldn’t go as far as reinvent, but we do apply the same thinking to ourselves of course. Any organization that wants to be ahead of the curve and disrupt how the world does something has to also be willing to pivot and change their course, experiment, try things, see what works and what fails, learn from the mistakes and pick up and try again!

mental well-being at work

This also applies to any people or HR team in this type of organization, to ensure we are focusing on what is actually the most important and the most needed for our people. Sometimes that means deprioritizing a project for a more urgent need that we weren’t anticipating. It’s all in the nature of scale-ups! And certainly doesn’t allow for any boring days 🙂

At what point did you decide to take a step further in caring for your employees’ well-being? Why did you choose ifeel? 

Mental and emotional well-being has always played a significant role for us and was never a topic we wanted to shy away from. Before choosing ifeel, we were offering health insurance in most of our locations but we knew that a healthy mind is just as important to the wellbeing of employ­ees. We also know that investing in wellbeing helps reach employees their full potential and benefits both people and organization.


However, it was the pandemic and the feeling of uncertainty that so many of us experienced, as well as the fact that we are distributed across so many locations that made us realize that we absolutely want and need to go one step further in caring for our employees.

Before choosing ifeel, we discussed our needs, what are the absolutely crucial elements that have to be included and based on these requirements, we began thorough research of a number of providers. Ifeel seemed like a perfect fit for our organization, and we also had heard great real-life feedback from a Labster employee who had previously used ifeel in another organization! 

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