Forget fitness apps, new Finnish virtual coach improves life skills

Newolo’s virtual coaching service offers a unique combination of mental fitness and soft skills training. Pictured Newolo’s co-founders Juho Juutilainen (left) and Philippe Santraine.

Newolo’s virtual coaching service offers a unique combination of mental fitness and soft skills training. Pictured Newolo’s co-founders Juho Juutilainen (left) and Philippe Santraine.

No fitness tracking or instant results here, Helsinki-based Newolo has taken a different approach to wellbeing. Its virtual coaching service improves mental fitness through cognitive behavioural methods.

The 750 km Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain is, for many, a journey for personal growth. For Finn Juho Juutilainen it was also a start of a new career.

“I was alone, surrounded by nature and thinking about my past, where I was headed and what I wanted from life,” Juutilainen describes. “It was like a life inventory and so fruitful that I started to think how a similar experience could be achieved virtually. That’s how the idea for Newolo was born.”

The company was officially established in 2011 after Juutilainen met his similarly minded co-founders Philippe Santraine and Esa Vesmanen. In partnership with the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT they started to build an online coaching service for self-improvement based on the methods of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

The ‘Newolo VirtualCoach’ was first launched in Finland in late 2012 and is now available in four languages across Western Europe.

Newolo doesn’t provide instant fixes. The aim is to improve mental fitness and help with adoption of new life skills, especially in a work life context.The virtual coaching program, tailored to match a user’s personality, takes 10 weeks to complete and requires in average 45 minutes of weekly training, including written exercises and video lessons.

“The challenge is that people want instant solutions. But according to studies 66 days or 10 weeks is the average time it takes for a person to adopt a new habit,” explains Juutilainen. “By nature people are other-directed, but we want to help them to become inner-directed. It means you’re directed by your own values instead of your environment.”

While the required level of commitment is high, so are the claimed benefits. These vary from better self-awareness and stress management to improved decision making and handling of challenging situations.

Mental fitness and soft skills

The Virtual Coach is mainly targeted at consumers and companies who want to invest in the long term wellbeing of their employees, as most of the exercises are designed to reflect real work life situations. Although the program is completely automated it can also be done with support from a real life coach.

Newolo’s VirtualCoach is based on the ideas of cognitive behavioural therapy CBT. (Photo: Newolo) Newolo’s VirtualCoach is based on the ideas of cognitive behavioural therapy CBT. (Photo: Newolo)

Professional coaches are provided with an online toolkit to monitor users’ progress and give feedback. Coaching and wellness services providers can also resell the virtual coaching program as part of their own service offering.

“Currently the market is focused on measuring the body and there aren’t many services that are aimed to developing emotional life and cognitive skills. We offer a unique combination of mental fitness and soft skills training,” says Juutilainen.

“There are similar services that offer reactive treatments [when problems have already appeared] but there isn’t anyone else on the preventive side.”

In early April Newolo took on a new market and opened up the service for individual users. Anyone can sign-up and use the service for a fee.

Go West

The company feels the market is only in its infancy as the importance of emotional skills in work life are becoming better known. One sign of this is the German ZPP certificate Newolo received in July. It means the company’s services are recognised by the German health insurance system and Newolo has become the first Finnish company to attain it.

The next step for Newolo is strengthening its partner network across Europe. The company has resellers in Austria and Germany and is discussing with potential partners in the UK.

“Western countries are our primary target market at the moment as it takes a lot more cultural localisation to go to Asia,” Juutilainen concludes. “But as a startup we have learnt to go where the markets are. There is no point setting our plans in stone.”

“According to studies 85 to 95 per cent of illnesses originate mentally. We operate in the origin of wellbeing, the mental side. It has been scientifically proved that how we think has strong ties to our physical health,” says Newolo's creative Director Juho Juutilainen. (Photo: iStock.com/Poike) “According to studies 85 to 95 per cent of illnesses originate mentally. We operate in the origin of wellbeing, the mental side. It has been scientifically proved that how we think has strong ties to our physical health,” says Newolo’s creative Director Juho Juutilainen. (Photo: iStock.com/Poike)

 

 

 

 

Text: Eeva Haaramo
www.newolo.com
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