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Creating Preventive and Proactive Well-Being Approaches to Work-Life with MindFi

February 23, 2024

Bjorn (CEO of MindFi) shares his view on the shift from mental health to mental well-being and how we can take part in our employee’s growth and well-being solutions

From personal journey to a passion-driven workplace solution

Siska: Nice to meet you Bjorn! To start with, can you share how MindFi got its start?

Bjorn:  What inspired the development of MindFi was the end of a one-year sabbatical, during which I wanted to find something I was passionate about that could also impact the world. It wasn't solely about making money; I wanted to make an impact.

I wanted to build something impactful that aligned with my personal passions. The story also flashes back to around 2010-2011, when I experienced chest pains. I consulted a specialist who said that this was not heart-related but due to high stress. After that, I started meditating.

By 2017, I realised that mental health is incredibly important in the workplace and in life. I was based in Singapore at that time, but starting something related to this in the workspace was challenging. Most companies had a stigma, and they did not see this as a priority for the growth and development of their staff.

I started the entire company more as a consumer app in mindfulness initially. I had other friends who were on similar journeys around that time, including my current co-founders. They joined me just before COVID. Around 2019, I started getting more interest from businesses. There's a second phase of my journey where we became more focused on building a product for the workspace.

We pivoted. It was a product pivot that took us away from a mindfulness self-care consumer app to a full-fledged mental health platform for businesses in 2019. The first few initial customers were really excited to work with us. My friends then actually joined on board as well. We know what happened between then and now. When the COVID pandemic hit, it became a priority. There were a lot more companies joining on board.

What inspired me is personal pain and a desire to build a social impact in the workplace.

Now, the new version of MindFi added access to coaching and counselling, which is commonly called the Employee Assistance Program. It has reached this stage today. What inspired me is personal pain and a desire to build a social impact in the workplace.

Integrating mental fitness and social support into our daily lives

Siska: This is a topic that's sometimes overlooked by companies. How does MindFi differ from other products in its category?

Bjorn: The meaning of MindFi stems from 'mind' and 'fitness'. When I came up with the name, with some friends, I was reminded that everybody knows about physical fitness.

Physical fitness is super important. But nobody cares about mental fitness because physical fitness is so easy to track and measure. You run, lift weights, swim, cycle. There's that time perspective, right? But working on your mind, there are so many different ways to go about doing that.

We wanted to build something that's really simple and integrated into people's lives. When we think about mental fitness, we want to build it as a habit. We want to make it as easy for people to track on a tracker. We encourage people to practice 15 minutes of self-care, whether it's doing breathing exercises, therapy, or mindfulness.

In our app, we also want them to not just think about their mind as a standalone silo, but to connect it to other aspects of their well-being, like physical health, which everybody does as well. We make it as easy as possible.

The keyword here is integration or assimilation into their normal work-life routine. Even in the coaching and counselling that we added to the MindFi app, we created a lot of topics related to work. We talk about topics like dealing with difficult colleagues, managing project deadlines, sleeping well before a major presentation, and handling family issues that could arise.

We do a lot on the preventive side of the mental health spectrum. Unlike other apps that may target more of the mental health per se, MindFi is really more focused on words like fitness, performance, well-being, and going beyond the mind to connect it. This makes it highly relevant and easy to integrate into your lifestyle. That's the first part, assimilation.

We want to make mental well-being a social experience, not just a personal one. Traditionally, mental health has been a very personal journey that people might not want to discuss.

The second part, as I would call it, is that we want to make mental well-being a social experience, not just a personal one. Traditionally, mental health has been a very personal journey that people might not want to discuss.

People often feel a stigma, they don't want to talk to others about it. Moreover, many people don't want to acknowledge the fact that they're mentally unwell. It's not just about social stigma, there's a personal stigma attached to it as well.

What we do in the app is not just self-care, but we are pioneering a new form called group care, both in the app and outside of it. Within the app, we have anonymous forums moderated by our professional providers who answer questions that people can post anonymously.

Our providers also reveal their identities, fostering a sense of community. Outside the app, we visit our company clients and train their staff on what it means to be an advocate in their workspace. This way, they have someone around them that they can talk to, even if it's not a professional.

We also focus on delivering group counselling or coaching sessions, such as support groups, for them to sit, listen, and learn from others. This is crucial for group care.

I would say that integrated self-care, combined with their work-life routine, enhances the traditional incumbent, which is professional care in the form of coaching and counselling, and what the industry calls an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP for short. This is how we differentiate ourselves from the incumbent industry.

Measuring what matters: Involvement, effectiveness, and happiness

Siska: In what ways could HR teams use this data to better engage their employees?

Bjorn: We always say that any mental health product requires time to take root in a culture. We generally require at least a year of commitment to ensure that this is not a fleeting endeavour. It's not just a touch-and-go kind of product. We focus not just on the app, but outside the app as well.

Our reports to companies consist of the standard engagement: how many people use it monthly, weekly, and daily, and when they use it, like weekends or weekdays. People, like leaders or HR managers, react differently to these data.

For example, they might think, "We're launching this app, so we need 70% of people using it." If your culture values honesty, then the lower the usage percentage, the more you should work to highlight it, as everyone is feeling stressed. We've helped clients with difficult work cultures and low usage.

We keep working with them and it's a constant task to teach the industry. The first issue we tackle is involvement. The second one is health. We use quick, 1-minute evaluations approved by medical research teams. We frequently use one named MindFi Eleven, which is based on research carried out in Canada by the World Health Organisation.

We ask eleven questions. Six are about wellbeing and five are about productivity, such as work stress. Questions include: Are you happy with your work? Do you feel a sense of purpose? Are you often sick? Do you feel disconnected at work? So, this well-being check is crucial. It's a qualitative survey.

Another important aspect is effectiveness. We monitor the usage of sessions on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), coaching, and counselling, and their ratings. This is all part of engagement.

The last topic is about productivity or the return on investment (ROI). We collaborate with innovative researchers and companies. We link their work to HR measures such as absenteeism, presenteeism, employee involvement, and internal surveys. Our goal is to find out what can improve these measures and make employees more engaged, which we track through regular short surveys.

A combination of personalised insights, community-based support, and psychological safety

Siska: When talking about Southeast Asian culture, there's much to think about. How can we tailor MindFi to meet specific goals or processes?

Bjorn: Personalisation is done automatically through the app. We utilise AI, which some might refer to as generative AI. This AI uses your answers to eleven questions, known as the MindFi Eleven, when you sign up. We use this information to tailor the content to your needs. We're also considering adding more AI-based personalisation.

Users should do the MindFi Eleven each month to get custom content. If they have wearables, data such as sleep, heart rate, and steps can make recommendations better over time. If users have trouble, we might suggest they get professional help.

We can tailor self-care exercises to suit you. For example, if you're feeling down, we might suggest a meditation session. If you're struggling to sleep, we could recommend sleep coaching or talking to a specialist.

We suggest talking to a particular provider based on their stats. It's a personalised app that covers the three kinds of care we provide: self-care, group care, and professional care.

Siska: This relates to the ongoing question, how does it ensure data security and keep information safe?

Bjorn:  I understand that many companies are concerned about this. Firstly, we comply with GDPR. We've been doing this for many years. We have a representative in Austria, within the EU, and we strictly follow the regulations.

We voluntarily follow ISO 27,001 rules for information security. We've kept our certification for these rules for the last three years. These rules guide our policies.

We also use high-level security measures, like keeping personal data separate from other data. We use protection methods similar to those used by banks and healthcare companies. Even though we're not a healthcare company, we still choose to keep our data separate. This way, our data won't be exposed unless all the servers of the top cloud providers are hacked.

We always keep data anonymous, even when we report to companies. You can only see your personal data. We don't share any personal data in our reports. New companies might want to know who's stressed, but we keep this information confidential.

This information could be used against them. The human curiosity at the leadership level needs to be curbed to respect their privacy. Therefore, we never reveal that information to any of our clients. We never tell them who is stressed or not. That's the policy level with our clients.

Proactive and preventive approaches to care in the workplace

Siska: The last question from me is, how has the journey been so far for MindFi?

Bjorn: We are a company that went through the pandemic, focusing on mental health, a critical issue as people were isolated at home. It was very rewarding to see the conversation shift from mental health to mental well-being as the pandemic progressed. Not everyone suffered from severe mental health issues, but everyone's wellbeing was affected.

It was very rewarding to see the conversation shift from mental health to mental well-being as the pandemic progressed.

Now people are returning to the office, focusing on both mental and social well-being. How does social well-being contribute to mental health? It's interesting to observe this process. Our team has expanded and we're finding common ground with other business priorities, like learning and development, which NewCampus cares about.

We have realised that we are only part of a larger jigsaw or ecosystem of employee growth or well-being solutions as well. I would say that a key aspect that differentiates us in this market, given the increasing number of mental health apps, is our proactiveness.

We consider ourselves a proactive mental well-being solution. In contrast, the incumbents and many other players in the market are quite passive, waiting for something to go wrong before providing counsellors. However, people need help to overcome the stigma, especially in Southeast Asia.

Being proactive means that we shouldn't just provide professionals. We go forward, discussing personalised self-care integrated with your work-life routine. We talk about making mental well-being or mental health a social journey, not a solo one.

Support your team with a proactive EAP & wellbeing program.

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