One of the most important things a company can do when it comes to creating a healthy work culture is to be aware of mental health issues and consider prevention techniques. Give employees the tools and resources to manage their life not only at work but also at home, because one will affect the other. Encourage micro-breaks, meditation at work, and promote physical exercise. Show how every employee is connected to the mission of the company and why they matter, set clear goals that everyone can understand and relate to. Make sure the people in the organization are encouraged and seen, use positive feedback, acknowledge important milestones and celebrate achievements.
As a part of my series about leaders who integrate mindfulness and spiritual practices into their work culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Brudö. David is the CEO and co-founder of a Sweden-based company called Remente (www.remente.com), which is a personal and organizational development app that helps people and companies improve their mental strength and reach their goals. After completing a law degree from the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship, David has been co-founding startups for most of his professional career, gaining invaluable experience as an entrepreneur along the way.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?
Having been born and raised in Sweden, I grew up with an entrepreneurial mindset and have spent most of my professional career co-founding companies in a variety of fields. When I first started my own e-commerce business several years ago, I quickly became aware that I wasn’t prepared for the mental strain of running your own business and I started to suffer from a lot of work-related stress, until I almost reached the point of burnout. This brought me back to when I was an insecure teenager suffering from depression, which I immediately saw as a red signal to go see a therapist. When I finally began to seek psychological help, I quickly became aware that there was a substantial lack of emphasis on preventing mental health issues, and that healthcare was too focused on treatment. Ultimately, this realization is what led me to where I am today — I founded Remente to create a preventive and scalable system that helps people achieve mental wellbeing.
What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?
Its role was that of complete absence. The art of being mindful is something I began practicing during adulthood after several years of trial and error… so it definitely would have been helpful growing up!
How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?
Engaging in mindful practices has affected both my personal and professional lives. It has helped me to know when I’m on autopilot, and that I may be simply reacting to my emotions rather than being mindfully aware and proactive. At home, this makes me more present in everyday life which I believe improves my relationships with those around me. At work, whenever I start feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, a short walk or a few minutes of breathing helps me regain focus, avoid any distractions, and get on with my day.
Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?
Today, I think the concept of success is shifting from a career perspective to something more holistic, and I believe mindful practices have helped me become more successful both in my professional and personal lives. Mindfulness is one of the tools that help you get more out of life and understand more about yourself, whether it is at work or at home. As an entrepreneur, I need to have grit and mental resilience, and mindfulness helps me achieve that. The art of being mindfully aware and present also helps me when I’m at home because it reduces the risk of getting overwhelmed by work-related stress and instead lets me focus on what’s most important — my family.
When we started Remente some years ago with the aim of building a digital system that helps you get the most out of life, a lot of people thought we were crazy. Now, we’ve hit over one million downloads without marketing, and we continue to grow with thousands of new users every day. If I hadn’t have focused on my mental strength, I would have given up several years back.
What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
The quick answer: define what a good life is to you and what makes it so. Then do more of what makes your life feel good.
The long answer: Often we have a belief of what leading a good life means, but it’s not really in line with our values. To take an example: Let’s say my value is to provide for the family, therefore I spend a lot of time at work away from my family to earn money so I can provide for them. My belief is that I need to earn a lot of money to provide for the family. But is providing for the family about money? To some extent, yes, but maybe your children are better off with a parent that, if possible, works less and spends more time with them. When we don’t reflect and aren’t mindful about what we do and why it becomes more difficult to lead a good life.
Once you have defined what a good life is to you, set a plan on how to get there, a plan that is feasible yet motivating and break it down into baby steps. When you feel you have a direction that you can exercise some kind of influence over, you will feel you are in control and can steer your life in the direction you want. This will provide you with a sense of self-fulfillment, gratification, and happiness.
Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?
After a session at the MBSR (Mindful Based Stress Reduction) course I was attending, where we had spent most of the time meditating, I came home to speak with my wife. She was stunned by how aware and present I was, as she noticed that I was fully listening to what she was saying without drifting away or interrupting her. This is when I realized how powerful these techniques are, and how much they were lacking in my everyday life.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed the suffering that mental health causes, in my family and to people around me. Being able to help these people and others in a proactive way motivates me to continue pushing forward. In terms of particular people I am grateful for, my co-founder Niklas, who coaches and challenges me as a leader and a person, is one of them. Another one is my wife. She’s always supported me and is there to steer me back on track when needed.
Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?
1) Promote mental wellbeing
One of the most important things a company can do when it comes to creating a healthy work culture is to be aware of mental health issues and consider prevention techniques.
Give employees the tools and resources to manage their life not only at work but also at home, because one will affect the other. Encourage micro-breaks, meditation at work, and promote physical exercise. Show how every employee is connected to the mission of the company and why they matter, set clear goals that everyone can understand and relate to. Make sure the people in the organization are encouraged and seen, use positive feedback, acknowledge important milestones and celebrate achievements.
2) Create a friendly atmosphere in the office
As we spend such a large portion of our lives at the office, it is important that you create a nice environment. In terms of decoration and the physical space, it is a good idea to make sure that the air in the office is fresh, as a study by Harvard University found that offices with cleaner air had higher levels of productivity and better performance. You should also encourage the employees to personalize their desks, without making them over-cluttered. A desk with one or two personal items can make employees feel more comfortable, while a lot of clutter will cause stress and increase distraction.
Lastly, you should make sure that your employees feel like part of a team. Team building activities can help create a positive work environment, improve productivity and increase positive social interactions amongst employees. You can do things like making sure that you eat lunch together, away from your desks, or that you participate in a team away day. Alternatively, you can suggest standing meetings, to encourage your employees to move around a bit more and disrupt the sedentary lifestyle that we are so used to.
3) Offer staff flexibility and autonomy
We also implement R.O.W.E, which stands for “Result Oriented Workplace Environment”. The idea is that as long as you achieve results you are free to manage your time in a way that works for you. Work-life balance is important and allowing employees to work from home, leave early to pick up their kids, or schedule their workouts during “traditional working hours” has had no negative effect on our performance. By offering your staff flexible working hours, you are showing that you can trust them, which is indispensable for any work culture.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
According to the World Health Organization, as many as 450 million people globally are suffering from mental illnesses, with mental health being the number one cause for sick leave. At the same time, the stigma that is attached to mental illness creates a lot of unnecessary suffering and hinders people from actually dealing with their mental health. Our aim at Remente is to democratize mental wellbeing, and I would love to inspire a global movement that normalizes mental health conditions, and one that spurs multinational corporations to adapt their own working practices and provide their staff with proactive insights and tools that help them better manage their mental wellbeing. In return, organizations will get a much happier and balanced workforce that performs better.