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Resilient’s mission to keep burnout at bay

When Max Grossenbacher co-founded Resilient in 2017, most of us hadn’t heard of the term ‘burnout’. Just five years later, it’s all over the news and research suggests that 50% of workers are affected. Max tells us more about his company’s solution and shares advice to help fellow entrepreneurs avoid burnout.

Tell us about the journey that led you to found Resilient.

I spent 10 years studying business, neuroscience and psychology in Alberta, Canada. In parallel to my studies, I started my first business importing and selling cars. The business was successful: that was where my journey as an entrepreneur started.

After graduating, I worked in finance in a team that was very poorly managed, where I saw how unhappy people can be because of their work. So, when I moved back to Switzerland and did an MBA with a thesis in digital health, I started to focus on stress and burnout – and how wearable technology can help. The thesis I worked on for my MBA eventually led me to co-found Resilient in 2017.

What is burnout?

Burnout can mean a number of things: that you’re unhappy in your job, you’re overworked or you’re physically drained. It can range from mild burnout, expressed through low productivity, to very severe burnout, significantly impacting a person’s health and leading to a complete break in productivity. Someone who’s burned out might read a paragraph but immediately afterwards not recall what they’ve read, as their brain hasn’t absorbed the information.

How does Resilient aim to help?

We’re developing a tool for organisations to prevent burnout among their employees. This involves a conversational agent – run by AI technology – that anonymously monitors the well-being of team members. It packages the questions a psychologist would ask in a user- friendly, digestible way, allowing it to identify problems and find solutions to prevent burnout.

We also use a range of other tools, including wearable watches provided to employees to anonymously collect biometric data (like physical activity and heart rate) and data from their mobile phones (which might show, for instance, that notifications lead to constant distractions). When you combine all this data, we have a good picture of a person’s mental state and can work on problems before they manifest. Our technology might detect, for instance, that someone has trouble sleeping, relies on alcohol to relax or feels physically drained, and will provide advice to help solve the issue.

What about the role of the organisation? How do they fit in to this?

A report will be automatically generated to let the organisation know whether, in a particular department, employees are in, or at risk of, burnout. The information aims to help them prevent burnout. If there’s a problem, the company’s occupational health department or a medical doctor can have a meeting with everyone in a team and let them know what can be done. The data needs to be 100% anonymous, so we can only work with teams large enough to ensure it can’t be traced back to a specific person.

We kept going as we knew that burnout would become a widespread problem

Did you come across any major challenges?

Quite a few! Today, the term ‘burnout’ is everywhere. But when we founded the company in 2017, people didn’t know what we meant. That was one challenge – recognition around the term changed regulation and we had to be highly adaptable with our business model. Another was technology: wearables at the time couldn’t do what we needed them to do, so we started with chest belts. There were also privacy concerns and we initially received a lot of ‘nos’ when we contacted companies asking them to take part. All of this meant it took a bit longer to get the project off the ground, but we kept going as we knew that burnout would become a widespread problem.

What point are you at with this technology?

We were lucky that two of the biggest clinics in Switzerland, as well as a leading psychiatric practice, jumped on board to help finance the project. We’re at the point now where our framework is set up and we’re testing our system, with the aim of launching the first version by the end of 2023. It still won’t be for sale at that point but our corporate partners will be testing it and giving us feedback.

It’s often felt that tech can contribute to burnout. Is there resistance to the use of technology as a solution?

Not at all. If technology helps, that’s all that matters to people. And in fact, one of the first things our platform advises users to do is to dial down their use of tech when it’s not needed. For instance, by turning off notifications on our phones that lead to constant distractions and unproductivity. It’s a bit like an app on your phone that tells you to go for a run. The technology is a prompt to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

You know how much hard work goes into building a company. What are your top 3–5 tips for entrepreneurs to avoid burnout?

  1. Learn to work in sprints. I sit and focus for 45 minutes, then have a 15-minute break. Not because I feel tired, but because I accomplish more by working in this way.
  2. Avoid jumping from meeting to meeting. Instead of booking meetings that last a full hour, tell people it’ll be 50 minutes and take ten minutes before the next one. Your brain needs time to process what you’ve just heard.
  3. Do physical activity. It doesn’t need to be intense sport. Get up, go for a walk, get some sunlight.
  4. Create a healthy routine. Having predictable elements in our day avoids the stress of the unknown and helps keep us grounded.
  5. Categorise tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix. It takes time to do it but it’s useful when you’re very busy.

When do you feel utterly relaxed?

After finishing a workout. It’s hard to find the motivation to go to the gym, even for me knowing all the benefits. But once I start training, I get into it, and afterward, I feel relaxed and accomplished, and I take a few minutes to appreciate this feeling.

Seeking help

  • If you need help, contact your General Practitioner or come to the general emergency at the Centre Médical d’Epalinges. You can also contact a psychiatrist and psychotherapist directly, depending on your health insurance.
  • If you need urgent help for your mental health, you can call the Centrale Téléphonique des Médecins de Garde (CTMG) on 0848 133 133 or visit the emergency mental health department at the CHUV, which is open 24 hours a day, all year round.
Max Grossenbacher
Co-Founder and CEO of Resilient
Max is a co-founder and the CEO of Resilient. He lived in Canada for a decade, where he studied management, psychology, neuroscience and marketing at the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College while also working as an entrepreneur. After his graduation and a year of experience in the financial industry, Max returned to Switzerland, where he completed an MBA. While researching his thesis in eHealth, Max became increasingly interested in health technology, and he decided to start his own business, which became Resilient inc.
About Resilient
Resilient was founded by three professionals: Juerg and Peter, who have a background in mental health, and Max, who has a background in neuroscience, business and information technology. The company’s mission is to help people and companies become more resilient to stress and burnout by using interactive technologies trained by Switzerland’s leading psychiatrists and psychologists. The initial idea for the business was inspired by Max’s MBA thesis, but it evolved into something much bigger once Juerg and Peter joined the team. In 2021, Resilient changed its focus from a medical software provider with the goal of helping patients return to the workforce (secondary burnout prevention) to an occupational health solution provider (primary burnout prevention).
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