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In terms of working remotely, there's so much yet to learn.
Co-Founder and Managing Director at Likeminded
Kimberly Breuer is Co-Founder and Managing Director of Likeminded. As a psychologist and former consultant, she founded Likeminded to provide easy access to psychological support to as many people as possible and thereby transforming the status quo around mental health at work. Likeminded enables employers and employees to take responsibility for their mental well-being and create a sustainable company culture.
Working in a hybrid or fully remote setup comes with many positive opportunities, but can also be challenging, especially when transitioning into a new work environment.
That is why the mental health startup Likeminded is dedicated to providing mental health and wellbeing support to people in remote and hybrid setups, and provide support for leaders and their employees.
Our host Sandra is talking to Likeminded Co-CEO Kimberley Breuer to hear about their mission statement, what well-being looks like in a remote or hybrid workspace, and what skills the workforce of tomorrow will need to thrive in our new world of work.
with Kimberly Breuer, Co-CEO of Likeminded
Sandra Redlich 01:20
Thank you for joining us on the state of work podcast Kimberly, where are you joining us from today?
Kimberly Breuer 01:25
Hi, Sandra. Very nice to meet you and to be here today. I'm joining from Berlin from our office space, actually.
Sandra Redlich 01:33
Yeah, awesome. That's actually my hometown. I don't know if I've said this on this podcast before but I'm originally from Berlin. Well, can you tell our listeners, what your head office is? What it is that you do and how you came to do what you do now?
Kimberly Breuer 01:48
Yes, of course. So I'm one of the founders of a mental health startup. And we are providing mental health support, especially for employees. So it's a mental health solution in companies where employees can get psychological support and different formats from one on ones in group sessions, but also in digital exercises. And I myself by background, am a psychologist and also an accredited coach. And I've been working as a training coach, even before founding Likeminded. And that was also one of the main reasons I started this company because I realized that the status quo around mental health and our society hasn't really changed in the last 10 years. And there's still a lot of room for improvement. And our vision with Likeminded is really to reach as many people as possible with this topic in order to support them, to support them to really create a fulfilling life, but also to prevent any mental illnesses.
Sandra Redlich 02:43
Yeah, so is that dedicated towards specifically employees and people in a employment background or open for anyone who's looking for support?
Kimberly Breuer 02:53
It's only dedicated to companies and employees, we actually even started in the b2c market, but realized quite soon that the willingness to pay for such services, especially in Europe, where everything is usually paid by the government or insurances is not really there yet. So this is why we went through b2b to see them, and are now reaching more people than before.
Sandra Redlich 03:19
Yeah. Wow. Fascinating. And did you, I would assume you've seen kind of a spike throughout the COVID years, I feel like it's kind of shifted the whole mental health and wellbeing topic a bit more into the focus point for a lot of people.
Kimberly Breuer 03:35
So since we actually started within COVID, we weren't really able to see a spike, because there was just really quite high demand. And I think what I've seen, especially because I was working as a psychologist beforehand, also with companies, is that the mindset of companies has changed a lot during COVID times. So the awareness for the topic and the openness to actually invest into solutions has increased significantly through the pandemic.
Sandra Redlich 04:04
Yeah. So something that we want to focus on in our chat today is how we can support or how companies and employers can support their employees in a hybrid work setting. So especially when you don't always have access to the employees it might be a little bit harder to check in. Because you know, you're not always in the same space and people can feel isolated. And we want to make sure that we differentiate between hybrid and remote teams, because remote, fully remote is a whole other ballgame and comes with its own type of challenges. So yeah, what is some advice that you would give employers who are looking to support people that are in a hybrid work situation?
Kimberly Breuer 04:46
So I think first of all, this really starts with the right education, especially when it comes to the topic of mental health. Most of us are quite uneducated. So it's nothing we learned in school even though it was so fundamental to all of us. Which is why I would definitely suggest, first of all, start with education around the topic of mental health. And then in the next step, really educate the people around the setting of working remotely, versus working in an office space next to your colleagues. And then educating them about what impacts that has on your mental well being. Because there are certain factors that can increase your mental well being within the remote work. But there are also certain factors that can potentially harm your mental well being while working remotely. And I think the very first step is to inform about it and educate people, because then you're enabling them to really take responsibility for themselves and realize, okay, what do I actually need in order to feel mentally well when I'm working remotely?
Sandra Redlich 05:52
Yeah. Is that something that you focus on as well to get research and get feedback from employees and actually learn what is it that they need? How can we support them best?
Kimberly Breuer 06:05
Yes, for sure. So, of course, we've been collecting data around those things, and also doing surveys. So how are you doing during COVID times? How was working remotely for you? And then we were offering also a lot of information sessions like expert webinars around the topic. And what we've seen is that most of the people really, underestimated the negative impact of working remotely on their mental well being, because in the first place, and I think that we can speak for ourselves, you're probably in the first moment, most of us thought, wow, we have so much autonomy right now, it's so great to be like the owner of our own time. to work from home. to skip the way to work. So there were a lot of positive aspects around it. But after a while, people realize more and more that the social part was missing a lot. Really interacting with your colleagues, face to face. And this is also known in psychological research is one of the most important factors to really stress out, to compensate for stress. So there are different compensation mechanisms to decrease that stress or balance, your stress in a better way. And one of these is definitely also the social support system and the social interaction. And that was, of course, completely lost during COVID times. And people just realized after a while, wow, this is really lacking. And I'm sitting here isolated just by myself. And this is, of course, something where you just saw the effects after a while. And the second part is definitely that the difference of the distance between my work and my private life has become very blurry. And that's definitely also another aspect that a lot of people underestimated in the beginning.
Sandra Redlich 07:52
What can we do to make sure that we don't fall into these two traps? Or like one trap is the separating your home office from your private life and not falling into working the whole time, or even just thinking about work the whole time? And also, how can we create social interactions when we are working in a hybrid or even fully remote setting?
Kimberly Breuer 08:12
Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I think the first part is definitely about your own private setup at home. So this is really about having the right structure, the right set up, do you maybe have even a separate room from which you can work that's a different room to where you sleep, for example. This is, of course, the best scenario. Not for everyone this is possible. But I think the setup can be optimized for many people. That's the first part. But then also really setting boundaries and routines for yourself. So really defining, okay, when do I stop working? Where do I not open my computer, my laptop, for example. I'm like, I know a lot of people who really came up with own rules and said, I will never take my laptop into my bedroom, for example, I just don't do that anymore. So I think it's a lot about setting your own structures and rules. And then the second part about interacting socially, even in a virtual environment, I think this is something where, especially employers have to take a lot of responsibility, and really create situations, virtual events, but also check ins like mental check ins how you're doing with all those people working remotely. For example, at Likeminded, we are having an informal check in every Wednesday afternoon, where the people just come together for 15 minutes. It's not a lot of time, and just have a check in round. Sometimes they play a quick game, they just check in with each other. How are you doing? So really creating these spaces in order to make them socially connect, other than just talking about business.
Sandra Redlich 09:50
I think connection is the core point here because I can imagine individuals or employees starting to work on these things and setting their own rules, but at the same time, you kind of have to communicate certain rules to your employer as well. And they have to accept these rules, and they have to obey them as well on thinking about, you know, especially when you're working over different time zones, or even not just, you know, when, and how do I reply to emails? You know, when we're working in a hybrid setting, or I'm home office thing today, how available do I have to be in, you know, communication channels, such as slack or teams. And I think bringing these two parts together as the real core and difficult thing, because every single individual has a different understanding of what a good proper rule looks like for them. So how can employees and employers work together and start these conversations, because I can imagine it's quite a difficult one to have with your employer sometimes.
Kimberly Breuer 10:49
I mean, in general, and this can also be a suggestion by the employee towards the management is, for example, coming together for a workshop around the topic of working remotely, and creating really a workshop jointly, maybe just with a first small team, but then even extending it to the bigger team, in which you really brainstorm together about how can we make working remote the most effective and most efficient and this is, for example, also something that we have done. So it's not like as the founding team came up with all the ideas, but actually, all our employees brought up those ideas, for example, working with Slack status emojis. Really putting an emoji into your Slack status to show I'm currently in a focus time, I'm currently in a super good mood. People even using emojis to show Hey, I'm approachable right now, or just don't annoy me right now. So I think there are a lot of ideas that people will come up with, I would definitely say it's worth it to have a joint workshop and joint discussion about it, because the management most of the time also doesn't have all the answers. And as you said, it's really a joint work. Since also, we are all very in the beginning, right. In terms of working remotely, there's so much yet to learn. And I think that's the second very important part, to have also a lot of understanding, but from both sides, from the employer side, to have the understanding that the employees also have to develop into being good remote workers, but also the employees understanding that the management also has to develop into being good remote employers. So I think all of us have a way to go. And it's all about communication and working together on this topic.
Sandra Redlich 12:36
Yeah. How important is a remote work policy, or just generally probably a mission statement or a value statement around these topics, for a company to really set out and incorporate some of these communication rules for for both sides?
Kimberly Breuer 12:53
I would definitely do that. So I think the more transparent and the more clearer you communicate your remote policy, the easier it will become. Just talking about here on the air about it won't help and also won't set up the whole team to success and really succeed and working remotely. And this should be something that should be already shared in the onboarding, I mean, best cases to really say, Hey, this is how we work remotely. And these are our routes to work remotely. For example, in the beginning, when this all started, and also we were going more and more remote because of COVID. We didn't have the best setup in the office. So usually, we had meetings, some people were remote somewhere in the office, and those people remotely in the beginning, they couldn't understand us very well, they couldn't hear us too good. So they weren't really involved in the discussions. And these were then things that we optimized, of course, I think a lot of companies did. But it's also about really having a good technical setup to enable remote work, to include everyone no matter whether they are there in person, or just working remotely in the zoom call. And I think these are things and rules that everyone has to write down, and then tell everyone in the room this is how we work remotely. This is how we involve everyone no matter where they are based.
Sandra Redlich 14:16
One thing I find fascinating is that I saw on the Likeminded website actually, that you offer group sessions as well, which I think is a brilliant way for bringing people together and especially in a remote setting and making sure that people have these meaningful conversations and interactions, even if they can't have them with their team. Sometimes they might not want to have it with their team, you know, if you have an environment where you may not feel comfortable sharing. So yeah, what's the idea behind that? And do you offer that for employers as well maybe who are looking for support to to get some input into how to deal best with employees?
Kimberly Breuer 14:54
Yeah. So first of all, the idea around the group sessions was really to try to offer another psychological support format, that's not one on one focused, and also leverage different success factors that can be only leveraged in a group setting, for example, bringing together people who would usually maybe never get the chance to talk to each other because they don't even know each other. But who are experiencing a similar situation and bringing them together and making them realize it's not just you, but it's actually other people who are feeling similar. So, this is really the whole idea about these group sessions. This is also where our name stems from, because we are connecting likeminded people in a group format. And it has beautiful positive side effects to have those obsessions and discussions and exchange with people with different perspectives on a similar topic. And yes, it's one of our signature format, also for the employees. So we are having group sessions on different topics where people can really connect in those group sessions with people they have never seen beforehand. And of course, we are also offering that for leaders. So the leadership offer is being extended just right now. And we are, for example, having group sessions for female leaders, we have group sessions for for difficult conversations as a manager with employees. And also, of course, topics like remote setting or working in a hybrid setup. So there are different topics. And yes, we're definitely making use of this to connect the people around it.
Sandra Redlich 16:31
You mentioned before that we're just getting started in this whole new work setup or remote work set up and it's becoming increasingly more normal, but we still have to give each other time to really get used to this new way of working. So what's something that graduates or people who are just entering the work market can do to maybe mentally prepare themselves a little bit more for this new work environment?
Kimberly Breuer 16:56
Mm hmm. That's a very good question. And maybe to give some context, I have experienced and talked also to rather junior people who were just entering the working environment a lot. And what I've seen is that most of them really were completely overwhelmed by the situation. At the same time, many of them entered working environment during COVID. And the first thing they got to know was working remotely. And when you talk to them, they realized quite soon that something was missing. For them, it must have felt like this is how work is, where's the fun part? But at the same time, of course, they got used to working remotely from the beginning. So that's also an advantage. But I think it's especially for people who are just joining a new job, a new company. And this is something that we are also doing at Likeminded this way, in the very first weeks, I would always recommend to spend a lot of time in the office to at least try to even though if you usually are based quite far away, maybe you can work with your employer to work out how you can spend the first weeks there. Because you get a different understanding of the dynamic of the team, of the culture, you understand a lot of things easier when you're not completely remote and when you are face to face with people. And I think from there, then really starting to understand what kind of personality am I? Through which channels do I get energy, that's, for example, there are more extroverted persons who get energy from being with people. And for those people, it might make sense to really just work in a hybrid setting, and then not in a complete remote setting. And then for people who are rather introverted for them a complete or rather remote setting could make a lot of sense. And I think it's really about learning a lot about yourself and testing the different environments, try to test them for yourself. I think that's really my recommendation here. And the next part is communicate like, rather over communicate. So if you're working remotely, and you're just starting your job, there's so many things to learn, like how to structure yourself, how to organize your work, how to prioritize, and all those things that are sometimes easier to learn when you're sitting next to someone more senior, because you can just kind of watch that person. Since you are not in the position when you're working remotely, I would really recommend overcommunicate. Ask as many questions as you have really, have a lot of zoom sessions in the beginning to understand as many things as possible. And don't be shy to ask for support because especially when you're working remotely, it's a harder time, it takes a bit longer probably to understand all those first learnings that we have in our first jobs.
Sandra Redlich 19:48
I like the idea though, that we're kind of breeding a new workforce that is way more in touch with how they do their best work, because productivity and efficiency looks different for everyone. So, for example, I've worked very well in the mornings. And I usually have a little drop of energy in the afternoons and I struggle to get back into it after I'd go for my walk and have my lunch. And then again, I get active again in the evening. So that's something I've learned over time. That's just my times, how I work very well. There's other people who might, you know, are completely different. They just, they can't get started in the morning, but they prefer working late or, you know, they want to take a two, three hour lunch break, and then they get back into it. So yeah, the remote settings and really planning and scheduling your own time, I think can really bring out those individual needs and have a workforce that is just more in tune with what drives them to do their best work.
Kimberly Breuer 20:46
Yeah, definitely. And I love how you say that, like being more in touch with what you need in order to be more productive. And at the same time as a mental health founder. What, of course pops up for me is also being more in tune with what you need to actually feel good, right. And I think that's an amazing chance, actually, that is now being opened, that people start understanding more. What do I need to feel good? Where are my boundaries? And I think this will create a way more sustainable workforce in the future.
Sandra Redlich 21:20
That's the perfect segue into our last question, which is, yeah, in your opinion, or even in your hopes, you can build up a dream scenario. What does the future of work look like? Will we all work remotely, will we all work hybrid, is it completely unrelated to place of work? What's the future of work?
Kimberly Breuer 21:39
For me, it's definitely a hybrid setup. That's my my dream and hope, but also what I'm convinced about that, we will end up with a hybrid setting, because I'm personally an extroverted person, and I love to be with people. So in the heart of OVID times, for me, it was a super tough time to be isolated. So I would always hope for having also in the future companies with hybrid setups, where I can actually engage and interact and connect with my employees with my colleagues. And I do believe that many people are like this, not only extroverted people, but that actually all of us need some kind of human interaction and connection in a world that's anyways quite digitalized and anonymous by now. So I do believe that we create work cultures in the future of work, where we kind of combine the best parts of each world, where we combine the best parts of being in an office together, and really spending productive and present time with each other. And then also using the remote part, to make us the most efficient and to also give all of us more flexibility and autonomy, to kind of make our work life and our private life work better together. So I do believe it's the hybrid setup in the long term, and that people will need to understand even more, what kind of personality are they and in which culture do they thrive and do their best work?
Sandra Redlich 23:12
So being more mindful, I think in a general setting is the key to success here. Fascinating. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about Likeminded, about your mission and your insights into what you found working with people, with employers, with employees, I think, yeah, we have a lot to learn. Still, like you said, we all still need a little bit of time, but there's so much opportunity, so many positive chances for this. And yeah, it's great to have companies and founders like yourself, who are working on bringing solutions and making this transition as smooth as possible. So yeah, thank you for your time.
Kimberly Breuer 23:53
Thank you Sandra, it was a lot of fun.
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