Company leaders and society as a whole have taken a step back to further observe health conditions in the American workplace that go beyond physical wellbeing and focus on mental health, adaptivity and engagement among workers.
Jan Bruce recognized that we live in an increasingly fast-paced world and businesses have to constantly adapt to it. Instead of using technology as a disruptor, Bruce had the idea to use software technology as a wellness tool, leveraging behavioral psychology, neuroscience and analytics to improve companies’ and individuals’ resiliency.
Partnering with Adam Perlman, MD, MPH, and Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., Bruce launched meQuilibrium in 2012. The company has since raised a total of $21.3 million in venture capital.
Bruce spoke with Exhale on how she transitioned from a career in media to one in tech, what her own stress management journey looked like and the analytics behind meQuilibrium.
Exhale: How did your own career trajectory inform the idea for meQuilibrium?
Jan Bruce:I’ve worked in a variety of roles in media, including business and marketing roles. What I really loved was working in the health and wellness fields. About 10 years ago, I wanted to work in an industry that wasn’t driven by advertising, which led me to work in software.
At this point, technology had evolved so much that we were able to measure our fitness, our steps, our food intake, how much we were sleeping. It became easier to passively track what we were doing with our devices. As an expert in consumer wellness, I understood that the knowledge that you need to exercise only takes people so far. It’s actually the personalized data about yourself, coupled with knowledge that can reinforce behavioral change and create new habits.
I had an epiphany: What about your mind? What is the root of all of your behavior and the way you react to what’s going on around you? How can we use data and software to help train people and make new healthy habits? That’s what I set out to do.
How does meQuilibrium work, and how is its impact on employees measured?
I started the company with a psychologist who has experience doing this kind of resilience training. In today’s world, the inability to adapt to changes in the workplace is the cause of so much stress, burnout and lack of performance. I wanted to use software to help people become more resilient to sources of stress in the workplace.
It’s a business-to-business-to-customer model. We sell to a company and every individual in that company can have their own personal account. Users can use it via a phone app or web browser.
Users’ stress levels are measured going into the program and at regular intervals going forward. We look at things like absence levels, mistake rates and turnover rates, depending on the industry. We work with many large companies, and they have some of the same problems, because they’re changing their business processes so much, creating high-stress and wariness among employees. But, the companies vary, whether they’re in the tech, packaged goods or manufacturing fields. They each have different sources of stress, so the measures are going to be different.
What was the process like getting meQuilibrium up off the ground?
We all worked from home at first, we didn’t pay ourselves. We worked to get a proof of concept and verifiable data around our science and once that was in place, we set out to raise money. Then, it took about two years to build the platform.
We tested it, and built it iteratively, which is the only way to do it in my opinion. Then, we were in business, and we’ve been growing ever since. Companies today are looking for talent and for services to help their talent be at their best at work and in their lives.
Is there anything you’ve learned about your own wellness management through meQuilibrium, or the way women manage their wellbeing in general?
My biggest source of stress was time management. I was constantly juggling. What meQuilibrium helped me understand was that the stress was not coming from having too many things to do, but that I couldn’t prioritize what in my life was more important to me. I want to be at every team meeting. I want to be there for my kids when they need me, and I want to be able to see my customers. But, also, I want to make dinner at night. When you gain clarity on what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not willing to sacrifice, you can take control of the stress. That was so impactful for me, I wanted to help do that for other people.
Transitioning from working in media to the software tech field, did you ever have to face skepticism from others because you don’t come from a traditional tech background?
There is a huge learning curve, and you can’t bluff your way through it. But, I was really interested in it, and it worked for me. There is a lot of more women in senior levels in media than in software. For many years, I was the only woman on a panel. I was definitely struck by that, because I grew up in media with a lot of women in senior positions.