Intrigued that well being was one of the new mantra in high tech, we closely listen to what Mathilde Collin, Co-Founder and CEO of San Francisco- and Paris-based Front had to say.

Speaking at Startup Grind Conference mid February, Collin shared that after founding Front in Paris in 2013, she did what all startup founders do: work non-stop.

But then three years ago her co-founder was diagnosed with cancer, causing her workload and stress levels to soar. Her reset moment came a couple of months later, when everything took its toll and she realized she had to prioritize her health. And, as she explained, it also became an important perspective in the way she approaches business.

Now she sees daily self-care as a key instrument to help ensure the success of the company and to maintain a cohesive business team. As a result, she encourages her employees to do the same.

mathilde Collin

photo Lynn Auslander

At the Startup Grind Panel discussions on Leading Your Company Starting with Your Own Well Being and Founder Wellness, Collin shared the steps she began practice.

These include daily meditation to clean your headspace; practicing gratitude; being accountable to friends and family; meeting with a coach; having discipline in caring for yourself; and limiting email, apps, and the urge to constantly check your phone.

In fact, to encourage employees from checking their phones too often, Front offers them $200 for health highlights when they reduce their phones use to less than 14 hours per week for a month.

While other panelists noted the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, Collin said she needed a different way to fit this into her busy schedule. So, she went on Etsy, purchased a ‘gratitude sticker’, placed it in her shower, and every morning she’s reminded to generate thoughts of gratitude. (Think ‘waterproof’ and ‘removable’ when ordering yours!)

She also suggested writing down what gives you energy and what doesn’t, and then figure out how to turn the negative into a positive so you can generate energy. She found that doing things you are uniquely good at energizes you. And always remember that different things work for different people

Collin explained that in France it was not uncommon for everyone in a company to take care of themselves and not burnout. She imported this part of French business culture to Silicon Valley business, finding that it helped her employees to discover more happiness at work and thus be more productive. She also noted that during the interview process in France, the conversation is about what the employee wants to do, not solely about doing the job well, which leads to building trust and happiness in the workplace.

The influential book she recommends, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, encourages leaders to be open, keep learning, take responsibility, and appreciate what they have. The part she emphasized was when company leaders met one-on-one with team members to allow them to define their feelings at work, which leads to the best type of employee feedback.

At Front, Collin’s conversations with teams and managers include the topic of mental health. She’s observed that including it in workplace discussions, allows everyone to reflect and ask what can be done better to help support employees, and keep the lines of communication open. If a manager has a stressed team member, they may suggest taking a week off with no email, to revive life balance, meaning at work, and happiness. Collin succinctly summarized the whole discussion: your job is just a job at the end of the day.

And now, as I take a deep breath, relax my mind, and focus on my health, I can’t help but be a bit excited anticipating the arrival of my gratitude sticker any day now!

Merci Lynn Auslander

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