'Moving to Denmark helped me focus my skills on behaviour change'

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
'Moving to Denmark helped me focus my skills on behaviour change'
Jason Howlett with his family. Photo: private

In a new instalment of our My Danish Career series, we spoke to change agent Jason Howlett, whose healthcare tech startup was recently nominated for a Danish industry award.


Howlett, a co-founder of Manpremo, a healthcare and productivity consultancy company, says that the lessons he learned through moving and adapting to life in Denmark helped him to hone his skills and find a career niche, having felt the effects of stress earlier in his working life.

After graduating in 2003 and spending some time backpacking abroad, Howlett, who hails from Suffolk in southeast England, began his career in IT.

But he quickly found his curiosity about living abroad had been piqued by his travels.

“Visiting countries like Laos and Cambodia, that were so different to my own, really helped create a paradigm shift in my thinking and awareness,” says Howlett, who met his Danish wife, Mai, in Australia, before continuing the relationship over long distance and eventually moving to Denmark in 2010.

“After 4 years of significant business travel, extremely long work hours and the experience of unhealthy stress, I decided to deeply reflect on my career and consider whether what I was doing was meaningful,” he says.

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Howlett says it was both interesting and challenging to come to Denmark, move in with Mai and start a new career all at the same time.

“For some time, I found it hard to settle in Denmark. The culture has close similarities to the UK, even the humour is sarcastic and ironic. Although it took me a while to connect with others and make friends. The impact of the stress certainly did not help as my self-confidence was at an all-time low,” he said.

“In addition to learning Danish – I still have a long way to go – one piece of advice for anyone that has recently moved to Denmark would be to join one of the ample number of social or sports clubs the country has to offer,” he says.

“Looking back, this would have helped me significantly. In my experience, you don’t tend to connect and befriend a Dane when out and about. Most relationships are formed over time through a shared interest like a club, work or study. On the positive side, when you become friends with a Dane, you really become friends for life and the relationship has real depth,” he adds.

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While maintaining an interest in technology, Howlett realised he wanted to learn about human potential.

“Holistic health soon took my focus. I related to its individual approach to health, how it treated the body as a system of systems and how it aimed to get to the root of a person's problem instead of just the symptoms. I was very inspired and passionate about the combination of physical and mental health. This new focus commenced my research into how to start a career in this area,” he says.

Howlett studied applied positive psychology at the University of East London from 2013-15, and also worked as a personal trainer and coach and at the head office of energy provider Ørsted (then Dong Energy), before eventually co-founding Manpremo with his two Danish partners and colleagues at the beginning of 2017. He became a father in 2014.

“The values in Denmark around parenthood and spending time with your family are in harmony with my own. In my experience, families maintain a very healthy amount of time together. No one ever questions you for leaving at four o’clock or even three o’clock to pick up your child from nursery,” he says.

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In late 2016, he began to focus on sustainable behaviour change and learning more about applied brain science and behavioural psychology as he co-founded Manpremo.

Jason Howlett with Manpremo co-founder and CEO Morten Lauridsen. Photo: supplied

“We work with organisations and individuals to develop sustainable behaviour change to improve productivity and well-being.

“We use objective data like biofeedback for the individual and people analytics for organisations, to focus effort on the most impactful behaviour change or changes and we measure the impact of the change,” the business owner explains.

These changes help people to manage their stress to increase well-being and sustain productivity, he said, adding that the model has now been used by both public and private organisations.

The company’s work was recently rewarded, with Manpremo’s application MAHOUT chosen as one of Denmark's most promising health technologies by the judges of the CareWare-Next competition, which aims to develop and highlight Denmark's best new health and welfare technology solutions.

"MAHOUT addresses a societal problem: A large number of people are suffering from stress or sleep problems," the judges wrote in their assessment of the product.

“Through continuous measurements of heart rate/heart rate variability, periods of significant stress can be identified. Through the recording of events, MAHOUT can help change the behaviour of the user, to minimise stress and improve sleep. If the number of stress cases can be reduced, there is a great social gain to retrieve,” the assessment continued.

Howlett said he hoped his company can make a real difference.

“The World Health Organisation considers stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century,” he says.

“In the modern working environment, we all experience constant change, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. This is leaving more and more people in hyperactive states that are deteriorating their mental health.

“The use of objective physiological measurements can make a significant impact in tackling widespread mental health related issues,” he adds.

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