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Why the wellbeing of C-suite leaders matters too

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As we head into a recession, leaders are more likely to experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety and burnout. Supporting them with a targeted wellbeing approach will not only benefit them individually but also the workforce and organisation.

14th Sep 2022
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This year has so far proven to be a rollercoaster of emotions, tensions and uncertainty. We’ve seen employees form a petition against one of the biggest businesses in the world, and the cost of living crisis moves closer to a full-scale recession.

Experts suggest times will only get harder in Q4 of 2022. The workplace demands better employee benefits, salaries and access to health and wellbeing

While HR teams battle with employee retention, engagement and job satisfaction, senior executives have also been propelled into a challenge they just couldn’t have planned for.

71% of the C-suite respondents reported that they aren’t able to take time away from work and disconnect

Health and wellbeing should be available for everyone

Despite all the instability, there’s still one thing that’s certain. Employee wellbeing should and can be available to everyone in the workplace. In a report published by Deloitte, 81% of executives believe improving their wellbeing is more important than progressing their careers. Yet only 68% of non-exec employees agreed with the same statement. 

In addition, 71% of the C-suite respondents reported that they aren’t able to take time away from work and disconnect. This is 10% more than that of non-exec employees. It’s employee wellbeing statistics like this that demonstrate a missing piece to the workplace wellbeing puzzle. 

A better understanding of how to support everyone else

The same report by Deloitte found that 59% of employees reported feeling ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ when it came to their mental wellbeing. However, senior leaders' assessment of employees reported this figure to be in the 84% region. 

This demonstrates a huge misunderstanding and perhaps a lack of priority from organisations when it comes to wellbeing.

What does this mean for the C-suite? By engaging in wellbeing with activities like counselling and mental health support, leaders can benefit from a clearer headspace. They are able to think more logically and accurately and help others to find a solution to their problems. 

Directly focusing on improving the health and wellbeing of leaders means educating them on the problems they face, and that of their employees, which entails a more empathetic approach to leadership

C-suite reluctant to seek help

It’s important that HR encourages C-suite employees to make use of wellbeing initiatives. Some leaders may feel uncomfortable with the idea of taking up time and resources for themselves, even though they have an equal right to the benefits available to the workforce. 

HR should include all C-suite employees in communication around employee benefits and wellbeing initiatives, and be clear that everyone has access to what’s on offer. This will help normalise the use of these perks for all, regardless of their position in a company.

It’s also important not to overlook C-suite feedback. While these leaders are accustomed to listening to the needs of others, HR teams should still include them in wellbeing surveys, finding out what it is they are struggling with and how to better support leaders in the workplace.

C-level executives cannot afford to make too many wrong decisions

Decision-making gets harder with emotional stress and pressure

Making decisions is part and parcel of every business. What distinguishes a successful business from a failing one is how many good decisions are made.  

C-level executives cannot afford to make too many wrong decisions. Organisations need to find ways to relieve the pressures of running a team or business. 

As the UK faces a recession and employees feel the anxieties of instability, it only adds to the pressures C-suite executives experience.

The link between positive emotions and physical activity has been researched time and time again. One study found that stress created a heavier decline in the mood of people who were sedentary compared with those who exercised regularly.  

Physical activity is a great way to quash poor emotional health and clear headspace – and if adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, it could help massively with substantial business decisions.

Beyond physical activity, social wellbeing is also important. While HR teams are tasked to create social events to build strong employee connections, they may forget to consider C-suite employees. 

It is greatly beneficial to create opportunities for the wider workforce to build stronger relationships with C-suite team members. This is especially true given that half of CEOs expressed feelings of loneliness in one survey published by HBR. 

Ultimately, social wellbeing and events designed to build a sense of togetherness should be inclusive of everyone in the workplace.

Negative emotions can be contagious 

Believe it or not, emotions can be contagious. And given the influence that senior team members have, this issue must be considered. By minimising poor emotional health for senior executives, organisations can prevent negativity throughout the workforce. 

It’s emotions like stress, depression and anxiety that drive most cases of work-related ill health. In 2020/21, the HSE reported that 32.5M working days were lost. 

Much more must be done to quash poor emotional health. Not only for personal wellbeing but to prevent negativity from spreading. In the midst of instability, employees, including leaders, may bring their own problems into the workplace. 

C-suite employees may not be dealing with the same financial hardships as junior staff, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with financial stress. 

This stress could be two-fold, stemming not only from personal worries but also concerns about the organisation’s financial resilience. 

Such circumstances are likely to consume most of their energy and thoughts on a daily basis. This can hinder their ability to control their negative emotions, which could damage peer relationships. 

This is just one example of how issues caused by uncertainty can seep into the workplace. Offering access to financial resources or advisors means these negative emotions can be dealt with professionally. 

Organisations should seek external advisors, counsellors and mentors who C-suite employees can confide in with any wellbeing problems they face

For members of the C-suite in particular, it’s understandable that some concerns shouldn’t be discussed openly with other colleagues in the business. It could be detrimental to work relationships or the business itself by sharing personal information. 

For that reason, organisations should seek external advisors, counsellors and mentors who C-suite employees can confide in with any wellbeing problems they face. 

Supporting leaders for a successful future

It’s clear that employee wellbeing must be improved across the (C-suite) board. By investing in wellbeing at a senior level, organisations can instil a culture of wellbeing while also creating healthier, happier C-suite employees. It’s a win-win situation.

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