CEOs work long hours. That’s no secret. According to one survey, they work or at least are connected to their jobs 72 hours per week.
While those numbers are impressive, working like this comes with risks. Specifically, it can lead to burnout, which is said to affect about 96% of executives. This can put not only the mental and physical health of CEOs at risk, but also the company’s performance and future.
This is precisely why CEOs should prioritize self-care—for themselves and their associates. Here’s how that can be done:
Understand how a CEO’s wellbeing impacts the whole company
Stephanie Chung, an award-winning executive coach, states successful CEOs must have certain qualities, like the ability to understand and coach associates, strong communication and listening skills, a willingness to take calculated risks, and creativity. Utilizing these qualities to a company’s utmost advantage requires that the executive is in good physical and mental shape.
Unfortunately, high demands and expectations can lead CEOs to work nonstop, forgetting the importance of self-care. This can create stress and fatigue.
Physical and mental exhaustion can cause a range of health problems, from depression to heart disease. Beyond the personal impact, a stressed-out, tired CEO doesn’t work as effectively, which puts the company and the livelihoods of its associates at risk.
Also, the emotions exhibited by leaders are contagious. When a CEO is physically and emotionally worn down, those feelings can trickle down to team members.
It’s hard to quantify how much CEO and team member stress costs companies. One study puts the cost of burnout on companies at $125 billion per year. Recent research also shows that healthy executives and associates are 11% more productive.
Without a doubt, there are personal and professional advantages to prioritizing self-care. CEOs that start emphasizing wellbeing now will be in better shape to run their lives and their company, and perform at top level for their associates.
Sadly, it’s not as easy as saying you’re going to focus on self-care, as this often requires help and input from others from inside and outside the organization. However, since CEOs are at the top of the organization, there can be emotional isolation.
As Dr. David Ballard, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at the American Psychological Association, says, as a CEO, “You have fewer peers, fewer people you can be open and transparent with.” This can lead executives to have an inability to trust people to help improve wellbeing.
This hurdle can be overcome, though. It takes the right workplace culture and a commitment from the CEO and other leaders to make self-care a key part of the organization.
How CEOs can focus more on self-care
The good news is that CEOs have a good deal of control over the organization. This means they have the resources to adjust their schedules and make changes within the company to emphasize a work-life balance and personal wellbeing.
Start by aligning the HR function to help ward off burnout among CEOs and associates. This could be accomplished through health programs and initiatives, extra paid time off, and overall connecting wellbeing to the company culture.
For instance, at Johnson & Johnson, executives regularly meet with a personally assigned dietitian, physiologist, and executive coach to better manage the demands of their position. This provides CEOs with guidance for staying mentally and physically fit, while giving them an objective, experienced third-party to advise when it’s time to slow things down and relax.
Additionally, CEOs should realize that science has proven breaks—both short and longer—improve workplace efficiency and health. Having one or two prolonged vacations each year is a must.
Time off has direct benefits on one’s work, too. As Richard Branson states of his long vacations, “Freed from the daily stresses of my working life, I find that I am more likely to have new insights into old problems and other flashes of inspiration.”
Furthermore, personal health must be managed on a daily basis by not overdoing it. To make sure they’re taking proper care of oneself on workdays, executives should try to make time for breaks. The following strategies may help:
● Power naps: 20-minute naps increase alertness and energy levels. A 60- to 90-minute nap improves cognitive function. Make time for some sleep during the day.
● Exercise: Regular exercise improves mood levels and combats health conditions and diseases. Set a workout schedule and stick to it.
● Eating healthy: You can boost your energy, mood, and brain function with the right foods, like salmon, berries, nuts, and eggs. Skip the junk food. It only makes you sluggish.
● Practice mindfulness: According to one study of 30 executives who went through mindfulness-based stress reduction training (MBSR), mindfulness reduces stress, elevates mood, and increases self-efficacy.
● Practice yoga and/or meditation: It will give you the emotional boost needed to eliminate burnout and think clearly.
To ensure a strategy for self-care actually works, CEOs must consistently make it clear to their associates just how important self-care is. Again, they can do this by working with HR to advocate team members take better care of themselves. For instance, this could be shown through free gym memberships, stress management intervention strategies, paid mental health days, healthy snack options in the office, and field trips outside the office.
By focusing on the health of their team members, executives will be more inclined to focus on their own health. When everyone is doing well, the company will do better. It’s that simple.
Being a balanced, healthy, and productive CEO
CEOs have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Their performance directly impacts the company and associates working for them. This is why it’s important to actively manage one’s health.
While it may seem selfish at first to prioritize self-care, it’s really not at all. CEOs that focus on wellbeing ensure they’re in better shape to run the company properly. This, in turn, benefits everyone in the organization.