During Men's Health Week we asked five experts for practical tips leaders can implement to create healthy workplace cultures.
Here's what they told us.
1) Promote wellbeing from the top down
Leaders need to act as role models if wellbeing is to become embedded at the very core of the organisation. It’s very unlikely that employees will start acting in a new way that puts their own needs first if the leadership team continues to behave in an entirely different manner.
A recent ONS report into home working in the UK revealed that people are on average working six hours extra per week and many are working until late in the evening, indicating that the boundaries between work and life are more blurred than ever.
Martin Boroson and Carmel Moore, from The One Moment Company said: "Many organisations have worked hard in recent months to put new policies in place that better support wellbeing, promote hybrid working and attempt to set clear boundaries, but many leaders seem to assume that they are exempt from it all, that’s when it all falls over.
“Despite all of these wonderful opportunities for people to self-organise, if the leadership team continues to work in the office Monday to Friday, or are communicating at all hours, then it’s a clear indicator that hybrid working is simply a ‘bolt-on’ tactic rather than an integral part of the company’s approach to promoting the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance."
2) Know the early signs of burnout
Recently it was reported by the BBC that burnout for health and social care staff had reached emergency levels.
Monkey Puzzle Training Co-Founder Karen Meager has studied the burnout recovery process in partnership with Coventry University. He said: “The past year has seen people suffer from job-loss worries, work from home challenges, isolation, and feeling overworked. These are continuing and all have the potential to contribute towards burnout. Healthcare workers, executives, leaders, managers and small business owners will continue to be the top people to suffer from extreme burnout.
“At the onset of burnout, people commonly enter a phase of denial. So leaders need to be aware of those who are reluctant to take their time off, are compelled to work all hours, or have changes in their behaviour or mood as these can all be indications of burnout taking hold. Encouraging them to take a burnout self-test provides a starting point to supporting these employees through recovery, as is role modelling healthy sustainable ways of working.”
3) Encourage professional self reflection
Creating an environment that encourages self-reflection is an effective tool for promoting personal development. Journaling may not be something you instantly think of for professional development, however it is a successful technique for adults to aid mindfulness and productivity.
Elisa Nardi, founder of Notebook Mentor said: “Journaling is a form of self-expression that can empower you to understand your feelings and ambitions and how to deal with them, therefore promoting positive wellbeing and a healthy workplace culture.
“Just 15-20 minutes of journaling a day over the course of four months are enough to lessen the impact of physical stressors on your health,” explains Elisa. “It can also inspire creativity, aid your memory, and help set actionable goals. It is an underused tool that can help employees manage tricky workplace situations such as conflict, illness or new leadership roles.”
4) Manage your stress - and improve resilience
As a leader or manager, often your complete focus is on the business or protecting your team, but you cannot pour from an empty cup. Leaders should also have strategies in place to manage their own stress, so they can sustain high levels of positive energy throughout the day.
Sascha Heinemann, an expert in performance recovery and stress resilience, said: “Fueled by a burning desire for success, I ignored all the warning signs of exhaustion, which eventually took its toll on me - I literally collapsed from stress and I didn’t even see it coming.
“When leaders manage their energy, create healthy daily habits, and practice resilience they are able to perform to their fullest capacity and to provide the best possible support for others.
“Taking a break every 90 minutes or so helps you to refuel, recharge, and re-energize and ultimately allows you to get more accomplished, in less time, at a higher level of quality, and more sustainably. This role model contributes dramatically to a healthier, more engaged, sustainable, and productive workplace culture."
5) Instil a sense of purpose for your team
The idea that success equals working 12-15 hour days and giving everything of yourself to your workplace continues to prevail in many organisations. This is not healthy, nor is it productive for anyone involved, says business and life coach Anand Kulkarni. He said: “The healthiest and happiest workplace cultures are the ones that are organised around purpose.
“Leaders should be giving meaning to the work they are doing within their business and beyond and sharing this purpose with their staff, rather than focusing on long hours, crippling workloads or someone else’s idea of ‘success’. When people understand why they are doing what they do and how this contributes to something greater, productivity and wellbeing is increased.”