Start With You: How to Lead on Employee Wellbeing in 2023
Leaders and employers have had to deal with unprecedented levels of uncertainty, stress and pressure over the last couple of years – rapidly adapting to new ways of working, constant logistical problem-solving, pivoting or diversifying to keep the business going, and trying to support their employees during an extremely challenging time.
And leaders are people too, so all of the personal and emotional strains of this season of time have been bubbling away underneath the practicalities. It all takes a toll – especially if you have been running on gas and haven’t stopped to take stock of your own mental and emotional state.
Collectively, we’re in a period of recovery. If we don’t do the work to care for ourselves in this “post-pandemic” phase, we run the risk of severe depletion and burnout. So, as a leader, how do you model this recovery to your employees and forge a positive and healthy path forwards into 2023?
Getting Over the First Hurdle
Despite the well-known benefits, many leaders remain resistant to the whole idea of self-care. This resistance often stems from a feeling that self-care is a sign of weakness, a feeling that they just don’t have time, or just generally rolling their eyes at the entire concept.”(Leadership coach Palena Neale, HBR).
If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to revisit some of those “well-known benefits” – both on a personal and an organisational level. These include:
- Improved focus
- A positive approach to problem-solving
- Fruitful collaboration
Let’s also remember that support for mental and emotional health is high on the priority list for today’s workforce. A recent study into employee wellbeing revealed that 40% of Millennials and Gen Zs felt their employers did a poor job of supporting their mental wellbeing during the pandemic (Deloitte, 21). If you don’t make this a priority now, you risk losing your greatest asset: a talented and motivated workforce.
Knowing What Self-Care Looks Like
Self-care doesn’t look the same for everyone, but there are some common factors that contribute to mental and emotional wellbeing. You don’t have to completely overhaul your approach to life and work overnight, but you can start to make some simple adjustments to your everyday habits, routines, and priorities. This might include:
- A healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Getting enough sleep
- Regular breaks from noise and activity
- Delegation, with a management structure that you can trust
- Hobbies that help you to feel refreshed and fulfilled
- Boundaries for a healthy work-life balance
- Intentional mindfulness
Studies show that taking breaks can help prevent decision fatigue, renew and strengthen motivation, increase productivity and creativity, and consolidate memory and improve learning.”(HBR)
Leading with Vulnerability
Vulnerability, as a resource in leadership and within the workplace, can impact the entire culture and creativity of a team.”(Forbes)
Vulnerability is not weakness; vulnerability is courage. (This the foundation of Brené Brown’s entire Dare to Lead philosophy, based on extensive research.) Leaders who are willing to be vulnerable, to embrace uncertainty, to try and to fail, will be the most courageous and creative. And this then sets the tone for your employees, too.
What is the reward? Far greater creativity and innovation. Your team members are more likely to take risks, to try something new, to deal with the discomfort of failure being an option.”(Forbes)
Making strategic decisions and driving the direction of the company is one thing, but you can also be a leader in terms of cultivating healthy habits and investing in your own wellbeing. This in itself is an invitation to your employees to do the same. As your own attitude, habits and priorities start to shift, this will also impact the shape and culture of your workplace – and you will reap the rewards, both professionally and personally.
Check out our post on 10 Ideas for an Effective Company Wellness Program to read more about how you can lead the way in normalising conversations around mental and emotional health within your organisation, and take practical steps to encourage and facilitate employee wellbeing.