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Work-life balance for the c-suite

May 19, 2019

Studies show that members of senior management are always 'switched on' for business and, unfortunately, don't feel they have the right to turn off. Is this to the detriment of not only themselves but also the business? Paul Stephens explains.

Feeling the pressure at work is not a new phenomenon, but for some, advances in technology have exacerbated the issue. The ‘always on’ culture associated with mobile phones and digital media can make it difficult for people to find a healthy equilibrium between the two.

‘Always on’ culture

Research from the Close Brothers Business Barometer, released last week during Mental Health Awareness Week, highlighted that 40% of all senior business leaders ‘do not switch off’, and one in three say that they never turn off their mobile phone.

Those in senior financial roles reported a similar struggle to find a positive work-life balance. Two-fifths of Finance Directors and CFOs said that they feel their business requires them to be available at all times, and only a third turn off their phone in the evening or at weekends.

However, those in the most senior roles were most intensely impacted, with 60% of Chief Executives and Managing Directors saying they were ‘always’ switched on for business.

This continuous pressure can hurt both the individual and the business. A lack of downtime can increase stress levels, reduce effectiveness and have a negative effect on mood.

Benefits for everyone

Positively, there are signs that workplaces are taking note of the issue. Companies are promoting wellbeing by encouraging behaviours such as flexible working, leaving on time and taking regular breaks and holidays.

However, more still needs to be done to ensure that employees at all levels receive support. According to our research, nearly a fifth of senior decision-makers say that wellbeing practices do not apply to them, and a further 13% said that they are only partially relevant.

It is vital for the good of the person and the company that wellbeing and mental health initiatives are accessible to all staff, regardless of their seniority. Aside from reducing stress, ensuring that the workplace is a pleasant place to be can bring tangible benefits such as increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and a more committed workforce.

Senior figures should lead by example. By working cohesively and ensuring workloads are shared, we can all improve work/life balance.

Four things senior management can do to ensure a good work-life balance

Keep meetings on time

If a meeting is meant to start at 3pm and end at 5.30pm, stick to the agenda and work as efficiently as possible. Make sure everyone – including the most senior manager – is out of the office on time.

Learn to delegate properly

Be willing to trust the people you hired or work with to get the job done. Micromanaging is bad for office morale and even worse for time management.

Insist on taking time off

Schedule in the time you will be on holidays or unreachable and stick to it, regardless of what comes up, and respect when your staff want to take time off, too.

Know that balance is different for everyone

‘Balance’ for one CEO can mean something different for another. If you don’t mind working 12 hour days but want to be free once you’re home and on the weekend, that’s OK. That’s your definition of balance. Take the time to think about what balance means for your life and how it would ideally work.

Paul Stephens FCA, Dip Tax, Dip Corp Fin is the Head of Corporate and ABL at Close Brothers.

*All figures unless otherwise stated are from a GMI survey conducted April 2019. The survey canvassed the opinion of 896 SME owners and business managers from several industries across the UK and Ireland on a range of issues affecting their businesses. The survey was commissioned by modern merchant banking group, Close Brothers.