Many qualities make a great leader, however, if there could only be one attribute, it would be their ability to motivate productive teams and empower individuals. Leadership responsibilities are typically outward-looking and selfless, as managers work tirelessly to create working environments in which others can excel.
Nicole Gorton, Director of Robert Half, explains why leaders can fall short of their responsibilities simply because they neglect their own wellbeing in the process. This is easily done when you’ve been recruited to put your team’s interests before your own and alleviate team stresses. However, workplace wellbeing is crucial for all employees, at both staff and management level.
Workplace wellbeing is important for everyone
In any position, a lack of wellbeing at work can lead to disengagement, low morale and reduced productivity. For these reasons, poor mental health at work costs the Australian economy billions of dollars each year. A portion of this is due to workers compensation claims.
A mentally healthy workplace is one which acknowledges the risks and puts protective mechanisms in place to mitigate them. There’s no shortage of incentives for organisations to start taking workplace wellbeing more seriously. Studies have shown that happiness in the workplace makes people approximately 12% more productive. Similarly, wellness initiatives can significantly improve employee satisfaction (Proto, Sgroi, Oswald, 2019).
Happiness gives workplaces the ability to access and benefit from three key positive emotions:
- ‘Enthusiasm’ is said to mobilise individual efforts
- ‘Interest’ helps professionals focus their energy
- ‘Contentment’ causes people to reflect and replicate their successes
There’s no doubt that these human emotions, and the positives they bring, are beneficial at every level of an organisation.
Creating an environment where self-care is encouraged
Given its direct relationship to wider business performance, managers must understand self-care in the quest for happiness is of equal importance to any other skill required of great leaders – especially when ‘leading by example’ is one of the top characteristics of effective management. From the top down, leaders must create and nurture environments where self-care is both encouraged and enhanced across the entire workforce.
When maximising the bottom line is the primary focus, prioritising self-care might seem impossible. Here are tips to help you find a balance between people management and caring for your own wellbeing:
Have a calming strategy in place
Typically, when we feel high levels of stress, our performance decreases. To stay productive, you should consider taking a moment to recuperate as soon as you experience those niggling red flags. Some recuperation strategies could include pausing for a refreshment, engaging in exercise or focusing on a different task. Whatever works best for you.
Understand prevention is better than cure
Holding a position of high responsibility can sometimes cause leaders to feel like the working day is endless. Continuously working excessive hours often results in a lack of exercise, poor sleeping patterns and developing unhealthy eating habits. Negative health impacts from long working hours include exhaustion, heart conditions, high blood pressure and mental health disorders.
Know when to end your working day to prevent burnout and maintain your position as an effective and productive leader. Incorporate weekly exercise into your routine and avoid dropping the ball on an otherwise healthy diet.
Delegate where appropriate
Not knowing when and how to delegate tasks to direct reports is one of the most common management pitfalls – especially if you’re new to the role. Without sufficient delegation, managers can find themselves neglecting their supervisory and strategic responsibilities.
Where possible, delegate appropriately by understanding when it’s time to let go of tasks and how to play to your individual team members’ strengths. Establish your own priority list, teach new skills to others and communicate clearly.
Know your early warning signs
Sometimes, poor workplace wellbeing can creep up on you in a stealthy manner. This is why it’s important to recognise exactly when your body is showing tell-tale signs of stress before things get out of hand. Symptoms could include a sleepless night, an unusual feeling of tiredness, a loss of appetite, an inability to focus, or emotions of anger or irritability, among others. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to identify and address the cause quickly.
Take a holistic approach to health
Self-care in the workplace is about making sure all the building blocks of ‘good all-round health’ are firmly in place because when something is missing, it could have wider implications for your overall sense of happiness – especially in the long-term. While plenty of sleep, exercise and a healthy diet might seem like obvious components to a healthy lifestyle, there are other aspects to consider too. For example, continue to learn new skills and adopt new ways of thinking to improve your intellectual health, build positive relationships inside and outside the workplace, and perhaps most importantly, don’t be afraid to take a step back and re-evaluate your role. Ensuring your work is meaningful and that you are living true to your values is essential for a healthy life and effective leadership.
By taking the lead on self-care, you’ll not only be a more effective leader now and in the long-term, but others in the organisation will observe and follow with positive results. Sometimes that may even mean setting the example by removing yourself from a stressful situation momentarily.
About Nicole Gorton
Nicole has over 20 years’ experience in the recruitment industry. As the Asia Pacific Director of Strategic Accounts at Robert Half, the largest specialised recruitment firm, she is responsible for partnering with large corporate organisations across Hong Kong, Japan, Shanghai, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
1) Proto, E., Sgroi, D. and Oswald, A. (2019). New study shows we work harder when we are happy. University of Warwick. Available at: https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/