Monkey Puzzle Blog

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The CEO wellbeing dilemma. I care about my staff but also want to see fast results - what can I do?

This is a common dilemma we hear from many excellent CEOs. They are stuck in a conflict between caring for their staff and wanting them to deliver. That’s probably why we are often asked ‘What is the sweet spot where people are performing at their best without negative consequences for their wellbeing?’.

This is not an easy one to answer. People differ in their levels of motivation and endurance, they have different rhythms and ultimately perform at their best when they are in the right rhythm for them.

The impact of COVID-19 on the workplace and the shift towards remote working and the furloughing of staff has raised levels of anxiety - both in work and life. Many CEOs are steadying their ships, rightly putting wellbeing first during this difficult period. However, there will be a time when organisations look towards greater productivity and the dilemma will return.

So, what can a responsible CEO do to meet their important wellbeing obligations, while shifting the focus towards performance? As it’s not possible to cater for individual preferences in working style, here are some strategies that CEOs we know have adopted successfully to address this dilemma:

  1. Have clarity of communication and boundaries - are people clear on what they are achieving? Are they clear on your expectations of behaviour? In a high performing environment clarity is your friend. It makes workplaces more productive and creates a sense of safety for people, which adds to their sense of wellbeing. Some people love ambiguity and freedom, but a greater proportion of people find it a bit scary and prefer a few more guard rails and guidance, particularly those in early careers.
  2. Role model healthy workplace practices. As a CEO you will get less work done and of a reduced quality if people are tired. Having as much of your workforce operating on their A game is in your best interest. Remember that people copy what you do not do what you say. If you chose to work late into the night because that suits you, that’s up to you, but be mindful of the unconscious pressure signals you are sending to others by sending emails late. Store them all or set them timed to send the next morning, when people can prioritise them as they organise themselves for the day.
  3. Make sure the right amount of focus and time is invested in the early stage of new projects and initiatives. The biggest challenge for organisations on a fast track is the amount of rework that has to be done through not getting clarity on outcomes up front, people just doing ‘busy’ work that is not a priority, and having to rework poor quality work that was badly scoped or rushed.
  4. Find space in presentations, company meetings, etc to talk about wellbeing issues. Common issues in elite organisations are imposter syndrome, burnout, anxiety, and depression. Giving these topics airtime helps people to feel OK to take responsibility for their own health. Line managers can support this by covering wellbeing and removing any feelings of taboo and by reassuring people that opening up to their line manager is OK too.
  5. Encourage your people to use your wellbeing initiatives. Wellbeing initiatives are great perks for employees and do help, but only if they use them and don’t feel guilty or judged for using them.


In conclusion

It’s perfectly possible to be a responsible CEO or leader - inspiring the organisation to perform while looking out for wellbeing. Views on wellbeing have now changed from a ‘nice to have’ to an investment in people and productivity, plus it’s the right thing to do. It might seem like a distraction from productive activity but there is a powerful case to invest in employee wellbeing.

When employees are happy, healthy, and productive, organisations and their leaders thrive. Employee wellbeing builds stronger levels of employee engagement and organisational performance. When you look at it like this, it ceases to be a dilemma, it’s another opportunity to flourish.


For further information

If you are concerned about the balance between wellbeing and performance and want to get it right, we’ve brought together a range of programmes to support organisations and their leaders to build a healthy and more productive workplace. Find out more here.

You may also find this article useful from our blog where we discuss ‘Simple strategies for employee wellbeing’. And, if you are feeling pulled in different directions, this will help.‘Is a good work life balance even achievable?’


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