Workplace wellbeing starts with your C-suite

Workplace well-being and good work-life balance must be embedded at every level

Poor wellbeing results in poor quality of life and work, and impacts both leaders and their workforce. A recent report by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence shows that not only the C-suite are affected by poor workplace wellbeing, but their transparency and outlook play an important role in fostering change within their organizations. We’ve summarized some key findings from the report below.

Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence in four countries: the United States (57% of respondents), United Kingdom (14%), Canada (14%), and Australia (14%). The survey was fielded between February 8 and February 21, 2022, and it targeted executives and employees who were working full-time and between 18 and 76 years of age. In total, 2,100 people were surveyed: 1,050 C-suite leaders and 1,050 employees.

Workplace wellbeing impacts productivity overall

75% of employees and 82% of the C-suite who took part in this report believe that having a job that supports their well-being would boost their productivity.

There’s no cheat code to creating a balanced, healthy workplace culture – it requires listening and learning from the workforce as a whole and making changes to support their needs.

To see productivity increase, wellbeing at work needs to be championed internally and embedded into the roles of employees at every level.

For C-suite leaders  this goes beyond being more transparent about your own experiences and approach to work. More awareness and empathy of your workforce’s resources and access is crucial to sustainable, meaningful change.

Going up the ladder doesn’t mean you’re healthier: wellbeing impacts both employees and executives

The impact of the pandemic and working from home has taken its toll not just on employees – but on executives and leaders as well. It’s brought to the forefront of everyone’s minds issues that weren’t unique to a pandemic workplace. Fatigue, burn out and lack of internal support impacts everyone.

These issues have been building in the always-on culture of work new technology has created in the modern workplace:

  • Stress management
  • Unmanageable workload
  • Long hours
  • Lack of support
  • Lack of autonomy

This study shows that nearly 70% of executives (compared with 57% of employees) are seriously considering quitting for a job that better supports their well-being.

The average CEO makes 254 times more than the average worker (according to the Equilar 100) – but they aren’t happier. With more responsibility and accountability, wellbeing isn’t easier to manage despite earning more. However, more financial stability does provide a different set of options, and finding a role that does support your way of working is easier for those earning more.

There’s a disconnect with C-Suite: employees don’t know that their executives are struggling too

Employees have more in common with their C-suite than they realize – with respondents at both levels reporting stress, loneliness and depression:

Workplace wellbeing starts with your C-suite
FIGURE 2: Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence report

Executives are broadly better off than their employees. They’re being paid more and therefore have the stability to hunt for a new role if they want to. But they also struggle to make time for their well-being.

Only around half of employees and two-thirds of the C-suite use all their annual leave, take microbreaks at work, sleep enough, and are able to make time for friends and family.

However, employees don’t know about these overlaps in experience.

73% of the C-suite say they’re transparent about their well-being, but only 22% of employees agree.

Being more honest and open about their experiences could help employees feel more comfortable asking for what they need, as well as using policies already being offered.

Wellbeing needs to be embedded within company culture

As this study shows, having a workplace culture that promotes wellbeing practically is something that benefits leadership and their workforce alike. There’s lots more work to do to make workplaces healthy and supportive.

Less than 6 out of 10 employees say their company embeds well-being into the workplace culture and people’s jobs.

In terms of policies and practices, of those executives taking part in this survey, only:

  • 40% require employees to take time off at certain times of the year
  • 35% require employees to take breaks during the day
  • 20% have a ban on after-hours emailing

Words aren’t enough – C-suite need to lead by example

It’s one thing having leaders in your organization tell you to take breaks and take care of yourself. But their behavior and approach carry more weight than their words.

Flexibility has been a topical workplace benefit, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where caring responsibilities meant that employers were forced to re-evaluate flexibility as necessary to retain talent and teams in trying times.

However, having a benefit like flexible working doesn’t necessarily mean it will be used.

It’s important that leaders and executives are seen to be proactively managing their own well-being for employees to know it’s OK to do the same.

48% of employees said that seeing the C-Suite take action to improve their well-being would motivate them to improve their own.

“The journey to health-savvy leadership certainly won’t be easy. However, it’s not just workers that will benefit—executives also stand to gain a lot by embracing this new reality. Not only can they become better and more purpose-driven leaders, but they may discover that they’re finally able to prioritize their own well-being. It’s a critical shift that could help them stay the course in their role and become steadfast ambassadors of a better tomorrow.”

The C-suite’s role in well-being by Steve Hatfield, Jen Fisher and Paul H. Silverglate

Read the full report: The C-suite’s role in well-being

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