Is the way your leaders are working, working? The findings.

Is the way your leaders are working, working? The findings.

 1st March 2019

When we exhibited at The Public Sector Solutions Expo in Manchester as part of the Workforce and Leadership focus, we presented our offer and addressed the question ‘Is the way your leaders are working, working?’.

The primary focus of this talk was to help organisations recognise what a crucial part in their organisation leaders and managers play and how imperative their wellbeing is to ensure wellbeing across the organisation. If they’re well, we’re all well. By definition – they’re the ones that lead your business forward and manage the people that will help you to achieve your organisation’s ambitions. They’re pivotal in creating a happy and healthy culture, and you need to bring out the very best in them in order to bring out the very best in your people.
As humans we tend to just get on with our everyday lives and don’t really think about our day to day wellbeing. We have become so used to living the way we do, we think it is normal to not get a good night’s sleep, we just accept the fact that work is going to stress us out today and put too much pressure on ourselves that we don’t think twice about checking our work emails after working hours. When did we stop prioritising our mental and physical health? One of the main issues we have is that we don’t recognise the damage we are doing to ourselves, we are not aware of what is making us ill.

We wanted to get the attendees of the Public Sector Solutions Expo thinking about their wellbeing and their workplace wellbeing. Our Wheel of Life was a great way to get people interested and our findings- although not surprising to us- did spark debate with those we spoke to. We addressed 4 main categories; wellbeing strategy, mind, body and soul, people and leadership capabilities and depending on where the attendees landed on the wheel- then asked questions and recorded our findings.


Energy and productivity

We asked at what point of the day did you feel most/least energised. First thing, mid-morning, after lunch time, evening or night? The results may interest you.

  • 75% felt most energised in the mid-morning
  • 42% felt least energised in the afternoon after lunch

These findings suggest we feel more energised first thing as we are up and ready for the day ahead - motivated, alert, and hopeful. This tends to decline as the day goes on and most people we spoke to felt sluggish and least energised after they have had their lunch. Could this be a consequence of the food we are eating at lunch time? Eating refined carbohydrates- like pasta for example - can cause a rise in blood sugar, followed by a plunge in insulin levels, which can cause fatigue and weakness. Promoting healthy eating and super foods in the workplace could have a massive impact on the productivity of your staff - while also promoting wellness and wellbeing.

From a business perspective, taking time to understand that some people are more productive first thing in the morning, whilst others come alive with ideas in the evening can be really beneficial. Looking at the ways in which your employees prefer to work - and implementing an approach which allows them work in their preferred way - can do wonders for efficiency.

Workplace wellbeing

The most common causes of stress cited in organisations were:

  • Workload being too high
  • Pressures from management
  • Lack of resource
  • Not being able to switch off after working hours

Leading on from this – 80% of people mentioned work life stresses led them to having an overactive mind at night and consequently causing sleep deprivation - locking people in a cycle of less sleep than required and constantly lowering wellness and wellbeing.

How do we combat these issues? Are your leaders and managers aware of the daily struggles your workforce are facing? Do you have policies and procedures in place to ensure staff have the confidence to flag up when work loads are high and feel they have enough support when needed?

Presentism and absenteeism

80% of people we spoke to said they believed presenteeism exists in their workplace. This was due to workloads being too high and the pressure from managers to complete big tasks in unrealistic timelines and an insecurity about one's job.

The main causes of absenteeism were:

  • Anxiety related
  • Workplace stresses
  • Stresses within the construction industry

Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high and workplace pressures can be a contributing factor in worsening these. Encouraging a healthy balance between work and home life will help you reduce your employees’ stress levels and boost their general wellbeing - meaning they’re less likely to take a sick day when they’re feeling overwhelmed and burned out.

The construction industry - a sector with a high number of male workers, the specific risks associated for men and mental ill health cannot be ignored. For men between the ages of 15 and 49 (who are typically part of the workforce) suicide is now the leading cause of death.  Working patterns and demands of life can add pressure and exacerbate the impact on emotional health and wellbeing and, of course, the toll is not just mental and physical - there's an economic impact too. Mental health issues account for people taking almost 70 million days off sick per year – the most of any health condition – costing the UK economy between £70 billion and £100 billion a year.

Are organisations looking at improving workplace wellbeing?

We were delighted to hear that many organisations have indeed started looking at wellbeing and understanding the importance of this in the workplace.

We heard of the following services being rolled out:

  • Mental health first aiders
  • Welfare teams
  • Social committees

The common opinion when speaking to people is that although wellbeing is being addressed and these services are available to the workforce, staff often feel the company talks the talk about wellbeing but in practice does not really do what is required and its more of a “tick the boxes” approach rather than really appreciating the benefits and enacting positive change.

Organisations creating a culture of self-help

Online training and free counselling were mentioned as services available to staff but many agreed their organisation did not create a culture of self help and that it would be welcomed

A culture of self help can be achieved by 

  • Ensuring staff take regular breaks
  • Keeping your workforce hydrated
  • Encouraging face to face meetings rather than emailing
  • Having a supportive working environment that does not promote a blame culture
  • Encouraging employee feedback

Leaders and managers in supporting wellbeing

80% of people said they thought leaders and managers have a high level of responsibility in supporting wellbeing.

Our findings suggest employees expect leaders and managers to be role models and have responsibility for the wellbeing of their staff. Forward-thinking organisations often call on leaders and managers to create mentally healthy workplaces for their employees but what if those who are looked upon to create and drive these initiatives are themselves experiencing poor wellbeing?

How can an organisation be truly happy, healthy and indeed productive if its managers and leaders are not?

43% of those we spoke to, voted ‘NO’ they didn’t think their leaders were confident in tackling wellbeing issues, with only 21% voting ‘YES’ they were confident and the remaining 36% not sure if they were.

These findings are suggesting that leaders and managers are expected to be role models and promote wellbeing but often don’t know how to or don’t feel confident enough. Why is that? Some key themes that came out of this study were often leaders and managers feel too much responsibility for their staff once they have divulged issues to them and don’t always know what to do next!

Our Leading Well programme looks to address these issues with leaders and managers and help them understand why wellbeing is important and what it looks, feels and sounds like. Their role in driving a happy and healthy workplace and understanding the early warning signs and recognising the symptoms of mental ill-health.

Our goal is to help leaders become healthy role models, who can influence others’ wellbeing. Thank you to everyone that took part in the study.