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Leading Off
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Has wellness dropped off your to-do list? Leaders tend to put themselves last, potentially exposing themselves to a long list of health conditions, jeopardizing their financial health, and straining their most important relationships. The pressures of a high-octane job may be unrelenting, but this week, let’s put them on hold and explore how to improve well-being. That includes managing time more efficiently, getting better sleep, and training your mind and body to better deal with stress. After all, by properly caring for yourself, you’ll be at your best for the people that you lead.
A photo of a people at a meeting
Treat meeting time as a scarce resource
Executives tell McKinsey they’re drowning in pointless interactions that produce information overload and drain their energy. Unproductive meetings not only waste time and exhaust people—they also have real financial costs. A recent McKinsey survey revealed that as many as 80 percent of senior leaders are considering changing or have already changed how they run meetings. In our view, leaders should treat time spent in meetings as seriously as they would a company’s financial resources. Many organizations are holding shorter meetings (15 to 30 minutes) and designating one day a week to be meeting-free, and some meetings—for instance, where information is shared in one direction—may not even be necessary. By excusing yourself from meetings that don’t directly affect you or your work, you might have more time to pursue projects you’re passionate about.
10 million
That’s the approximate number of working hours Americans miss each year due to a lack of sleep, which includes being absent from work and working less productively. In addition to taking a toll on productivity and impairing employee performance, not getting enough sleep is linked to many health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Ever catch yourself making questionable decisions or spacing out during a meeting? It might be time to prioritize getting more rest—sleep affects your ability to pay attention and how well you function cognitively. To get a good night’s rest, try to go to sleep and wake up at consistent times, cut down on alcohol and caffeine, and put away your cell phone for at least an hour before going to bed.
“When I look at the happiest people, they tend to have at least two, and usually three, groups they’re engaged with outside of work.”
That’s Babson College professor and author Rob Cross on how keeping work in perspective enables high performers to thrive, stay resilient, and experience greater levels of well-being. High performers can sometimes enter periods where work becomes all-consuming, Cross says. During those times (which can last years!), senior leaders often lose touch with important parts of their identity. Being involved with book clubs or running groups, reconnecting with old friends, or exploring hobbies outside of work can pull people out of the “echo chamber” of a demanding job and create new dimensions to enjoy in life.
A photo of resiliency expert Dr. Amit Sood
With remote work continuing to blur the boundaries between office and home, it’s no wonder that employees are feeling more anxious and overwhelmed. Even during times of relative calm and stability, it’s difficult for humans to experience lasting peace and happiness because “the brain is designed as an instrument for survival and safety,” says resiliency expert Dr. Amit Sood in an interview with McKinsey. By keeping a positive outlook, however, we can improve our physical and psychological ability to cope with stress. “If I had to summarize the whole gamut of well-being research, it is simply this: you want to tell your genes and immune system, ‘I’m having a good time on this planet,’” says Dr. Sood. “This type of positive outlook tells your genes to switch from inflammatory to anti-inflammatory actions and boosts your antiviral immunity.”
An illustration of a candle being burnt on both ends
Each year, burnout costs the global economy an estimated $322 billion in lost productivity. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 50 percent of employees have said that they’ve experienced symptoms of burnout, according to a McKinsey survey of more than 5,000 full-time workers. And a Gallup study from 2021 reveals that burnout among managers in particular is growing worse, with leaders reporting more stress, anxiety, and depression than the individuals they manage. As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into a third year, be kind to yourself and make time for your physical and mental well-being.
Lead well.
— Edited by Belinda Yu, an editor in McKinsey’s Atlanta office
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