Raconteur

The Future CEO special report 2017

Issue link: https://raconteur.uberflip.com/i/907948

Contents of this Issue

Navigation

Page 22 of 23

RACONTEUR.NET THE FUTURE CEO 23 29 / 11 / 2017 step for ward and admit such v ul- nerability. This cannot be because they are less prone to mental illness. Studies show that mental health problems across the population aff ect one in four , while Business in the Commu- nity's Mental Health at Work report gives valuable insight into the prev- alence of mental health problems in the workplace. If anything, many of the tenden- cies that propel business leaders to the top – determination, com- mitment, working under extreme pressure – appear to increase the risk of mental health problems. Re- search suggests that authority may be linked with depression and that CEOs may be at twice the risk of the general public. Also, reaching the top can disconnect you from the people you trusted in the early days, creating a sense of loneliness and alienation. The UK water industry may seem an unlikely place to be leading a revolution in workplace mental health. But Anglian Water has quietly created a workplace culture with a strong focus on wellbeing, and the company and its people are reaping the benefi ts. Peter Simpson, Anglian's chief executive, has led the transformation of a business which is at the centre of one of the UK's most traditional sectors. Water and waste treatment is a heavy industry with a predominantly male and middle- aged workforce who you might not normally associate with touchy-feely wellbeing. With an ageing workforce in a physically demanding environment, Anglian faced mounting costs of sickness absence and medical cover. The choice was to cut benefits or to change the way the company worked. Mr Simpson chose the second option and set about championing employee wellbeing. In the process Anglian estimates that for every £1 spent it has received £8 in return. The company's approach is rooted in Mr Simpson's own experience of working in the f ield, including the strong focus on mental health. "My experience relates to a m uch-loved employee who was well known in our business," he says. "I always thought he'd be around and then one day he took his own life. "The impact was felt by his immediate team, but went far wider and included employees of other companies who work closely with us. Like ever yone at the time it made me ask myself 'should I have seen this coming and what else could I have done?' There was a palpable feeling of guilt." CASE STUDY ANGLIAN WATER It seems t hat while business leaders a re doing what t hey ca n to create open a nd inclusive cu l- t ures in t he work place to encour- a ge employees to seek help for menta l hea lt h problems, ma ny CEOs a re st ill unable to spea k open ly about t heir ow n v u lner- abilit ies. T hat is why business a na lyst s believe t hat t he nex t big hurd le for menta l hea lt h is in t he C-suite, w it h more people in leadership posit ions ack nowledg- ing a nd addressing t he need for open accepta nce a nd discussion of t heir menta l hea lt h. Lord Stevenson of Coddenham is a leading campaigner of men- tal health. A former chairman of HBOS, another bank stricken by the financial crisis, and of Pear- son, he has spoken publicly about living with depression while at the top of his career. It was not easy managing his illness in an envi- ronment where the chairman and chief executive are expected to ex- ude confidence and poise, and to epitomise success. He estimates that in the top hun- dred companies a quarter of those running them have, or have had, mental illnesses, but few have open- ly acknowledged it. One CEO who has spoken about living with depression is Virgin Money's Jayne-A nne Gadhia. Her illness became par ticularly acute af ter the bir th of her daughter A my in 2002 and again three years ago when she had to suppress su- icida l thoughts at the same time as Virgin Money was preparing for a stock market f lotation. Ms Ga- dhia writes about her depression in her autobiography, The Virg in Banker, which was published ear- lier this year with proceeds go- ing to the menta l hea lth charity Heads Together. 01 António Horta- Osório, CEO of Lloyds Banking Group 02 Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money After many months of suffering, she eventually went to the doctor and clinical tests showed she was suffering with depression. As part of her care she started working shorter hours, took exercise and put her life back into balance. She says a healthier work-life balance wasn't just good for her and her family, it was also good for work. The first year she changed the way she worked, Ms Gadhia received the highest bonus of her career. At Lloyds, steps have been taken to support senior executives and to reduce the risk of others suff ering as Mr Horta-Osório did. The bank has introduced a 12-month leadership resilience programme. Undertaken by 200 top executives, it is designed to raise the performance of indi- viduals, while reducing the risks associated with increased demands and workloads. It includes nutri- tion analysis, methods of cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, and psychological and physiological testing. The hope is this programme will reinforce an organisation-wide culture of wellbeing that will benefi t all employees. Seeking to harness Lord Steven- son's experience and knowledge, prime minister Theresa May asked him to lead an inquiry into the state of workplace mental health. His report, Thriving at Work, co-written with Mind CEO Paul Farmer, was published earlier this month in November. It found that poor mental health at work is cost- ing employers up to £42 billion a year in lost productivity, staff ab- sences and presenteeism. It made a series of recommendations aimed at improving workplace mental health and wellbeing. A clear message was the need for senior management to lead by ex- ample, and that sometimes can mean standing before colleagues and admitting physical or mental vulnerability. One of the biggest challenges for CEOs is to accept the advice that is now being shared with employ- ees as part of corporate wellbeing strategies – don't suffer alone, learn to manage your stress, un- derstand that depression is com- mon and treatable, maintain a bal- anced life. For good C-suite mental health, the time has come for CEOs to walk the talk. Research suggests that authority may be linked with depression and that CEOs may be at twice the risk of the general public MENTAL HEALTH AT WORK Business in the Community 2017 Chris Ratcliff e/Bloomberg via Getty Images 02 of all employees in the UK have experienced mental health issues due to work or where work was related factor 60% would welcome some specifi c basic training in mental health 49% have been formally diagnosed with a mental health issue 31% of managers have received training in mental health 24% who have experienced a mental health issue as a result of work have told a line manager 11%

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Raconteur - The Future CEO special report 2017