Your CEO self.
Juggling the whole work life balance isn’t simple and when we get this wrong one of the things likely to happen is your pain system speaks up to let you know that something needs to change. A back pain flare up, another headache, increasing aches and pains getting out of bed in the morning. A bed that was absolutely fine last week somehow has you feeling like the princess and the pea. Pain is the ultimate mentor after all, grabbing your attention to alert you to the fact that the system isn’t sustainable. A tweak to the system is required but what needs your attention?
It’s all too common to consider work/life balance as a seesaw with work on one side and life on the other. That’s just not practical or realistic. Maybe it’s time to think of everything like work. Your whole life as a corporation and you are the CEO of yourself.
The Health Hexagon is the framework to follow when considering managing your life to enable sustainable health and wellbeing into the future. If you get this right, you are more robust and resilient to the stresses and strains of market forces and those black swan events that are the known unknows of life. It’s pretty much how any organisation manages to survive, so let’s explore how that might look as an individual.
As the CEO of yourself you must consider how the organisation can survive and perform in the marketplace. What is the culture of your organisation? What do you stand for? What do you believe in? What is your purpose? What does success look like and how do you measure it? What systems and contingencies do you put in place to help your organisation survive and thrive? What does compliance and governance look like?
Like any organisation the buck stops with the CEO. They are responsible for everything so having the right culture and systems in place matters. As an employee it’s easy to complain on the side lines that the system doesn’t work. That things should be this way or that way. That you don’t have the autonomy to change things or that you’ve done things in such a way for years and it’s impossible or too difficult to change. You won’t change.
But you are not an employee of yourself. You are the CEO and you set the rules for yourself. You decide what you aim for, what you stand for, what matters, who you do business with, who you have on your team and how you work together. It’s essential to consider what systems you are putting in place for yourself. Your health, wellbeing and survival depend on it.
Let’s consider the elements of the Health Hexagon in turn.
- Sleep Everything is worse with a bad night sleep, so you must ringfence time for that. Businesses have operating hours and shift patterns as no one can work or be on-call 24/7/365. As the CEO of yourself how do you manage the shift pattern of your most important employee. Yourself. How do you ensure that you get enough sleep to be ready for another day. Everyday. Enough so that you optimise your performance for the long run. Do you understand the consequences of poor sleep quality on you and those around you? On your decision making, your motivation, your energy levels, your immune system, your sickness absence record? Your irritability levels? Your capacity to cope? What does your sleep system look like?
- Diet How is the staff canteen? Are you serving chips, processed food, fizzy drinks, cheap sugary snacks or healthier options? Do you encourage employees to eat at their desk or create a space to eat, digest, switch gear for a moment or two to help energise them for the afternoon shift? Is the canteen open late at night so it’s easy to fill up before going to bed and is that helping the sleep cycle? Is it open in the morning before work starts to have a breakfast option?
- Exercise Do you have a gym on site or a membership program for staff? Do you have a culture of fitness within the organisation? A cycle to work scheme, lunchtime walks or bootcamp classes in the park near the office, sit stand desks, walking-talking meetings, yoga sessions, personal trainers to offer support and advice. Does the organisation encourage sporting activities like entering charity runs? Do corporate days out involve physical activity? Are there societies within the organisation like a golf society, bowling club, archery? Does the business allow staff to manage their diary so they can get a run or a HIIT session in their day when it best suits them? Are they treated as grown-ups who can be given the autonomy to handle their diary and still get the work done?
- Cognitive What is the workload? How realistic and sustainable is it? What’s the culture around email traffic? How does the workload get prioritised? What’s necessary and what things are getting in the way? Do meetings really need to be 60 minutes when 45 or 39 or something else might be better? How does the organisation set systems up to reduce the risk of burnout? Does the organisation truly understand the impact the other elements of the health hexagon have on productivity and therefore ensures sleep, diet, exercise and the rest are essential to the success and survival of the organisation rather than just looking at the number of hours at the desk? Is there a path to development to keep employees motivated and stimulated? Who arranges professional development, and do you participate?
- Emotional What does your organisations human resources department look like? Do they offer counselling and mentorship programs? Are they empathetic to the challenges of life inside and outside of the organisation? Is the organisation flexible around the demands of a family life such as sick children or personal health crisis? What does stress management look like? Does the organisation realise the workloads can get intense and individuals can be their own worst enemy when they have a deadline? Does the organisation consider reflective practice so they can continuously look for ways of working smarter not harder to ensure a Healthy Hexagon? Does the organisation understand the benefits of the other arms of the Health Hexagon towards each other for success and survival. For example, the anxiety of to-do list and the relentless call of the inbox isn’t such a priority after you’ve done 20 burpees! It can wait until tomorrow.
- Spiritual Does the organisation understand the importance of downtime, recharging, off-loading, de-briefing, peer support, holidays? How does it facilitate this? Is there an expectation to be on top of the inbox all day every day or that it’s only a 20-minute call at dinner or on your holiday but knowing that call could come at any time means you’re not really on holiday. Does the organisation encourage integration with its community by participating in charitable activities or volunteering or fundraising events? Does it understand the benefits of hobbies and letting your hair down? Does it have social clubs and encourages participation? Does the organisation understand that life is short, that there is no retirement date to aim for or date where the organisation will be sold, acquired, or floated on the stock exchange? The organisation keeps going in some shape or form until the lights are just turned off one day and there’s a good chance the emails will keep coming then too.
As CEO of the organisation that is you, do you understand that health is wealth, and your Health Hexagon is the investment plan. Set the right culture for this and you play a smarter longer game. As CEO you too need guidance, a mentor to help you build those systems and culture for yourself. That is the job of the pain system. It is the Ultimate Mentor that speaks up when the system is creaking. From the simple sign of the mattress that has been your sanctuary for months suddenly becoming uncomfortable to a back spasm loading the dishwasher or the relentless neck ache and tension in your shoulders. It’s the CEO’s job to recognise that these are the warning signs of system failures and to put processes in place to deal with such things.
If you’d like to learn more about the Health Hexagon have a listen to my guest appearance on the Curious Talks Podcast or read Pain: The Ultimate Mentor available as an e-book, paperback, hardback and audiobook.