executive health and wellness

Lessons learnt from the lifestyle of a Senior Executive

In Corporate Wellness Blog by tailoredfit

Most of us know that our lifestyle, fitness levels and mental well-being affect our work and performance; but this often fails to affect our habits and behaviours. Many of the executives we see and work with know what to do; they just don’t do it. Ironically it is often “work” which is cited as the reason why these key areas of their health get neglected, even though this neglect subsequently leads to reduced performance at work. Breaking the cycle is key!

What do we analyse?

At Tailored Fit, we always promote using data to inform decision making; both on a large scale in company-wide corporate wellness programmes and when working with executives in small groups or 1-on-1. When working with senior executives, we often recommend using Lifestyle Resilience Profiling. This utilises the latest health screening technology, is minimally disruptive to work-life, and produces usable and relevant data. We monitor heart rate variability via a wearable over a 72-hour period. From this we can ascertain whether the participant is in a stressed or recovery state during this time. Participants also fill in a diary so that we can cross-reference what activities are leading to negative stress and which are promoting recovery.

What we have discovered

Over the last year we have conducted a number of assessments on senior executives. This has given us insight into health and lifestyle factors that directly impact work performance. Often the results were not surprising, but seeing it in black and white (or brightly coloured charts!) allows you to make truly informed decisions. When we highlighted certain issues to participants, they were both able and motivated to make the necessary changes that would improve their health and their performance at work. Below we will look at some anonymous data taken from our assessments which highlight how mental, physical and nutritional health directly impact work performance.

Sleep is critical to performance

There is a lot of research supporting the case for the importance of sleep in relation to health and performance. In one of our assessments we could clearly see how a poor night of sleep increased stress levels of the participant the following day. After a good night sleep the participant’s stress and recovery balance was 48% (not ideal but manageable). After a short and low-quality sleep the following night, this dropped down to 10% stress and recovery balance the next day. This indicates a day in which 90% of the time, this executive was in a stressed state, thereby reducing decision-making abilities, communication skills and further depleting the body’s resources.

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What was recommended as an intervention?

In this instance, from the data insight it was possible for us to ascertain that sleep had been affected by checking emails and by working late at night. Our recommendation was that they avoid checking work emails during the hour before bed and focus on relaxing activities such as reading or listening to music. Even using phones, tablets, computers and TVs for leisure, can negatively affect sleep hormones.

Alcohol affects sleep

No big surprise here, but as previously mentioned when seeing it in black and white it allowed staff to make informed decisions and motivated behavioural change. In one instance, one executive being assessed achieved 8 hours of sleep on a Sunday night with a “restorative effect of sleep” rating of 96% setting them up nicely for the week. The following evening, they managed another 8 hours of sleep but with a rating of 67%. Not quite restoring them as fully as needed but manageable. The issues started when they went for after work drinks which led to 5 hours of sleep at a quality rating of just 6%. This indicates that the body was still in a stressed state the entire night, setting them up for an incredibly low performing day at work the following day; this is presenteeism in full effect! Suddenly Thursday night drinks don’t seem quite as harmless.

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What was recommended as an intervention?

As we could see that alcohol was having such a negative effect on this Senior Executive, we recommended reducing week-night drinking to an absolute minimum. When you can see how it reduces your ability to perform at high level, it is easier to be disciplined and save drinking for Fridays and Saturdays.

Reduced performance every day

One pattern we saw across several of the assessments was a depletion of the body’s resources throughout the working week. This means reduced energy, brain power, mood, discipline and stress tolerance. One participant clearly highlighted this, as shown in the chart below. During the day you can see resources are being depleted by various stress reactions, but providing they get enough recovery during the day and high-quality sleep at night this can be restored. In this case, you can clearly see that at no point are the body’s resources fully restored, meaning that every day throughout the week this executive was becoming less effective.

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What was recommended as an intervention?

Looking at the rest of the data, we could see that a major issue was an unbroken stress cycle during the day. We recommended taking 3 short breaks every day; mid-morning, lunchtime and mid-afternoon. This gave them time to allow the brain to switch off and for stress-hormone levels to reduce. This feeds into other areas of lifestyle as once stress is better managed, sleep improves too.

What can companies do to ensure key staff are performing optimally?

It is important that companies have a well-rounded approach to their staff health. We recommend looking at three pillars of health; mental, physical and nutritional. The interventions you choose should be based on the key issues your staff are facing. If you have Senior Executives who are suffering with stress a focus on executive coaching and mindfulness would be a worthwhile investment. If staff are struggling to stay alert post-lunch then nutrition seminars, workshops and coaching can pay dividends.

You can use our case studies above to inform your own wellness programmes, as there will be a lot that applies generally to the whole workforce. If you would rather take a more tailored approach why not take a look at our wellness programme implementation and management service or get in touch and find out how we can design and build a wellness strategy to suit your company’s specific needs.