From burnout to overwhelm, women are leaving the workforce in their thousands. Despite more organisations prioritising DEI and wellbeing programmes, women are changing jobs at the highest rates ever. Just last year, 1 in 10 women are reported to have left their job due to menopausal symptoms alone.
How can organisations truly integrate wellbeing into their workplaces? It’s a question we unpacked in our recent white paper, The Equity Opportunity – Women, Wellbeing & Work. We wanted to understand the high-performance equity habits of future-focused employers.
Role model visibility emerged as a key theme and materialised in two ways. First off there’s the impact of women of all levels, being able to see someone who has forged the path ahead of them; it shows their colleagues and women coming up behind them what’s possible.
Secondly, it’s how we as leaders model positive behaviours around wellbeing and self-care. I see this as essential authentic leadership; creating a true culture of wellbeing requires leaders to model this themselves. So often, I speak to clients who are brilliant at promoting wellbeing for their teams, setting boundaries around work hours and mental health check-ins. But when it comes to cultivating their own practices? Less so.
The two co-exist. In creating a healthy workplace culture, walking our talk, and modelling genuine, positive behaviours for our teams, women get to create a new model of leadership that places the value of wellbeing at its core. So that we can all show up to our careers as our very best selves and meet our fullest potential.
As leaders, there’s an opportunity for us to ensure the wellbeing conversation stays front and centre of our corporate strategies, to create a truly holistic employee experience. What happens when we embrace the power of role modelling when it comes to well-being?
Role modelling in action
Role modelling works because it goes beyond lip service, to doing and being. Your people get to see what great practice looks like and culture transforms as you build evidence in the workplace – as well as senior leaders championing this approach.
This is why it’s essential for women to see other female leaders in the workplace, that women can look up and see themselves in the most senior roles, modelling wellbeing as a way of being, and shifting the mindset around it as being essential to areas such as recruitment and retention, rather than a “nice to have.”
Wellbeing as a leadership tool
As leaders, by prioritising our own emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing, we give our teams permission to do the same. This means getting clear on what your own definition of wellbeing is and communicating this successfully. You want to find ways to encourage positive self-care habits throughout the day. For example, my team knows that I love to start the day walking my dog, I go to yoga, and take regular laptop breaks. By prioritising my own wellbeing, my intention is to encourage colleagues to do the same.
I’ve found too that there’s the opportunity to connect through wellbeing – a shared interest in a sport, exchanging book recommendations or recommending podcasts forges another level of connection – much needed in today’s hybrid workplace.
Create a safe container for wellbeing
Post-pandemic the importance of psychological safety has truly emerged in the workplace. The macro-influences of climate change, cost of living crisis and economy, ongoing uncertainty within the workplace, and general job stress can all impact our feelings of vulnerability and anxiety.
Our whitepaper found that creating an environment of psychological safety was foundational to effective equity and wellbeing policies. This means creating networks or internal communities where employees can gather to reflect on key concerns, specific challenges impacting them, and navigate ways to manage these.
By demonstrating your own commitment to wellbeing, you’re essentially advocating for your organisation’s commitment to a workplace built on trust and empathy. As leaders, it’s how we demonstrate this – through safe spaces for flexibility, clear boundaries, and courageous conversations. This in turn, helps our teams bring their full selves to work.
How to model your own wellbeing
Spend time on understanding what your own wellbeing pillars are – and know that these will vary from day to day, season to season. There may be times when wellbeing is about investing in your own development and personal growth – a course or committing to a coach. Or it could be peppering in moments across the week when you take time out to rest and rejuvenate – for me this can be choosing to take my time over a particular work project, to gift myself white space, rather than rushing to get something done. Get creative. Play. Reconnect with what works for you.
Embodying wellbeing into our own leadership styles shouldn’t be considered a privilege – it’s not frivolous or a soft skill. Rather it’s how we shape new possibilities for the future of work, helping us all to become more authentic, more whole in our work. And now feels like a good time to start.
Kate is co-founder and CPO of Cognomie, the HRtech platform championing Mental Fitness. Cognomie offers ground-breaking accredited coaching, employee engagement and wellbeing services for forward-looking global organisations. Prior to Cognomie, Kate's career spanned 15 years in leadership development and coaching consultancy after 12 years in management and leadership roles in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.