While Leader Wellbeing Is a Linchpin to Employee Wellbeing, New Research Shows Healthcare Leaders are Struggling
With their roles on the pandemic frontline for almost three years, many healthcare employees have undoubtedly experienced chronic stress. Among other things, this has shown up as a rise in mental and physical health challenges, relationships problems, anxiety about the future, absenteeism and presenteeism, and poorer decision making with potentially detrimental effects on patient care.
Healthcare leaders are a linchpin to the wellbeing, stress levels, and effectiveness of healthcare employees. These leaders are charged with creating an environment in which employees can do their work well—and be well at the same time. This includes ensuring staff have autonomy to make appropriate decisions for their jobs, receive recognition for their contributions, and work in an ethical, fair, and inclusive environment. It also means equipping staff with the cognitive, emotional, and social training to cope with distress, plus use distress as a source of growth, resilience, and wellbeing.
At Wisdom Works, we know the wellbeing of leaders also has a direct impact on employee wellbeing and performance. In our latest Be Well Lead Well® research we tracked 200+ healthcare leaders around the globe from April 2021-April 2022 through their use of our assessment, Be Well Lead Well Pulse®. This allowed the leaders to examine 19 psychometrics of their wellbeing leadership and stress resilience.
Highlights from the research were as follows:
- Only 31% of these healthcare leaders reported high in THRIVING, an overall evaluation of high wellbeing in their life now and an expectation of high wellbeing in the future, along with an ability to restore their wellbeing when facing difficulties. A majority (69%) reported moderate or low Thriving, meaning, they felt less internally well-resourced, mentally and emotionally, to meet their complexities and demands.
- Only 9% of these healthcare leaders reported high in FUEL, a strategic and proactive use of specific wellness behaviors—Eating, Moving, Resting, and Breathing—to effectively manage their stress and energy and optimize their performance. This means a whopping 91% aren’t using these wellness behaviors as part of their leadership toolkit.
- Close to half (48%) of these healthcare leaders reported high in FLOW, the experience of being fully engaged, or “in the zone,” at work plus gaining self-esteem through their work. This means over half (52%) reported moderate or low in FLOW because they are not consistently growing their energy, enjoyment, self-esteem, or wellbeing at work.
- Only 26% of these healthcare leaders reported high in WONDER, the ability to bring fresh perspectives to life-work situations and their challenges, embrace (rather than only tolerate) differences of people and opinions, and perceive the beauty and abundance of life. As a vital wellbeing dimension, we find WONDER often helps leaders transcend their either/or thinking to allow new pathways for innovation, learning, and growth to emerge. Yet, a substantial 74% of these leaders score moderate or low in WONDER.
- Only 21% of these healthcare leaders reported high in WISDOM, the sense that they are leading from an internally inspired purpose and vision, wholeness, and emotional equanimity. This means a sizeable 79% are more likely leading from reactivity, stress, inner conflicts, or external pressures.
- Finally, only 25% of these healthcare leaders reported high in THRIVING AMPLIFIED, the ability to bring forth their leadership potential to empower thriving within the people and teams they serve. 75% do not see themselves as intentionally, consistently, or effectively using their leadership to energize employees, maximize employee effectiveness and growth, and cultivate a work culture of collaboration, care, and wellbeing.
WHY DOES THIS RESEARCH MATTER?
As more employees choose organizations that authentically care for their wellbeing, leaders play a pivotal wellbeing leadership role by helping employees to:
- Find constructive meaning at work, while also thriving outside of work
- Express agency in their work decisions, while also connecting to the broader team and organizational objectives
- Do their jobs safely and productively, while also seeing opportunities for personal and professional growth
- Build healthy, supportive, and inclusive relationships at work
- Counteract the emotional and physical exhaustion of demanding times so that their workplace becomes a source of personal and professional resilience
Leaders can focus on employee wellbeing by eliminating the work conditions that give rise to languishing, illness and disease, injury, disconnection, or ineffectiveness. Plus, they can deliberately create a work environment that fosters a healthy, positive employee experience.
The statistics we’ve shared about these 200+ healthcare leaders in our Be Well Lead Well® study show a healthcare leadership that is surviving, not thriving. Considering the stresses of the pandemic, this is understandable. Yet, surviving isn’t a sustainable strategy: Depleted, disengaged leaders lack the energy, clear-headedness, emotional balance, and world-centric acumen to make the best decisions for their teams and organizations. The leader suffers personally, too.
These healthcare leaders are less likely to have the sustained and balanced emotional and physical reserves to steward a work environment for employee wellbeing and performance. Why? Because they have not found a way to live and lead from wellbeing themselves. We don’t see this lack limited to healthcare leaders. This study could easily represent leaders of other industries who could accelerate their leadership impact by learning how to prioritize thriving in their lives and leadership roles.