The Corporate Chill Pill: Why Better Bods Mean Better Corporate Odds. and What Companies Can Do to Ensure Staff Take the Emphasis off Stress

By Seligman, Melanie | New Zealand Management, July 2005 | Go to article overview

The Corporate Chill Pill: Why Better Bods Mean Better Corporate Odds. and What Companies Can Do to Ensure Staff Take the Emphasis off Stress


Seligman, Melanie, New Zealand Management


As the Romans knew only too well, a person s state of mind is inextricably linked to the state of their body. Most executives are driven, type-A personalities who willingly sacrifice scarce leisure time to meet an urgent business goal. While this can be challenging and even exciting, managers who continue down this path will sooner or later be on first-name terms with their doctor.

Executives who want to perform well need to look after themselves. This means being mentally stimulated, taking regular exercise, eating sensibly, sleeping about seven hours a night and making time to relax and have fun. But how many managers make this a way of life rather than a rescue package after a night of excess? And are corporates taking proactive steps to look after their key staff?

Many executives still find it easier to take time off to consult doctors about physical symptoms than to seek out psychologists to help them with issues such as performance management or executive coaching. A new free service has been set up on the web to help people find a registered psychologist near their office--find a psychologist' on www.psychology.org.nz. A good psychologist will help managers understand their own behaviour patterns, get them to think about the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and suggest ways to implement a work/life balance.

Registered psychologist Sara Chatwin from Mindworks is listed on this site and says that New Zealand businesspeople are slower than their counterparts in the United States or the United Kingdom to seek help from psychologists. In Chatwin's view, there is still a slight stigma attached to asking for help and people prefer to ignore problems rather than deal with them. Yet solutions can carry widespread benefits.

"In a recent case at one company," says Chatwin, "one team member was causing friction. A meeting was called and everyone agreed that something needed to be changed. They called me in to talk to this member. After some discussion it was clear that he felt he was being given an unfair workload but had not discussed the issue with his manager. We worked on ways to improve the situation and make the team more user-friendly and ultimately stronger."

Chatwin, whose client list includes many large New Zealand corporates, also sees many executives from high socioeconomic backgrounds who have chosen alcohol and/or drugs as a way to reduce stress. "Obviously, this isn't a successful long-term choice," she says. "It leads to depressive patterns of behaviour and addiction."

She advises companies to help employees learn relaxation methods and make sure that people build some 'me time' into their routine. "Planning and organisation isn't an option--it is essential, otherwise you will be dealing with burnout."

Chatwin is also a firm believer in the power of mentoring and coaching. How long does it take to turn somebody around? While that clearly depends on the issue and the individual, she reckons that in just three to five sessions a person will have some of the tools to make some positive changes.

Dr Warren Groarke, one of the directors at Well For Life, a specialist provider of corporate health programmes, says he sees a lot of high achievers in the upper echelons of management putting in long work hours to the detriment of other areas such as their health.

"People become immune to stress and tell themselves it's normal," he notes. "This can continue for many years before something serious crops up. Our aim is to be proactive and help people put a plan into place to improve their health in a holistic way."

The company provides specialised clinics in weight management, sports injury and assessment, cholesterol management and heart disease prevention, stress management and mindfulness, exercise prescription and coaching.

It also runs a GP service in which clients, after filling out lifestyle questionnaires, receive a two-hour medical which includes being wired up to an ECG while on a treadmill. …

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