Most business leaders are resorting to a healthier work-life balance after pandemic triggers poor mental health

  • Approximately 8 out of 10 top executives across the world have been suffering from poor mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by Bupa Global on Monday. 
  • Over 90% of those interviewed said that they are determined to boost their work-life balance by spending more time with family and exercising more regularly.
  • Bupa’s CEO Sheldon Kenton told Business Insider that the health insurer has always ensured mental health support was available, but its staff have recently trained a large number of managers to be better equipped to deal with mental health issues.
  • GlobalWebIndex, which also researched into the effect of the pandemic on UK business leaders, said that COVID-19 has put pressure on working in the confines of nine to five.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Nearly 8 out of 10 senior leaders worldwide have experienced poor mental health since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, according to a survey by Bupa Global on Monday. 

The Bupa Global Wellbeing Index received responses from almost 2,000 high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and top business leaders with assets over $1.2 million from around the world including the UK, US, France, UAE, Egypt, China and Hong Kong.

The health insurer's survey revealed that a third of high-ranking executives find it difficult to talk about their mental health, whilst 9 out of 10 have said that they will take steps to improve their work-life balance by exercising more regularly, spending more time with friends and family, having a better diet and meditating.

Sheldon Kenton, managing director of Bupa Global, said business leaders that took part in the survey were typically "less forthcoming" about mental health issues with a "keep calm and carry on" mentality. "Business leaders were having a difficult time unpicking the line between work and private life," he said.

Holding a senior position at Bupa himself, Kenton also explained how mental health has been a priority at the health insurance firm for a long time. "Prior to COVID-19, Bupa was already in a good spot with mental-health awareness," he said. 

As well as creating awareness, Bupa "have put a large number of our managers through mental health training," he said, adding that in the long term there should be no stigma or taboo associated with mental health issues in the company.

Kenton stressed that the company doesn't want to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, as numerous tasks presented a stress in employees' lives, such as the commute, and busy offices. He said that Bupa took advantage of technology to keep in touch with staff during the pandemic and to be more present in all areas of the business. "The pandemic has been a catalyst for businesses to have a rethink about mental health," said Kenton.

From a personal angle, Kenton said that it is important for him to separate his work-life balance. "I have tried to get out of the habit of acting on something when it occurs to me out of office hours. If I send an email to someone on a Saturday morning, I don't want them to feel obligated to respond the same day."

Working nine to five doesn't mean a balanced lifestyle

GlobalWebIndex, a target audience company, conducted research on 17,000 different professionals aged 16 to 64 across 10 countries including Australia, Brazil, France, India, UK and US. Their statistics showed that work-life balance has gone into disarray since the start of the pandemic with people across businesses working longer hours and taking on more work. 

In the UK, 60% of business leaders are more likely to say they "always" work overtime, or later, than less senior staff in their company according to the survey.

Chase Buckle, trends manager at GlobalWebIndex, told Business Insider that "a good work-life balance doesn't mean sticking to the confines of nine to five every day." He said that the survey showed that those who are more contactable outside of working hours tend to have a better work-life balance because there is no strict working week, nor weekend curfews. 

"When people are given more freedom to work, there are improvements in work-life balance, and therefore mental health," he said.

GlobalWebIndex's data also showed that the industries with the highest number of business leaders working overtime or late, and checking emails outside of working hours are education, research and healthcare.

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