The current retention crisis is well documented. A record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, following another 4 million in July. HR and benefits leaders are working hard to reduce turnover and to fill vacancies.
Companies are rushing to offer wellness programs. Some like Nike, LinkedIn, Bumble, and Hootsuite shut down entirely for one-week mental health breaks.
These are great moves. But with so much attention paid to attracting and retaining workers, it is easy to neglect the needs of executives.
Executives want a return to office
Prialto released its annual Executive Productivity Report in October, based on a survey of 600 director-level and above business leaders. One of the most surprising findings is that 79% of executives want to return to the office – a sharp contrast from most employee surveys that have found up to 75% of employees want to work from home permanently.
The reasons executives gave for returning to the office were professional and personal.
Execs said they want to return to the office to be more productive, connect with coworkers in person, and have a better work-life balance. Few are motivated to return to the office due to cabin fever.
Too much admin work
But what should concern HR leaders is what’s behind the desire to return to office-based work. When asked what they most needed help with to be productive, 62% said “Administrative Tasks,” up 13% from 2019.
When asked, “What kind of work is the best use of your time,” 81% said, “Independent Projects and Strategy.” But it looks like admin work is getting in the way.
Then there is this—in 2019, 71% of executives reported getting six to nine hours of sleep each night. In 2021 that number dropped to 44%.
The picture these responses paint is one of leaders spending more time on administrative tasks than strategic work, and as a result, working more and sleeping less.
Lisa Kelly runs the Workplace Wellness Center of Excellence. In June, she called executive burnout the next pandemic. A recent study by Leadership IQ found that 67% of executives have also been less productive because of burnout, 65% admit that they have made mistakes because of burnout. Just 35% said they are mentally thriving.
Executives want to go back to the office to improve productivity, restore work relationships, improve work-life balance – and get more sleep. All these reasons contribute to a healthy work experience.
These findings echo what I hear as I work with executives every day and what I experience myself.
When the pandemic hit, I was overwhelmed trying to work from home. My routine was disrupted, the kids were home all day, and my teams were scattered. It was like I had to learn how to work all over again.
Talking to peers and clients, I hear the same story. Before the pandemic, executives were expected to be self-sufficient productivity machines connected 24/7. For many, that expectation increased while working remotely as the line between the home and the office disappeared.
How to support executives
Executives want to return to the office to restore the balance of strategic work, admin work, and the balance between their personal lives and jobs, which worked for them before the pandemic. What can companies do for executives in the meantime?
- The data from Prialto suggests that more or better administrative support could help.
- Lisa Kelly recommends forming peer support groups among executives. Sharing ideas and experiences with peers and colleagues can help.
- Leadership IQ says training on preventing burnout “is one of the least expensive and highest ROI activities” a company can offer.
As you rework how you support employees, don’t forget about executives. They might be less willing to ask for help, but they’re in need of it as much as anyone. As Lisa Kelly said, “Expecting executives to identify, prevent, or remedy their own work, stress, or wellness challenges in this current climate may only add to their already heavy burden.”