Why do you think wellbeing is important in the workplace?
Wellbeing is so important in the workplace because it is a fundamental. Our workplaces are built on people and people are built on wellbeing. So it is the fundamental pillar that holds everything of your business together.
Business founders are the linchpin and the key asset of any business. If you don't look after your own wellbeing then that's a real business risk.
Do you think investing in your own health and wellbeing has made you a better leader?
Definitely. I think if I have good sleep then I'm going to perform better. I'm going to be less stressed at work, I'm going to be better able to lead my team. If you are a brand founder, or an entrepreneur, or a high level working executive, you need to have your good health. Because if you go down then so many other projects go down as well. It's a genuine business asset and it's something that we need to take really seriously.
Wellbeing for anybody in the workplace is not a nice to have. It's an absolute fundamental essential.
How can founders manage their own and their teams stress and mental health during a period of growth?
Managing fast growing businesses and managing scale is a real challenge. I saw that firsthand at my time at the Liz Earle beauty company when we grew from a team of two to a team of nearly 2000.
One thing to do is keep lines of communication open always. Also try not to get caught up in the stress of the working day. When your business is growing and you're successful, you're managing change and having to make so many decisions. Everything is so immediate. Let's stop and take a breath and not be rushed. At least have the opportunity to sleep on it.
I have an expression that my team know when they're hassling me . I'll say to them, "if it has to be now then it has to be no." Because I haven't had time to really consider it. It drives them crazy.
It's also important to hire people who are enthusiastic about your your purpose. People who share that vision, who know where you're going and what the objective is. It's not just about the bottom line. It's not profit driven - it's profit aware. It's driven by the need to create more happy customers who then go out and spread the word and tell others. That's how you build strong successful brands.
I think having a strong sense of purpose is really important not only to build a strong business but also to cultivate this culture of well-being . You know why you get up in the morning you know why you go to work because you believe in it. Purpose driven businesses are definitely going to be in a stronger place going forward.
What's the biggest mistake businesses make when looking after employees wellbeing?
Overlooking it and not seeing it as something that is an imperative.
I'm a real fan of allowing home working and flexible working hours. If you trust your team to be working for you and with you, you should be trusting them to work wherever. I don't want to have employees who have struggled through a lengthy commute and then arrive not in the right frame of mind to do a great days work. Not only is it expensive but it's expensive in terms of mental health and stress.
You have a strong Instagram presence. Do you feel the pressure to stay switched on and if so you ever digital detox?
Doing a digital detox once in a while is a really good business practice. I am my own worst enemy. I find Instagram quite addictive. My children tell me off. They tell me to put my phone down which is a real kind of reverse culture.
It's important to recognise it for what it is. I think when you use social media as a business asset, it's very easy to say, “I need to do this because I'm engaging with my business community and my followers." To a certain extent that is true but they don't need you 24/7. So I try not to post or do very much on a Sunday. That is technically my day of rest. I also have a cut off point of 9 o'clock in the evening where the phone goes down. In fact I try and not have any screen time at all after 9pm. And again that comes back to helping with sleep and protecting sleep as a business asset.
With an impressive 30-year career to date; have you slipped into any bad habits neglecting your wellbeing?
In the past I haven't been very good about exercise. I haven't prioritised that and I haven't realised the fundamental effect that that has on our body. As with most busy people I find it very difficult once the day starts because everything crowds in and takes over. So for me I now prioritise exercise. I do it first thing in the morning it's the first thing I do when I get up because then it's out of the way it's done. I regret the fact that perhaps in my 40s I didn't do as much exercise as I should have done, or could have done. I think it would have helped me perform better at work.
What tips would you give business founders that they can do today to improve their wellbeing?
Prioritise sleep. That has to be number one because without sleep. Business decisions don't happen necessarily in the right way. The optimum time is seven and a half hours so make sure that goes into your diaries.
Secondly, one of the great business assets that I've learned is to have better gut health. It may sound extraneous to work but it's fundamental because it affects mental health. It affects overall well-being immunity energy levels and more importantly than that it actually is part of our gut instinct. I've learned to rely on gut instinct as a business asset so many times.
I also encourage my team to look at getting better gut health. We always have kefir and kombucha and fermented foods on the go. And it's very easy to do because you just add it into your daily life. I'm not saying to my team you mustn't do this. You must give this up. I'm saying this is great. Let's add this in.
A fundamental piece of advice for all women is to check your hormonal health. It's such an important fuel for us and it can help in so many ways from how we feel to our mental state and protecting sleep as well. As we age our oestrogen declines and it's really important to be aware of that because that can make so many changes that affect us in the workplace.
Join us for our next AXA Growth Leader Series event on July 10; Leading The Future Workforce to carry on the conversation.