In this episode of UpSw!ng I discuss the importance of balancing business decisions with positive mental wellbeing.

Last month we marked NZ’s Mental Health Awareness Week, yet at a time when the wellbeing of all people, (all genders, all ethnicities, all ages, all people) has never been so strained, it felt (to me) like it passed right by without the urgency and priority it deserved.

We have a crisis other than COVID-19 on our doorsteps, the mental wellbeing of everyone.  In my previous post I spoke briefly about the long-lasting effect of the pandemic on all people, however I feel like this is just the beginning.   We are yet to face new social dynamics as we navigate a world of the ‘vaccinated’ and ‘non vaccinated’ which will change the social constructs of the past – in some cases it could be positive, creating unity across groups that didn’t exist before, yet the worry for me is how it may separate people in new ways amplifying their mental wellbeing challenges.

Despite what we are witnessing today and recent research, mental health remains low on business priorities

In an article written on behalf of the Davos Agenda part of the World Economic Forum they state:

“Mental health is another global health crisis. And for global progress to be made, mental health in the workplace must be a priority for all business leaders globally.”

This is backed up by a study by Deloitte with some very sobering results from the Gen Z’s and Millennials who seem to be the most affected.

The future rests on healthy minds

With this wellbeing crisis here now, and growing, we need to do more than have one week a year to create awareness. Instead, we must embed wellbeing in every business decision, and these decisions are being made by leaders modelling behaviours that are associated with the positive mental health of the workforce.

I recognise this is far easier said than done, especially when today, our business performance is driven by productivity measures and financial targets. Many organisations in the current environment are down on their business performance and the traditional response would be to ask people to do more and do it faster.  These are asks of people that pre-covid may have been acceptable (on occasion) to push through some hard times, but they will not work today without breaking people.

It’s difficult, as at the end of the day we must create profit, so how can we prioritise wellbeing initiatives without risking financial targets?   


It’s time to get smart, how can you reach your targets without breaking your people?

It’s now time to think differently about how to solve (the right) problems, how to operate at maximum productivity in new ways whilst activating your strategic initiatives all balancing the wellbeing of your people.

Some things to consider:

  • Use technology to automate and to make the lives of everyone easier. If you are needing your people to do more, then invest in tools so they are only doing high value activities and automate the rest.
  • Learn how to make rapid data driven decisions, establish key measurements (just a few) and learn how to move quickly based on data.
  • Communicate, clear, concise, and inspirational content to your people, make this your superpower – this doesn’t mean communicate more, in fact you may be over communicating, but have effective and meaningful content.
  • Encourage agility, let your people self-organise, they will surprise you.
  • Turn off the noise, many organisations are running strategies with a lot of foundational and enablement initiatives, there is a lot of detail for people to consume. It may be time to turn the tap down on this for the timebeing (not the work, but the push of information about it, move to a pull for those interested).
  • Lead the outcome, not the process. Set clear goals and tracking measures and let your teams get the work done.

It is also the time to leverage the experts, those that have already learned the lessons, have navigated the pitfalls, and can guide you at pace to getting some important work done.  This should not break the bank either, as there are many experts that can offer short term, high impact advice to accelerate, and provide a level of confidence across the business, and the board.   If you don’t know how to access these types of resources, ask for help from your board, or just jump on LinkedIn.


Connect people to what they care about

Another challenge of the pandemic is the ‘great resignation’, which is driving greater stress on people with under resourced teams juggling high demand, new starters requiring onboarding, and the overall pressure it is putting on everyone in an organisation. 

In most cases, people are not resigning because they are “quitting”, they are resigning because their need to be connected to purpose has been amplified during the pandemic, and if they are not finding it in their job today, they will look for it elsewhere.  

I recommend this article from HBR around how to improve employee engagement, the extract that really resonated with me is about connecting people to what they care about. 

This could look like reviewing your mission to connect with the values of the people that are delivering it. Consider revising your business purpose demonstrating your organisation’s role towards positive social impact, and then show how the work people do relates to that purpose.

People need to see how their day-to-day work is connected to the organisations’ purpose, and feel they have a contribution and are accountable.   This goes for everyone in a business, from the chair, board, leadership, and every contributing person. 

Leadership styles that need to show up – How can I help?

For those of you who are New Amsterdam fans (like me), you will be familiar with Max saying, “How can I help?”.   This is one of the two forms of leadership that promote positive mental health of a workplace: Supportive Leadership and Transformational Leadership.

Supportive Leadership

Supportive leaders act as role models who take care of their mental health and talk openly about mental health to increase awareness, reduce the fears of talking about it and improve the well-being for everyone.  They model empathy and use regular check-ins with people – hence the phrase ”how can I help?”.

 Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is the other style of leadership that is associated with positive mental health, as it unifies people around a vision and clearly communicates the expectations on people to deliver, whilst amplifying value-based behaviours and feedback cultures. 


CEO’s and Boards, is mental wellbeing on your agenda?

Finally, CEO’s and Boards should have mental health on the agenda, considering how to think in new ways about the day to day running of the business to balance productivity and wellbeing, not just for now whilst we are in lockdown but with a long-term view (acknowledging the lasting effects we have yet to learn about).

Today, the simplest thing we can all do is to check-in with someone, and ask “are you OK?” or why not try “how can I help?”

About UpSw!ng

The content in this series is my perspective, open to discussion and healthy challenge, and welcomes ideas and collaboration should you wish to get involved.

It is my objective to represent diverse thinking and inspirational leadership towards a fundamental shift in the way technology and innovation can grow profitable NZ organisations, whilst making positive impacts on society.

What may feel dramatic now, will be considered visionary in the future!

Ready to take action?

I would be delighted to help you with your digital growth, get in touch at to start taking action, not just promoting a vision!