Sunday, 6 November 2011

Business Basics: Looking after your health

The Head of Lloyds TSB, Antonio Horta-Osorio, is taking medical leave after suffering from physical and mental exhaustion.  There has been speculation about whether he will ever return, but thankfully relatively little suggestion that his illness showed that he was not up to the job.

There is a common machismo in business that can easily lead people to overwork without taking care of themselves.  It is an easy trap.  Office life is pretty sedantary, commuting is both stressful and sedentary, and much business life revolves around either lunches or fast food grabbed on the run.  It is easy to put on weight and take no exercise.  And to cap it all wine or beer often accompanies the lunch or dinner, or is an easy way to relax after a stressful day with the boss, co-workers or customers.  Holidays are distractions from the office, and thanks to blackberries and the internet often not even that much of a break.

I'm not being moralistic, and my wife will point out that I am guilty of much of the above.   Especially not taking at holidays and working at weekends.  My self justification is that my income depends on the level of work I do, and so a holiday costs double in both the cost of the holiday itself and lost income.

This cuts little ice.

And rightly so.  What we often dont think about it that if we do not take breaks, eat and drink moderately, and excercise well it actually interferes with our ability to do the job.  Maybe not in the short term, but for most people the working career is long.  And getting longer.  We can now expect to be at the coalface for 45 years or more.  That is a marathan not a sprint.

When we are stressed and have poor health we tend to make poor decisions.  We tend to be depressed and morose, or occassionally manic, and our judgement goes.  Of course we don't notice it.  But it happens.
And we are no use to the business if we have a heart attack (or worse).

Exhaustion is easy to fall into.  Your body and brain just pack up with the stress and exertion.  Some people come back more aware and able to prevent it in future.  Others never come back.
  So no matter the workload and the crisis, try to put some effort into looking after yourself.  Athletes train and watch their food to ensure they perform at the top level.  Business people need to do a bit of the same.  Only a bit - today I have just had a delicious bacon butty, but I did go to the gym.  I found that setting gym visits as a KPI helps me to go regularly - otherwise it is just something I intend to do but don't get round to.  I might not make my 100 gym trips per year, but recording how many I have done (and how many still to go) helps me focus.  For you it might just be scheduling a daily 10 minute lunchtime walk to the coffee shop.  My today list has a little section for personal development which includes going to the gym.

Your doctor probably gives you all the advice you need on this (mine has wanted me to lose 10kg for 20 years), and I don't to be another nag.  Just that you need to think about and prioritise your health to ensure you can work at peak performance for nearly half a century.  The usual suspects - watch what you eat, stop smoking, try not to drink too much, take regular holidays (ideally somewhere with no Blackberry reception - I recommend the Scottish Borders!), walk or take regular exercise.  You are no use to anyone if you are dead.

And incidentally the same applies to your staff and direct reports.

2 comments:

Safety Videos said...

All companies really should invest in improvements to worker safety and health by increasing the quality and consistency of information provided to workers, employers and users.
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Safety Videos said...

All points provided here are very useful and important for a growing business. Every employee must be aware of all these points for their role in promoting a safer workplace environment.
Safety Videos