If you’re going by the Harvard Business Review, executive burnout has been a problem for nearly 40 years.
“In my present role, I’m the guy who catches it all,” one executive told HBR in 1981. “I can’t seem to get people to stand still and listen … I don’t know how much longer I can last in this job.”
Now, 36 years later, Johnson & Johnson is finally tackling the problem in full with what it’s calling Premier Executive Leadership — a collection of physical, mental, and emotional programs designed to make leaders happier, healthier, and, ideally, less stressed-out.
J&J began the program in-house a year ago, testing the system out on seven of its own leaders. On Monday, March 27, the company announced it would be expanding the program by selling it to other Fortune 100 companies, Bloomberg reports.
The need for such a program has been building ever since the ’80s, as businesses have globalized and technology has made communication instantaneous. The dual trends have led modern CEOs to be on-call essentially all the time, dealing with business in multiple time zones all at once.
Plus, they are the face of the company. They not only have to get it all done; they need to wear a smile as they do it.
“A CEO’s role is probably the loneliest in the business,” Jim Hertlein, a managing director at executive-search firm Boyden, told the Wall Street Journal in 2013. “They’re expected to be always on their game. They’re not allowed to have a bad day.”
J&J’s new program acknowledges CEOs often have lots of bad days, filled with stressful meetings, poor nutrition, and little exercise. And since they’re as human as everyone, they need healthy ways to cope.
Bloomberg reports that clients in the program receive three coaches — a dietitian, a physiologist, and an executive coach — who walk them through various stages of the process. The dietician, for example, monitors their eating habits and recommends ways to avoid fast-food binges. The executive coach helps them define their goals and (re)discover a sense of purpose.
On top of all that, the executive goes through two-and-a-half days of physical tests at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, to gauge their health.
The goal is that once leaders make it out of the program, they will be equipped with the tools to care for themselves when time isn’t on their side. If they run into stress at work, they will be able to recall their larger purpose: What am I doing all this for? When hunger pangs strike, they will have had the foresight to pack a healthy snack, because they know to keep their blood sugar up every few hours.
At a cost of $US100,000 per team member, not every company will be shelling out the money to keep their fleet of C-level executives well-balanced — offering extra time off and a well-timed conversation no doubt ends up being far cheaper.
But since potentially thousands of employees stand to benefit from happy, stress-free bosses, the price could be seen as a steal.
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