Is it really fair to expect busy leaders to support the wellbeing of their team?

It makes sense that leaders and managers impact the productivity and engagement of those in their teams. Both negatively and positively. In fact, isn’t positively affecting these two measures, at least partly, what leaders are rewarded for? 

But wellbeing?

You can hear leaders and managers everywhere, as one voice claim, “That’s not in my job description.” Perhaps they don’t really mean that, but rather, “I don’t want to get involved in that area as it feels like the work of a specialist.” Busy leaders may very well take the position that wellbeing should be every individual’s responsibility, not that of their line manager. A reluctance to engage in supporting the wellbeing of their team members and colleagues in the wider organisation, is understandable.

But, it is not great business. 

The human cost of poor wellbeing

Poor mental wellbeing alone, costs the UK economy a huge amount every single year. Depending on the source you rely on, it could be as high as £100bn per annum. Turnover, job satisfaction and engagement are all impacted by wellbeing. Nearly 75% of all productivity losses can be attributed to poor health and wellbeing choices. Recent research suggests that for every pound invested in wellbeing a return of between 5x and 11x results.

And yet… 

Whilst these numbers are interesting and important, they do not speak to the human side of the story. Poor physical and mental wellbeing reportedly results in 38 days absence a year… per employee. We should be asking ourselves some tough questions. What are we doing as organisations to exacerbate this terrible state of affairs and importantly, what are organisations doing to address this situation? It is well into the 21st century and yet feels like the worst of a modern day equivalent to the lives of those forced to work in harsh conditions in the era of the industrial revolution. We are supposedly living in enlightened times.

Leadership and wellbeing

We have long held the view that in organisations, “All roads lead to leadership.” Good or bad, leadership is at the root cause. And with wellbeing, there is plenty of academic research proving that leadership styles, such as transformational and servant leadership, are positively linked to improved wellbeing.  

So, what can leaders and managers do to improve things, when they are often under-resourced and overwhelmed themselves?

Firstly, let’s take a defensive position akin to The Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm. As a minimum, leaders and their organisations, should ensure that they do not make a bad situation worse. Look for ways to engage with individuals regularly and where issues are highlighted that negatively impact wellbeing, address them in a timely way. Axiomatically, this includes for the leaders and managers themselves, they are after all, people too.

Secondly, proactively improve. Systems and processes should be reviewed regularly to ensure that in adopting new ways of working, the old ways, now redundant, are actively dropped. Similarly for objectives: New in = Out with the old or the no longer relevant. Failure to do this in a disciplined way leads to overly complex approaches and worse, people working on things that are no longer relevant. Also, invest in developing leaders to embrace a wider and more sophisticated range of styles that they can adopt, which are proven to aid improve wellbeing. 

Finally, adopt technology to provide help address the issue at scale. Beware here though. If you ask colleagues to provide you with data you would be well advised to ensure that there are easily accessible support mechanisms in place should they need them.

If we agree that at a fundamental level, wellbeing is the responsibility of each individual, the role of businesses becomes that of supporting people in that pursuit. Not to act as a ‘nanny state’ but to empower leaders and members of their teams to manage their working lives and personal choices, to produce the greatest quality of life that each can achieve. Yes, it is the right, laudable thing to do AND it is good for the organisation too.

From us to you – Coaching Corner

Here are three powerful questions to help you think about how you can support your leaders and managers to facilitate good wellbeing:

  1. What does poor wellbeing cost the business every year? Are we content with the situation as it is?
  2. Are we using digital approaches as effectively as we can to help support colleagues?
  3. What is the predominant leadership style in the organisation and how can we change it to improve impacts on wellbeing? 


Wellbeing has both moral and commercial elements to it. The culture of your organisation will determine to some extent how much you are able or willing to meet the issues head on. So, will your own worldview.

Whether you are a leader yourself and/or a senior HR professional, you have a choice to make. Your actions don’t have to be grandiose, they could be as simple as role modelling effective wellbeing strategies yourself. You choose.

And if you decide you want to do something about it and would like to discuss how you can support your leadership cohort, whether through developing new leaderships styles or being supported by smart coaching technology, just set up a short call, we’d be delighted to help if we can. Best of luck.

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