By Dr Lindsay McMillan
This week chief executive of BHP, Andrew Mackenzie made an extraordinary statement – Mackenzie, who has been CEO at the mining giant since 2013 said the higher he rose through the ranks, the more important it was for him to work less hours.
It is a statement that can be hard to believe. After all, the image of the CEO we conjure in our minds is the overstretched workaholic, putting in long hours and a superhuman effort to single-handedly manage the entire company. Coffee in one hand, board papers in the other.
It is with good reason that this stereotype was formed. CEOs work almost 20 hours more than the average Australian a week – in 2015, ceo.com found CEOs worked approximately 57.8 hours a week, which calculates to over 11 hours worked each week day.
So how would working less hours help you manage a more demanding role?
Experts say that overworking sends us into a “negative spiral” that slows our brains and impedes our emotional intelligence.
In a globalised economy, some CEOs work from several different clocks – accommodating for time differences for international business calls made early in the morning or late at night.
Sleep is a key part of ensuring we are at our peak potential so if work is eating up our rest time, we cannot perform our best at work the next day. Mackenzie said being rested allows him to accomplish more in four hours than in eight tired hours.
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, it is important business leaders do not overwork as their leadership position grows.
It is something that has been found in my own research; two-thirds of CEOs said they wanted to step back from day-to-day matters to focus on the long-term sustainability of their business. In short, CEOs begin to manage less and lead more.
The effect of an overworked CEO is even more far-reaching than their individual productivity as it sets a dangerous precedent for employees to follow. CEOs need to demonstrate that you can work sustainably and be successful.
For the employee who overworks, it is important to examine their own motives, whether they are genuinely under the pump from the boss or under the pump from their own expectations.
As an employee, if you are under pressure from the boss with an unrealistic workload, the conversation to be had is with your boss. However, if the real pressure is coming from yourself, the pressure to overwork is often rooted in the thought that this is what is expected.
In a time when the office never leaves your hand and follows you home, it is more important than ever to take stock and renew the workplace to make sure workplaces are happy, healthy and more productive.
Perhaps we can all take a lesson from the BHP CEO.