“Got enough strength to lead?” A study of leaders’ experiences in life management and working life

The “Got enough strength to lead?” study investigated the importance of the balance between different aspects of life for well-being and coping. The study divided life’s different aspects into work, home, friends & hobbies, and health. Respondents were asked to evaluate the balance or load of each aspect of life in terms of possible underload or overload. The criteria for under- and overloading were defined by sub-areas and left room for interpretation. The study looked at how imbalance in some aspect of life affected life management as a whole. Other representatives of personnel groups were also invited to take part in the study for comparison.

A survey carried out by MPS Research in October 2019 was answered by 1353 Finnish representatives of management and employees. The different approach of the survey caught the interest of managers, as no less than 66% of all respondents were managers. 577 respondents were top management, representing 43% of all respondents. 23% of respondents were middle management, with the remaining 34% representing other categories of staff, the largest being experts (24%). Companies and organizations of all sizes were also well represented. Respondents were evenly distributed among companies employing fewer than ten people and organizations employing more than 1000 people. Also, respondents were fully represented on the basis of gender and age.

About 60% of senior management experience work overload

Research has shown that overload at work poses the biggest challenges to life balance, especially in senior management. Of these, 40% felt a slight overload and 20% experienced a clear overload at work. Senior management work overload most significantly impacted on maintaining social relationships and health, both of which had to be compromised. On the other hand, it did not affect home and family as strongly, meaning that people try to find and maintain a balance in these areas, even if in other areas the balance is weakened.

Senior management would like to reduce the average time spent on work by 1.5 hours

Respondents were asked to share their daily time spent on work, sleep, home, friends, and health. In addition, they were asked to indicate how much they would like to be able to spend on each activity. The most significant difference in terms of actual and desired time use occurred in the time spent on the job. On average, senior management wanted to reduce their work time by about 1.5 hours per day. However, time spent away from work would not be used at home, which was seen as the most balanced part, but added quite evenly to maintaining social relationships, health and sleep.

Sufficient sleep helps survive

Sufficient sleep was observed to have significant effects on coping and the feeling of stress. The results compared the results of the respondents with enough sleep and too little, and found significant differences. 60% of senior management respondents who received sufficient sleep felt that their health and well-being were at a good or excellent level in the past year, compared with only 26% of those who were getting insufficient sleep. The results were almost identical when looking at the experience of unhealthy stress at work. Insufficient sleep had the effect of depleting resources in maintaining health, as about 40% of respondents in the group would like to invest more in their own health. The same proportion of them felt a clear overload at work.

Concerns about continuation of unhealthy balance

Respondents were asked to comment openly on the biggest challenges they faced in coping and managing their lives. The comments strongly highlighted the concern about the continuing imbalance caused by work overload. While senior management are passionate about their work, it is just as important to take time to recover and recharge their batteries. In the long run, work overload will inevitably lead to an overall imbalance in life management and a depletion of resources.

“The continuous blurring of the line between work and leisure is strongly reflected in the results. Technological advances also bring unwanted things into our daily lives, one example of which is the constant availability of people. However, it was gratifying to see from the results, how even senior management strives to take care of home and family even under heavy cross-pressures. It was one of the aspects of life where most of the respondents felt that there was a balance”, says Niilo Mäkelä of MPS Research.

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