Top executives not immune to burnout, leadership working with zero error margin

The onslaught of the pandemic, emergence of the remote workforce, and the salvation provided by adoption of digital tools, has created irreversible changes in the corporate and business landscape. The role of a technology enabled remote workforce has been established as viable, as well as the capability to operate a business without a physical office. Preconditions of having an elaborate organisational reporting structure in order to be effective has been shown to be an overkill in today’s speed of change, yielding a more flat and agile way of doing things.

The continuous challenge of overcoming obstacles to business has been relentless in the near past. Top executives and workers are facing burnouts on a more and more frequent basis and this is not sustainable. Going forward expect to see innovation happen in all these areas, to help organisations and humans move to the next level of work efficiency.

Organisations must accelerate collaboration platforms, device and home network security, and reexamine cybersecurity best practices to prevent human error, points out Amir Kanaan at Kaspersky. In terms of leadership skills, empathy, clarity, authenticity, agility is now more crucial.

The types of organisational cultures likely to succeed are those in which C-level executive understands positive role of technology. When the need for collaborative leadership is so critical, senior executives need to work closely. To tackle burnout and stress, Kaspersky has launched CyberSpa.

Top executives are not immune to burnout says Christie Struckman at Gartner. While the superhuman responses required to address today’s challenges are fueled by adrenaline, the relentless sense of urgency is not sustainable, she points out.

The top four organisational competencies to deliver business strategy are talent management, technology enablement, digitalisation innovation, execution. Leaders have the right to prefer onsite versus offsite work, and if so, should be clear sooner rather than later

Executives should balance the work needs with employee preferences. But just know that employees are expecting to be offered hybrid working options. Gartner research suggests that by 2022, 47% of knowledge workers will be hybrid workers, up from 27% in 2019. And if you force your employees to go back full time in the office, you could lose 1 in 3 workers.

Executives need to understand how their enterprises make money or provide services and know the levers that impact the business model. Four skills are critical for executives, business acumen, digital acumen, emotional intelligence, relationship management.

The organisational structure is simply a tool to organise employees. Executives should focus on making sure their operating model is efficient and effective. Reporting structure is closest to where decisions they influence happen and manageable spans of control.

Executives need to modulate work so that employees get a chance to play catchup with other commitments and with home life. Telling employees to take care of themselves will more likely be followed if employees see the executives doing the same.

With all initiatives involving change, organisations need to recognise, softer side and leadership are most important facets of digital transformation, says Dr Paul Hopkinson at Heriot-Watt University Dubai. Technology leaders such as CIOs must adopt two positions within organisations, guardians of infrastructure and catalysts for business development and change.

High-performing CIOs should be allowed a voice in the boardroom so they can participate in strategic dialogues. CIOs should learn about creating evidence-based business cases for management buy-in.

Hybrid offers employees work-life balance, lower office expenses, help attract better talent and improve employee retention rates. In today’s volatile and uncertain environments, agility is key. A largely distributed workforce is here to stay in 2021 and beyond. In today’s uncertain business environment, the ideal executive is self-disruptive.

Flat organisational structures are built on agility, simplified communications, fast decision-making, distribution of power and responsibility, and making employees feel valued, says Eva Mattheeussen at DHL Global Forwarding. Companies have recognised top-down systems that treat some employees as superior to others lack agility.

Burnout is not limited to top executives and extends to the entire workforce. Pandemic had a largely invisible psychological impact on people. Not everyone could adapt to uncertain period of isolation, especially expatriate workers in UAE. To combat hyper-stress, organisations should recognise often-unexpressed need for emotional support.

Executives must learn the best way to connect with their teams and build interpersonal relationships to ensure company’s goals are achieved, feels Dell Technologies’ Havier Haddad. The foremost thing an executive must do is approach the current challenges with a new perspective. The most important skill senior executives need in a remote work structure is consistent communication.

The hybrid work model is here for the long run. The pandemic has shown physical workspace is not essential. With the right technologies, remote working can be successful and proven to increase efficiency. Another challenge faced was to ensure shift to remote work did not affect talent development.

Panasonic Marketing’s Hiroyuki Shibutani feels the top leadership is working with zero margin for error. Top executives also experience burnout, perhaps not at the level as other employees, and do not realise they are at their maximum until it is too late. There has never been a better or more urgent time for business leaders to reflect.

Business leaders now have a clearer picture of how resilient their business models are and where improvements are needed. With automation tasks taking centre stage, data security has critical and will remain so post-pandemic. Businesses have to implement technologies that allow employees to switch from online to physical to online.

Enabled by digital culture, they can use that knowledge to redefine themselves, reinvent work. A solution-oriented approach to work will become a more sustainable practice. Companies ready to reinvent and adjust to the new paradigm will succeed.

Injazat has begun evolving Injazat 4.0 with a new culture, founded on agility, speed, excellence, says Hussain AlObeidli. In today’s world, stress seems to be a part of every job description, particularly when you reach the C-suite. Along with embedding wellbeing into the workplace, managers need to foster a sense of belonging within their teams.

When you experience stress and believe it is something that will harm you, it is more likely to put you in harm’s way. Remote work can increase feelings of isolation and managers of virtual teams should make an effort to combat that.

Covid is the greatest possible test of leadership skills says KPMG’s Marketa Simkova. The pandemic has presented executives of the world’s largest organisations with greatest possible test of their leadership and personal resilience. Business performance amidst uncertainty, coupled with unknowns about the virus could challenge mental well-being.

Organisations that have flatter structures, with smaller, empowered teams tend to perform better. Fewer levels between employees also improves decision-making process, while lack of middle management delivers cost savings. The pandemic has intensified the need to manage change and make decisions more quickly. Organisations with several layers of management have limited agility. A culture of innovation, flexibility and customer centricity is key.

Remote and hybrid work set ups are dependent on the nature of the business and organisational culture. Remote work may not be feasible for certain businesses that require their employees to be on-site. 23% of organisations in Middle East exhibited resilience during the pandemic compared to 27% globally.

Looking at recovery, executives have to be flexible to the new normal by adjusting digital agendas to respond to continuous changes in market dynamics, feels Miguel Khouri from GBM. Digitally ready businesses were relatively faster to rebound from the crisis. Digital transformation initiatives are lengthy and complex projects in nature.

Executives have to be flexible and adapt to the new normal by adjusting digital agendas in terms of priorities. Taking into consideration business stability and uncertainty, executives should adopt agile methodologies. The ability to adjust to the new norms and moving away from comfort zones are important skills.

Ten leading executives share their thoughts on challenges faced by today’s business leaders, skills required to succeed, and organisational changes.