A CEO is a human being, not a human doing

A CEO is a human being, not a human doing

Image: Poike / iStock

For many, coping with ever-increasing demands of modern life creates a brain overload, as we attempt to multitask, to manage our time and to make the right decisions.

Elizabeth is the CEO of a major company, and she is extremely dedicated to her organisation. Outwardly she’s successful, both trusted and respected by colleagues and business partners.

However, she finds that he sleeps little at night, doesn’t eat well, and is detached from the world around her. She feels as though she is living on autopilot: she is physically present when working or spending time with her family, but her mind is elsewhere.

It seems as though while trying to do it all, she is actually experiencing very little. While this is a fictional scenario, the story may sound familiar.

Unfortunately, this story may sound all too familiar. It’s something I both experienced and witnessed when working in senior roles at global companies and has become all too common in the modern workforce: stress.

It is like we are caught in our own personal bubble of stress and anxiety, and inside this bubble the volume has been turned up too high. Our connection to everything outside of the bubble is lost, which results in a lack of clarity and presence.

In the always-on world we live in, we are bombarded with constant distractions and are attempting to multitask at an alarming pace; we simply cannot keep up.

There is growing evidence that many of us are developing Attention Deficit Trait (ADT), making us distracted and impatient, and that mindfulness is how we can manage this ‘rewiring’ of our brains.

This is how we can keep ourselves and our employees healthy, happy and productive. Together, we can re-programme ourselves to become human beings, and not human doings.

Stress is an issue that has been a “hot topic” in recent years, with researchers citing it as a key cause for many issues affecting not just our mental health, but our physical health and overall quality of life.

In the business world, awareness is increasing of the impact of stress on businesses, but many leaders are still either unaware of, or in denial about, just how detrimental it can be.

Employee turnover and absenteeism are just two of the ways that stress can contribute to financial costs. For example, mental health conditions are a leading cause of illness absence in the UK, with over 15 million working days lost due to stress, anxiety, and depression in 2014 according to Public Health England.

A study conducted by Trades Union Congress found that someone in Britain is made sick by work-related stress every two minutes. This is costing the economy at least £70 billion, according to the UK Statistics Authority. 

So, how can we save money, properly care for employees, and combat the frantic work environment? The answer is mindfulness.

Studies show that every dollar spent on mindfulness training generates a $9.76 return. When applied to a business context, mindfulness is about cultivating resilience, compassion, and clarity to create more attentive and understanding leaders, and to achieve optimal performance throughout the organisation.

Evidence is growing on the benefits of mindfulness with wide-ranging outcomes such as increased focus and attention, improved decision making, enhanced productivity, plus reduced stress and anxiety, being reported by both researchers as well as companies that have implemented mindfulness programmes. 

There’s a growing list of global companies, such as Google, IBM, and EY that have integrated this transformative practice into their employee wellness programmes. 

The mindfulness Initiative, a private sector working group affiliated with the mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group in the UK, published a report in 2016 on the impacts of mindfulness training titled ‘Building the Case for mindfulness in the Workplace.’

The research found that companies who embrace mindfulness enjoy increased wellbeing and resilience, improved working relationships, enhanced performance and decision-making, and more creativity and innovation. Companies report that the result of this is a more focused workforce and a quantifiable, positive impact on ROI – their bottom line.

By implementing a programme and investing in employee wellness, companies can help to promote a healthy work-life balance, foster engagement and compassion, and change workplace culture for the better.


About the author

Dana Zelicha is a leading academic on the topic of mindful Leadership, and a former corporate high-flyer who’s firsthand experience with the mounting stress and pressure of the modern workforce inspired her to launch OWBA—The Well Being Agency. Her goal is simple: to help the organisational world become more mindful. 


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