CEO's amazing calendar trick to highlight importance of balance

·3-min read
Hands holding phone with calendar app open, busy open plan office.
Do you find it hard to delineate between work and home? Here's one CEO's trick. (Images: Getty).

Balancing career demands and family can be hard enough even when there isn’t a global pandemic wreaking havoc on our habits, but now it’s reached a new level.

However, one Australian financial services CEO has a trick for encouraging his staff to take the time they need to establish and maintain a healthy balance: his calendar.

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“The CEO [is] role modelling the right behaviours as a result of some of the work that we [at Thrive Global] did,” said Thrive APAC managing director Alex Christou said while speaking to launch new book Your Time to Thrive.

“He no longer disguises the fact that he is picking up his children at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon from school; it's actually there in his calendar for everyone to see.

“[It gives] them permission to also do the same thing if required.”

It’s those sorts of small workplace changes that can reap major dividends, added Marina Khidekel, the author of Your Time to Thrive.

Thrive Global’s mission is to end the burnout epidemic and help workers establish healthier behaviours.

Leaders have a critical role in modelling and encouraging shifts away from overwork and exhaustion, Khidekel said.

And failure to do so will be costly.

“The cost to the global economy due to depression and anxiety is over $1 trillion,” Khidekel said.

“Our future is going to be defined by change and we really need to realise that, there really is no going back to normal... and the single most important quality to navigating change and uncertainty is resilience.

“The most successful companies don’t wait to react to challenges and crises, they’re not just trying to weather the shocks; they’re trying to use change and disruption to improve and expand and get better from the inside too.”

That begins with actually investing in workers’ psychological wellness.

“The smart [companies] know to prioritise the wellbeing of their people, and if they do that, they’re more successful.”

A new report by Atlassian revealed that mental health and wellbeing has risen to the top of employees' priority list, with career growth dropping down the list.

How does Thrive encourage better habits?

Founded by Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global is built on the fundamental belief that major life improvements can be achieved through microsteps.

For example, that could be taking 60 seconds a day to focus on your breathing, or to simply start your day by listing your three priorities.

Additionally, Khidekel, taking the time to mark the end of your work day by playing some music, going for a walk or even just symbolically closing the laptop can be the trigger required to remind our brains that work time is over, and it’s time to relax.

But it also needs to be integrated on a company level.

Higher ups need to unplug when they’re on holidays to make it clear that there’s no expectation for employees to do otherwise, Khidekel, said.

And while workloads naturally ebb and flow, rest after a particularly busy period needs to be a given, not a reward.

“At Thrive, we do something called Thrive time,” she said.

“When someone is going through a sprint or is working late nights to meet a deadline, or they worked over the weekend… we have to take Thrive time. So you work it out with your manager and you say, ‘I need a day,’ and you do it right after the sprint.”

This is the key detail: it’s easy to schedule breaks in for weeks after a busy period, but ideally it should happen within days.

“You do it, and it sends a message to the entire organisation that recovery is just as important as hard work. Recovery actually fuels creativity and productivity and investment in your work that we’re all looking for, so that’s super important to us.”

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