Work/Life Balance and the CFO
Work/Life Balance and the CFO
Achieving a work/life balance as an executive can feel like an uphill battle. CFOs are increasingly struggling to achieve this as their job role continues to evolve and expand. A recent survey found that CFOs spend two-thirds of their waking hours working, although they would like to be working only half the time.
Duke University and Grenoble École de Management collaborated on the survey, which offered the most comprehensive research on senior financial executives with responses from over 800 CFOs. Its findings suggest that CFOs work almost 70 hours a week and say their preferred work/life balance would be 50 hours of work per week. The desire to work fewer hours is consistent across the board, whether CFOs work 80 hours or 60 hours per week.
CFOs find themselves navigating a high-stakes executive role with their decision-making becoming increasingly more public with a wider profile across their organisations. Today’s CFOs find it harder to achieve a work/life balance as their responsibilities continue to move beyond finance to a more public-facing role.
We’re exploring ways that CFOs can create a better work/life balance through stress management, self-care, and implementing the right leadership strategy. At FD Capital, we work with senior financial executives to help prepare them for the next steps in their careers.
What is CFO Burnout?
CFOs are suffering from burnout as a result of their growing list of responsibilities. Today’s CFOs are doing everything from managing budgets to working on stakeholder engagement and overseeing digital transformation. When these responsibilities become too consuming, they can lead to CFO burnout.
Burnout is a form of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that can manifest itself in different ways. It typically manifests as a fall in production, along with irritation, sleeplessness, and occasional physical illness. CFOs who are experiencing burnout may suffer from sleeping problems and headaches.
CFO burnout impacts both their personal and work life. Suffering from burnout can lead to unnecessary errors, a drop-off in productivity, and decision-making mistakes.
Why CFOs are Struggling for a Work/Life Balance
The role of CFO has undergone drastic changes in the last two decades, evolving from a financial management role to a more strategic position. We’re seeing an increase in CFOs taking the step up to the top position, becoming tomorrow’s CEOs and business leaders.
There are several factors impacting how CFOs balance their work and personal lives.
- Too Many Manual Processes
Research by Datarails found that over 80% of CFOs have the most manual-intensive workload in the C-suite. It negatively impacts their work/life balance and leads to higher stress levels. Many find themselves navigating complicated systems and out-of-date technology that can lead to higher chances of errors. The same research found that 41% of data is still being gathered manually.
Not only are CFOs struggling with manual processes, but many of them don’t have the teams around them to allow them to delegate tasks. Research by Personiv found that 34% of CFOs named talent acquisition as their biggest struggle.
- Pressure From Expanding Role
CFOs are becoming increasingly focused on value creation, leading to increased pressure as their role continues to expand. They’re expected to make data-driven decisions, providing strategic insight to support the CEO. CFOs find themselves operating in high-stakes environments almost daily, from engaging with the board to tackling mountains of data and tracking KPIs.
- Navigating Technological Advancement
CFOs have unexpectedly found themselves at the forefront of technological advancement. They can utilise new tools and technology to offer better data solutions with the help of automation. CFOs face the challenge of navigating technological advancement while ensuring data security and cyber protection.
While this might sound like it’ll make life easier for CFOs, it often leads to more headaches. They take on the additional role of ensuring data security and ensuring optimised processes with continued monitoring.
How to Avoid CFO Burnout
CFO burnout happens, but it’s not the end of the world. Putting the right systems in place to support yourself can help you get through the worst of your burnout and come out the other side stronger. CFOs have to take care of themselves both at home and in the office.
Here are ways that you can avoid burnout as a CFO and manage your stress levels:
- Self-care comes first
While your career matters, self-care should always be a priority. Create a schedule that puts self-care first with a focus on your mental and physical help. Get enough sleep, have three meals a day, and regularly exercise. Many executives look at exercise as a way to relieve stress and improve their overall health.
Boundaries are the easiest way to create a work/life balance. Establish boundaries to separate your personal time and office hours and prevent them from overlapping. Set time aside every week that is dedicated to your personal life and family.
- Regular breaks
Your daily routine should include short breaks to help reduce stress and improve your productivity. These breaks could be grabbing a coffee or leaving the office to eat lunch away from your desk.
Develop a wellness routine that has mindfulness at its heart. Activities like yoga and meditation can naturally reduce stress and improve productivity. Exercise can also become a form of mindfulness.
- Build a support network
Every CFO needs a support network that can help them create a work/life balance and offer guidance and mentorship. CFOs can work with counsellors, mentors, or therapists. Having a network of other executives in similar positions can help form a support group of people who understand the problems and challenges you face. A support network can help tackle the loneliness that often comes with being a CFO.
Maintaining a Healthy Work/Life Balance as a CFO
Research by Asana estimates that 77% of executives feel stressed or exhausted with almost 70% considering resigning from their roles as a result. Maintaining a work/life balance is crucial to ensuring that you can continue your career and enjoy your work. Most CFOs find themselves making personal sacrifices for their career, leading to the need to make deliberate choices in their private life.
There are steps that CFOs can take to maintain a healthy work/life balance with efficiency being crucial to this. CFOs can create a harmonious balance between their private and work lives.
Here are ways you can create a better work/life balance as a CFO:
- Define what balance means for you
A healthy work/life balance looks different for every CFO. It’s typical to think that balance means an equal split, but this is rarely true for CFOs. Start your journey towards a healthier life by determining what your best work/life balance would look like. Do you want to spend time at home, or do you want to spend your personal time travelling or focusing on other aspects of your private life?
- Structure and routine
Structure is the backbone of a work/life balance. Establish a daily routine that separates your personal and work schedules. Creating structure provides rhythm to your daily routine to reduce stress and improve wellness.
Your daily routine requires good habits, including having a healthy sleep pattern and eating at regular times. Establishing your routine allows you to identify opportunities for better productivity, including deciding whether working from home or remotely might maximise your efficiency.
- Enhancing your leadership skills
Working on your leadership skills as a CFO is crucial to creating a healthy work/life balance. Invest in your skills and adapt the approach of lifelong learning to improve your leadership experience.
CFOs with strong leadership skills are confident delegating to their junior managers and utilising digital technology to enhance collaboration between departments. The growth in hybrid and remote working has led to employee well-being falling under the radar. CFOs should lead by example, enhancing their leadership skills to prioritise wellness and mindfulness.
Effective CFOs delegate. Being able to delegate is crucial to ensuring a work/life balance. Invest in talent acquisition and build a team around you that you can trust to delegate responsibilities to. Delegating allows CFOs to focus on the bigger picture and remove labour-intensive tasks that add extra stress.
Don’t look at delegation as solely task distribution. Delegation is a form of empowerment, preparing your team to inevitably step up. It develops trust within partnerships and demonstrates your confidence in your team’s ability, boosting morale and improving employee retention. Delegating reduces stress and provides your employees with a sense of accountability and ownership.
- Managing stress
Every CFO has their own way of managing stress. Most of them find their stress relief outside the office. Put strategies in place to promote your personal well-being, whether that’s embracing more outdoor activities or seeking tranquillity by enjoying a coffee break or going for a walk.
You want to have strategies for handling everyday stress, whether it’s listening to podcasts or doing a morning yoga class. Breathing exercises can help with decision-making and enable you to walk away from heated moments to reduce stress.
CFOs should also think about helping to manage the stress levels of their employees to create less stressful environments. Promoting stress management leads to better performance, employee well-being, and job satisfaction.
- Combating loneliness
CFOs often find themselves feeling lonely as a result of their stress, fatigue, and mental exhaustion. The cliché that “it’s lonely at the top” is often true. CFOs need to establish a network of other executives who understand the burden they carry and the challenges they face. CFOs can often set incredibly high expectations for themselves, making the loneliness worse.
A positive work/life balance requires CFOs to build a support network and manage their own expectations of themselves. CFOs are uniquely positioned to create a positive company culture that fosters togetherness throughout every level and promotes confidence.
While CFOs often find themselves being a mentor, they can also benefit from having a mentor or coach to work with. It might be a retired executive or a more experienced CFO at a larger company.
- Build a network
Outside of a mentor, CFOs want to surround themselves with support from peers and family members. A network enables CFOs to have people to turn to when they’re facing new challenges and need advice on how to troubleshoot problems. Networking and collaboration can bring other benefits for CFOs, helping them see how other executives achieve a work/life balance and take inspiration from them.
What makes a work/life balance difficult to achieve is the fact that CFOs struggle to unplug. The rise of technology in our everyday lives means it’s virtually impossible to unplug without physically switching off your phone. Even on vacation, you might find yourself checking work emails and touching base with your team.
Learn to unplug regularly, whether it’s turning your phone off after 8 pm or taking regular days off to get out of the office.
- Make every minute count
Time management is crucial to achieving a work/life balance. Make every minute count by scheduling and task-tracking your working day to maximise productivity and ensure you have free time at the end of the day. Implement time hacking into your day to make it easier to end your working day at the time that you want to.
Why Work/Life Balance Makes Economic Sense for CFOs
Achieving a work/life balance as a CFO not only makes sense for the executive’s quality of life, but it also makes economic sense. A lack of balance and self-care is counterproductive, which is well documented.
A 2021 study found that work-related stress costs businesses anywhere from $221 million to over $180 billion every year. These figures only account for the impact of absenteeism on productivity and not the wider impact of stress and fatigue on effectiveness. Recent research backs this up and suggests that the cost is closer to $300 billion when you account for decimated productivity, turnover, and other costs.
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