finance

Board directors are exhausted – new research



A boardroom advisor has called for urgent action to provide more peer-to-peer support for business leaders, following a survey showing almost 50% were susceptible to stress and exhaustion.

Mary Campbell, founder and chief executive of corporate finance business Blas and Resilient Corporates, said there was clear evidence of suffering in boardrooms.

“Many directors are focusing on the wellbeing of their colleagues but there is clear evidence of suffering in our boardrooms, even among the 38% of leaders who reported that 2020 had been a good year for their businesses.”

She added: “We really need to see directors taking care of themselves while they take care of others if we are to avoid widespread boardroom burnout – leaders in the NHS advocate peer-to-peer support.”

The survey of more than 500 chairs, chief executives, executive directors, non-executive directors, senior managers and advisors across the UK also revealed that 14% of them felt they had been forced to make decisions that they found ‘difficult to live with’.

Respondents to the survey came from the finance, commerce, education, government, energy, construction and chemicals sectors.

Despite the picture of fatigue and stress, fewer than 15% of respondents identified it as the main challenge for 2021, focusing instead on external threats.

In terms of this year, 29% said that the pandemic is likely to remain the their main challenge, while 14% believe it will be cashflow pressures.

Campbell said she initiated the survey to ‘take the temperature’ of the deals market in Scotland.

“I would have expected that by now people would be saying ‘we want to make acquisitions, there’s lots of cheap capital, there’s lots of good people around who are looking to change their business, change their way of life or they have been made redundant’.

“All of the things that in the past would have you coming out of a recession and saying there’s going to be a bit of deal fever.

“I crafted the questions about the easy availability of capital, lots of people available for hire and I expected there would be a big take-up with people having looked at the opportunities for 2021 – actually there wasn’t.”

Campbell said she was struck by difference in responses compared to previous surveys she has commissioned.

“If I was looking at this from an individual rather than a cohort, I would be thinking that person is moving from stress, is moving through anxiety and is heading towards burnout and with a very high level of fatigue.

“I thought wow there is a much, much higher level of fatigue in boardrooms than I had expected.”

She said that discussions with the directors surveyed had shown that deals that were previously planned and delayed because of the pandemic had gone ahead, but there was a limited appetite for new transactions.

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