Leading by example in the New Year

19 January 2022

January often brings with it the chance to reflect on the year gone by and think about the future. And if you’re a manager, your employees will look to you to set the standards that others will follow. So, the New Year is a great time to adopt a fresh approach and cultivate healthy habits that will support you and your team. Here are five ways you can lead by example throughout this year and beyond.

1. Prioritise your own wellbeing

In order to support your team to the best of your ability, it’s important to take care of your own health and wellbeing first. This includes getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, limiting your alcohol intake and getting plenty of good-quality sleep.

When your team observes you practising good working habits – like taking regular breaks and managing your stress levels – it sets the precedent for them to do the same. On the other hand, if you regularly work through lunch, stay late and take on too much, your team members might feel under pressure to do the same. So lead by example by looking after yourself first, which will enable others to follow suit.

Tip: Schedule regular breaks in your diary and make them non-negotiable.

2. Switch off

Whether you’re at home, on the train or in the office, technology plays a huge role in enabling people all over the world to stay connected and work effectively. But it can also encourage an ‘always-on’ culture and blur the lines between your work and home life. You might feel under pressure to work longer hours, keep checking your emails or respond to others straight away.

Although it’s good for your team to know they can rely on you, it’s also important to set clear boundaries between your work and home life. This can be particularly difficult if you’re working from home, So it might help to physically put your work equipment away out of sight, or turn your work phone off, to reduce the temptation of logging on. No matter where you’re working from, set a reminder in your diary to clock off on time – and most importantly – stick to it.

Not only is it important to physically switch off from work, but mentally too. You might find it helpful to go for a walk after work, read a good book or connect with your loved ones. Immerse yourself in something you enjoy to help you unwind.

Tip: If some of your employees work flexible hours, support them to do this where you can. But make sure that the rest of your team don’t feel like they need to work at the same time.

3. Talk about mental health

As a manager, you can play a key role in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, by encouraging your team to talk openly about mental health at work..

Starting an open and honest conversation about mental health is the first step and can have benefits for both managers and employees. It can help your team to feel comfortable opening up, feel understood and able to be themselves at work. It can also help you to be an authentic leader, spot the signs of poor mental health, provide early support when it’s needed, reduce sickness absence and increase productivity among your team.

So make sure your employees know they can talk to you in confidence about any personal or professional challenges if they need to.

Tip: If your team don’t feel comfortable talking to you, make sure they’re aware of the internal and external mental health support services available to them.

4. Organise regular check-ins

it’s important to maintain strong relationships within your team no matter where they may be working. In one global study, employees who hadn’t been asked how they were feeling at work during the pandemic, were 38% more likely to have experienced poor mental health. So, schedule regular catch-ups with each individual and take the time to find out how they’re really doing – both personally and professionally. Remember this can change daily, so continue to check in on everyone’s wellbeing regularly.

Make sure your team knows you’re checking in on their wellbeing, and not ‘checking up’ on them, which can cause added stress and pressure. Try to understand and empathise with each individual’s own circumstances, monitor their workload and make and adjustments when needed to support them.

Tip: Good communication can help employees to feel valued, connected and reassured. Make sure to keep them updated on any changes to your organisations working practices, policies and procedures.

5. Look after your physical health

Looking after your physical health plays an important part in taking care of your overall wellbeing. Regular exercise can improve sleep, reduce stress, increase energy levels and support good mental health – all of which impact how you and your team perform at work.

Lots of people resolve to get active in the New Year, so make sure to encourage this now and make a conscious effort to keep it going throughout the rest of year. Support your team to keep moving by suggesting ways they can keep active during work hours. This could be blocking out time for a team stretching session, going for a walk at lunch, or ensuring there’s enough time to get up and move in between meetings.

Now is also a good time to review your team’s workstation setup to help stop aches and pains from developing as the months go on. Ask your team to complete a workstation assessment, make sure they have the equipment they need to work effectively and ensure everyone understands how to set up their workstation correctly.

Tip: If you don’t need to meet virtually or face-to-face, why not catch up with your team members with ‘walk and talk calls’ instead?


  • People Managers Guide to Mental Health. Chartered Institute of Personnel Development & Mind, published September 2018.
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for UK employers. Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD)., updated December 2021.
  • Mental health at work commitment guide for employers during coronavirus. Mind., accessed 10 January 2022.
  • 8 ways managers can support employees’ mental health. Harvard Business Review., published August 2020.

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