António Horta Osório: A story of successful stress management

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The Lloyds Banking Group boss took time off in 2011 following work-related exhaustion but returned two months later ready to retake the helm. What stress management skills can the rest of us learn from his experience?

Antonio Horta Osório was signed off by his doctor with insomnia after suffering from an insomnia-induced collapse. Osório told UK Newspaper The Independent, “with the benefit of hindsight, I overdid it. I focused too much on too many details.

He isn’t alone. Osório himself has said, “The official figures are that 30 percent of the population suffers from sleep deprivation at some point, but my specialist told me it was more like 50 percent.

A “burnt out” reality

For business leaders, the likelihood of suffering is even higher. A Harvard Medical School Study found that 96% of senior leaders admit to feeling “somewhat” burnt out. For a third, the problem is “extreme.”

The pressure on CEOs to be “always on” and not to show or allow for weakness or fatigue inevitably contributes to both the sleep deprivation and stress. Just business leaders are not allowed to have bad days.

Osório’s unusual move of announcing a two-month recovery may signal a change in approach.

Following a week resting at the Priory, the banking boss returned home sleeping eight hours per day – a massive improvement on the two or three hours at best he had been enduring.

The returning

Lloyds not only agreed to his return but supported him through the recovery to work process. This involved a medical assessment and individual interviews with each of the 16 other directors, as well as changing the management reporting lines to mitigate Osório’s previous micro-managing style.

The announcement that Osório would be returning to work was met positively by the City, with Lloyds shares enjoying a modest rise.

And Osório has some reassuring advice for others suffering from stress and sleep problems: “the other side of the coin of sleep deprivation is that you can recover from it completely.”

He took the opportunity to call for anyone suffering or who feels under pressure – wherever they work – to reach out for help: you can recover, so “seek professional help immediately.”