Being CEO doesn't mean family comes last

WSP's Mark Naysmith offers tips for how not to live out of a suitcase.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 29 Nov 2019

CEOs don’t have too much time for themselves. 

As PAs ferry you from meeting to meeting, town hall to board presentation, not to mention the steady stream of dinner events, media interviews and overseas trips that come with being the external face of the business, it can feel like your life is not your own. 

Family life can be the biggest victim in all of that, particularly when the business itself doesn’t take weekends off and never sleeps. 

But believe it or not, CEOs suffer from stress and burnout too. It’s absolutely vital for your wellbeing and the company’s to find a balance. After all, if you’re not at your best how can you be expected to make healthy decisions?

For Mark Naysmith, there’s another factor to contend with: the fact that his family is over 400 miles away for most of the week. WSP’s UK and South Africa CEO lives in Edinburgh, but spends his week at the engineering consultancy’s London HQ.

Here’s how he stays sane while living away from home. 


"I could easily be at a dinner a night, so I try to make sure that at least once or twice a week, I schedule some me time. That doesn't mean finishing at 5.30pm, but it might mean finding time for a swim.

"The most important thing for me to get the balance right is just actually having those home comforts around you, so I have my own apartment in London, which is a home away from home. It sounds daft but just having your own bed makes a huge difference. If I was just staying in hotels all the time or in company-owned flats I think I’d go mad.  

"The other thing I’ve always done is make sure that the adventurous part of my life is spent with the family - so we have a couple of really good holidays a year where we can actually switch off. And I do switch off when I go away. That used to be easier before smartphones and everyone being contactable 24/7, but you just need to make sure you don’t look at the business email too much.  

"If I don’t have a good enough team for me to be able to go away then there’s something wrong with the business model. It’s my fault if there’s a crisis and there’s not enough people to deal with it."

Image credit: WSP

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