May 17, 2019
‘That’s Mental!’ - What is it really like to work in Professional Services?
By: Aaron Sherwood

Since joining Accenture, I’ve been on a personal mission to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental health, showing that it’s not 1 in 4 of us that are impacted, it’s all of us. Mental health touches everyone. It’s important that we begin to recognise this because the chances are that you, a colleague or a friend has been impacted by a mental health challenge. Whether we like it or not, this isn’t something we can simply “take offline”, leave at home and deal with outside of work hours. So yes, we work in professional services, but this does not invalidate the fact that we all have mental health – and I’m proud to work for a company that puts mental health at the top of the agenda.

I’m often asked what the work-life balance is like in the professional services industry. As with any job, it has its highs and lows. To be completely honest, sometimes it does get tough – but that’s okay. It’s okay because I get to work with some of the sharpest minds who empower me to be the very best version of myself. I find that the toughest challenges are the times of the greatest growth, so whilst in the immediate term things may not be going exactly to plan, all experiences are good experiences if you change your mindset and focus on how you are going to grow both personally and professionally from the situation. Linking back to my point about highs and lows – one of my personal values is perseverance and part of this requires a degree of resilience to bounce back from the lows. For me, resilience isn’t something you decide you have overnight. It takes time. Every project I’ve worked on so far has actively encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone, ask questions and explore something new, and this has actively fostered both growth and resilience for me.

However, it’s important to recognise that you do not need to weather the lows by yourself. Coming from someone who has experienced a mental health issue in the past, there have absolutely been times where I’ve felt anxious and out of my depth. But by having a strong support network (which includes buddies, mentors and career counsellors), I’ve always felt that I’ve had someone to turn to - so rest assured, you will always be supported at work. What’s more is that this is all provided confidentially – and resources also include a free 24/7 counselling service, online awareness training, professionally managed chat environments, and mindfulness and sleep improvement apps.

So how do you deal with this when you’re expected to work flexibly, operate outside your comfort zone and sometimes away from your home location?

I was recently asked by an incoming analyst what’s normal when it comes to working away from home. The reality is that there isn’t really a ‘normal’ as such. But in my view, that’s all part of the fun. In this job, it helps me to embrace the variety of day to day and learn to be comfortable with a different ‘normal’ each day. With the right people in your support system, you should also feel like you always have someone to turn to. Typically, each project has a ‘Life@’ account lead, which ensures you get to know your team both inside and outside of the workplace, especially as most people are working away from home. Additionally, our Mental Health Allies programme means there are colleagues visibly walking around the office with lanyards showcasing them as people you can turn to about mental health. Personally, I love this, as a major part of destigmatising mental health in the workplace is about creating a culture where everyone feels that they can disclose how they are feeling to their colleagues and line managers. If you ask anyone in this firm what the best thing about working for Accenture is, you’ll usually find the response being themed around the people. From my perspective, the more I have been open and honest about my mental health at work, the more I have learnt about others’ own hidden ‘bumps and bruises’. By standing up for what I believe in, I’ve learnt so much about the people working around me and this has been of tremendous support to me.

In summary, having good mental health should be your number one priority, not a luxury. It’s important to remind ourselves of the powerful difference it can make when we take a moment to find our support system and be there for others too. Not only does this help us thrive in our roles, but we can create an environment where everyone feels supported too. This organisation is full of incredibly supportive and encouraging people, so no one should feel like they need to suffer in silence.

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