Don’t get me wrong; I love my job. But everyone can use a break now and then to reset, refresh and then return and conquer.
I’ve spent my entire consulting career in retail, a sector I’m fascinated with. I’ve helped launch a new fashion brand and helped a fashion house completely reinvent the way it works. I’ve worked on one of the biggest retail digital transformations in the U.K., improving the multichannel shopping experience.
The thing is, I’m not sure I’d have these experiences on my CV if I hadn’t twice taken special leaves of absence, thanks to the supportive culture and work environment at Accenture.
Focusing on family
I have three children, not to mention a number of interests and hobbies, from creating furniture and gardening to music. Time away from work allows me to put things into perspective. Consider what’s important in life. Recharge my batteries.
I passionately believe that when you step away from work, you, your company and your career can reap the benefits.
My first short-term leave was spent in Thailand. I’d just finished a session at a Thai cookery school when I got a call from my career counselor. I’d been promoted from manager to senior manager!
It was nice to know that my leave wasn’t a case of out of sight, out of mind, and that my career wasn’t suffering because I needed a break.
Supportive workplace culture
Last summer, I took off for a period of shared parental leave—not as a new father, but as a new father of three. I advocate people taking advantage of these policies when they’re offered and giving themselves a bit of space.
My eldest children are six and four. I was able to spend the entire summer holiday with them, time that I knew I would never get back. I was also able to support my wife in a way that I hadn’t been able to for the first two kids, which made her experience of having our third child much more enjoyable. And it’s given me a different type of relationship with our newborn.
I loved every minute of it.
I’m delighted that we not only offer shared parental leave, but that I work for a company that genuinely wants to offer it. It really ties into our Truly Human culture and the importance we place on our people being their whole selves and not just company employees.
For me, it was about being there for my kids during the school holidays; for others, they might need to take leave for the arrival of their first child.
Our company culture allows people to make choices that are right for them and supports fathers in the workplace, in line with our gender-equality goals.
Stepping away to move forward
Taking leave has done no harm to my career—quite the reverse, in fact. I think it’s made me stronger as a person. More invigorated. More focused on my clients’ needs. Better prepared mentally to lead the business.
I always say that the main quality you need in consulting is to be inquisitive. Being away from the workplace enables you to feed your curiosity in new ways. I like to look at the world differently. I regularly take my children to different parts of London, or just spend a day out wandering.
Innovation is the name of the game in consulting, and most innovation comes from introspection and exploring the world around you. Accenture benefits from gaining new perspectives—and so do our clients.
Setting personal rules
Now I’m back in the office, and I feel I have a good work-life balance. One tip I always offer to make this possible is to make some personal rules and stick to them.
I take time for the things that are important to me, and my team understands that. I do Pilates one morning a week, which keeps me healthy, and I drop my kids off at school once a week. I stick these appointments in my diary and I don’t move them.
Taking that time keeps me grounded and able to focus on what’s important, personally and professionally.
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