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We live in a high pressure, fast-paced business climate. The line between personal lives and professional lives is blurring in our “always-on” world. In this non-stop environment, organizations are saying, “We know how to skill our people with the technical skills they need in this changing time, but how do we support our people to develop the mental skills and wellbeing to thrive?”
Accenture’s Kerry Townsend, Salesforce solution architect and MVP based in London, and Paul Billing, the Salesforce business group lead for Europe, discuss how they tackle these challenges and how you can mentally prepare your teams for the workforce of the future.
Q; How we work is rapidly changing. What does “Future of Work” mean to you in this fast-paced environment?
Paul: I joined Accenture in 1992, and while technology change and reskilling have always been important, the difference now is the sheer speed. We are seeing this at clients and in our own organization. Future of Work means we need to be perceptive and agile enough to respond to this pace of change and stay relevant in a way we have never experienced before.
Kerry: I agree with Paul, it is now the rate of change, both at work and in our personal lives. The digitization we are seeing also brings wider connection and transparency. We have greater visibility into what’s going on in the world and we expect more for the companies we interact with and strive for more in our personal and professional lives. This means people want to do valuable and meaningful work that is consistent with their values.
The challenge is, how do organizations create an environment where their people can learn and thrive, against this rapidly changing and sometimes conflicting backdrop.
Q: Most companies offer training programs to hone their technical skills, but why is wellbeing so important?
Paul: Most of us have busy work schedules and trying to balance this with other commitments in our lives becomes increasingly challenging. Six years ago, I made the decision to focus on my health and general wellbeing. I made some big changes, including reviewing my diet, taking up running, and developing a meditation practice. This has improved my physical health, gives me time and space to think, and gets me out in nature where I can decompress. All of this helps me be at my best every day for my clients, team, and family.
Our recent research found that 90% of workers have been touched by mental health challenges, either personally or through someone they are close to. When employers recognize this and create a culture that supports people’s mental health, they are more likely to speak openly, to know where to go for help or advice, and are more than twice as likely to love their job.”
I find this quite profound, 90% is close to everyone.
Kerry: If you want the best people, you can’t ignore this topic. With 90% of people affected, everyone knows someone who has experienced a mental wellbeing challenge at work, and it matters. Organizations that acknowledge and have a wellness strategy have an advantage when attracting and retaining people.
Like Paul, I know how my wellbeing affects how I perform at work and I aim to be at my best every day. I also acknowledge that I may not always achieve that. I know I am more comfortable with change when I am taking care of myself. This means eating healthy foods, getting exercise, getting time away from work, and making sure I get enough sleep. When I step away from screens and give myself time to think, I have more ideas and my solutions are more creative. I am also better able to support and enable my colleagues and friends.
Q: What changes have you already seen and what do you recommend that companies do in the workplace to support employee wellbeing?
Paul: I have seen fundamental changes as we have a much greater understanding of what enables us to be effective at work. When I started there was no such thing as yoga or a meditation session at lunchtime, and now that’s only one element of the wellbeing agenda we have at Accenture. I talk about the benefits of mindfulness with my leadership team. We put mindfulness on the agenda at leadership meetings to reinforce its importance and give people time to learn more. It is also important that we live and reinforce the behaviors, so when we need people to be present, we ask them to surrender their phones and close their laptops. Our chief human resources officer, Ellyn Shook, recently blogged about this on her LinkedIn page for World Mental Health Day.
I suggest developing a wellness plan and designating a team member who is responsible for keeping wellbeing on the agenda. This has to be “do as I do, not just as I say.” When developing a plan, consider how to support your employees with initiatives such as an Employee Assistance Program that offers counseling support, or a Mental Health Allies program. These focus on education, which might be in-person or online sessions about self-care. Programs like our Truly Human or Mindful Performance Program help create a healthy environment, such as having spaces where people can meet, talk and connect.
Kerry: Normalizing conversations about wellbeing and mental health is something that everyone in an organization can do. If you don’t have any experience with mental health challenges, be curious and start a conversation with someone that does. Get to know your colleagues and ask if they don’t seem okay. Some conversations are hard, and the automatic reaction is to try and fix the situation or shut the conversations down. With practice, anyone can learn to simply be present and listen.
At Accenture, we have active mental health ally programs in more than 20 countries run by over 4,500 trained employees. I am proud to say that I am a trained mental health ally and I join our continuous learning calls on mental health and neurodiversity. I am seeing more leaders talk about mental health and prioritizing their wellbeing which I find inspiring and refreshing. In this “always-on” world where the line between home and work are blurred, I am also seeing people establish their own boundaries by switching their notifications or devices off so they can focus their attention.
I was especially thrilled to see Accenture as the premier launch partner with Thrive Global’s recent announcement of their ground-breaking program in partnership with Stanford Medicine to help companies unlock better mental health. Implementing programs like these make employees feel valued, respected, and they perform at their best.
Paul Billing leads the Accenture Salesforce Business Group for Accenture Technology in Europe. He is passionate about driving technology-enabled business change with clients. Paul is a keen runner and an advocate for the importance of wellbeing and mindfulness in the workplace. You can connect with him here.
Kerry Townsend is a Business and Integration Architecture Manager in the Accenture Salesforce Business Group, a Salesforce MVP, Trailhead Ranger, co-leader of the London Salesforce B2C Marketer Community Group, and a London’s Calling founder and co-organizer. She has been working with Salesforce for over a decade with a focus on Marketing Cloud in the last three years. She is passionate about all things Salesforce and can be found posting regularly on Twitter @KerryTownsend.