Carer’s Week: How being a carer can be difficult, yet empowering

This week, we’re supporting Carers Trust as one of our National Charities this year. Carer’s Trust work to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.

Olivia Perry, the chair of the Speakeasy Network, shares what life as a carer is like:

I have been a carer since the earliest age I can remember. I have seen just how difficult things can be for people with disabilities in our society, and I think it is fair to say that I had to grow up quite fast and that my experiences have shaped the person I have become today.

My brother is my inspiration for everything I do. He never complains about anything – even when in pain or when he has been treated unfairly. On a bad day, he will still make a joke and make everyone smile. I have no idea what I would do without his extraordinary memory – which has been proven to be more reliable and quicker than Google!

He never fails to surprise me or my family and has continually proved people wrong. He inspires me every day to be the best I can be.

A time I remember vividly is when I was 12 years old and my family spent the Christmas period in hospital with my brother undergoing a serious back operation. Cold turkey sandwiches were not an ideal Christmas lunch and even Father Christmas coming to visit didn’t distract from the situation. I could not have received more support from family, hospital staff and my school. This was probably one of the most important Christmases I have ever had. I have never seen anyone more dedicated to getting back on their feet. Within two weeks of having the operation, my brother was able to walk up and down the stairs with ease. He could not have done this without serious mental strength and bravery. Although it was a difficult Christmas, I have had the opportunity to see that level of dedication and perseverance which I may not have seen if I wasn’t a carer.

Caring for my brother has given me a sense of purpose, a wish to enact change, and break down barriers and the stigma around disability and carers.

At present, the young carer population (aged 16 – 25) is c. 376,000 people and the wider carer population age is seven million people. Carers can feel isolated and be overwhelmed by their responsibility and commitments from time to time. It is important to show support for people in caring roles.

During my time at Mazars, I have been in contact with many people from all parts of our business who are carers. Each experience is completely different, however, the more that carers in Mazars can talk to each other, the better. There are plenty of people to talk to that will empathise with difficult situations you may encounter.

I hope others will feel able to share their story, and that carers reading this know that there is always someone that will listen. Mazars tries its best to care for carers.

 

If you would like more information on how to support Carers Trust, please visit their website and use hashtag #CarersWeek to raise awareness of the charity this week.

The Stonewall Jubilee and 50 years of LGBT+ history

The change in social attitudes towards the LGBT+ community over the last 50 years seems sometimes to have been one of the most miraculous things of my lifetime. When you find someone who you love and who loves you back why should their gender matter? To an amazing extent, it doesn’t now.

However it’s easy to forget how hard fought and recent, this is. Pride this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Many of you will know the story. The Stonewall Inn was a safeish space for the queer community who had come to New York from all over the US looking for safe space. A police raid provoked resistance igniting the Gay Liberation Movement. A community systematically oppressed and excluded decided, finally, that enough was enough. An iconic moment in LGBT+ history. The last 50 years have provided many others: the abolition of Sec 28 in 2003 which prohibited the teaching in schools “of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”; the legalisation of same sex marriage in 2014; and the sheer emotion of the Irish Referendum the following year. But this wasn’t always so and to assume that progress was one smooth and painless progression would be to distort history. Because history often meanders, turning back on itself before going forwards again.

How did that change happen? Well how these things generally happen in the end. The community which was the demonised ‘other’ turned out to be your friend, work colleague, son, or daughter. Prejudice tends to crumble when confronted with love and relationship. We are all different from one another in different ways but (and this is the important bit) we are no less legitimate for that difference.

And this is where diversity and inclusion, the rights of individuals and the needs of business converge. Nobody who feels themselves to be ‘lesser’ or lacking in legitimacy (whether because of sexual orientation, gender, race or anything else) can possibly have confidence in their ideas and feel that they have a right to express them, to be heard. Any business needs all the ideas and creativity it can get. This is true now and will only become more so as AI develops. All businesses will need to become more creative. It is those businesses where people feel they can be fully themselves at work which will most fully unlock their most precious asset: the creativity of their people. As a result the corporate world has every reason to reflect this evolution in social attitudes and will sometimes be in its vanguard.

So let’s celebrate this mixture of joy and pain, heroism and struggle, the extraordinary progress made, and the lives of those who made it happen, both LGBT+ people and allies. Let’s continue to work together for acceptance without exception. But let’s never become complacent, because we know that history can otherwise meander, turning back on itself before going forwards again.

 

By Lindsay Pentelow

Lindsay is a member of the UK Executive team, a member of Mazars LGBT Champions Network and Management Group, as well as a Stonewall Ambassador.

Ramadan: an interview with Yasmin

This week, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan has begun. Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims, during which they fast (no food or drink) from dawn until dusk.

Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims as it is during Ramadan that the Qur’an, the holy book for Muslims, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by Allah (God). The blessings for a person’s good actions are multiplied in this month, and so you are likely to see Muslims not only fasting but also doing more charitable work and striving to improve their character and relationships with others.

We caught up with our colleagues to find out more about Ramadan, and what it’s like to fast:

What’s your name and where do you work?

My name is Yasmin and I’m an Insolvency Administrator in London (joined in January!).

How do you find fasting from a spiritual and practical perspective?

From a spiritual point of view, fasting makes me more thankful and appreciative of all that I have. Practically, fasting makes me more productive as I spend less time thinking of food…

How do you structure your day in Ramadan?

I usually wake up for Suhoor (when you eat before the fast begins) at around 3am, perform my morning prayer and read some verses from the Quran. I then go back to sleep for an hour or so, wake up and get ready for work at around 6am. After work, I go home and start preparing my Iftar meal with family to break my fast. Then I go to sleep to wake up and do it all over again.

What do you look forward to the most in Ramadan?

Spending more time with family, actively learning more about my religion and the overall communal vibe of the Holy Month.

Any advice for colleagues who are not fasting?

Yes, not even water.

 

Thanks to Yasmin for sharing her Ramadan routine with us. Check out our other Ramadan interviews with Sairah, Hem, and Ruzwan.

 

Ramadan: an interview with Sairah

This week, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan has begun. Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims, during which they fast (no food or drink) from dawn until dusk.

Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims as it is during Ramadan that the Qur’an, the holy book for Muslims, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by Allah (God). The blessings for a person’s good actions are multiplied in this month, and so you are likely to see Muslims not only fasting but also doing more charitable work and striving to improve their character and relationships with others.

We caught up with our colleagues to find out more about Ramadan, and what it’s like to fast:

What’s your name and where do you work?

My name is Sairah, I work in the Accounting and Outsourcing department in Birmingham. I’m mixed race, half Pakistani, half English.

What does Ramadan mean to you?

Ramadan is really a time for me to reset, both my body and my mind. It gives me the opportunity to humble myself, to reflect on the past 11 months and to be more conscious about the things I consume – both physically and mentally.

How do you structure your day in Ramadan?

My day starts with waking up for Suhoor (the pre-dawn meal before the fast starts) which falls around 3:30am at the start of Ramadan this year, gradually getting earlier. I will eat something wholesome such as porridge, some fruit, and a lot of water. I’ll then pray the morning prayer which takes around four minutes, and get a few more hours of sleep in before I commute to work (or work from home). I’ll continue my day as usual, being conscious of the activities I engage in. For example, instead of putting the radio on, I’ll listen to something beneficial such as a podcast. Around 8:45ish in the evening, the sun is setting, and it’s time to break my fast. I’ll generally visit my dad’s house where we have a large family dinner. I’ll start with one date and some water, pray the evening prayer, and then eat Iftaar (evening meal to break the fast). Many community dinners are arranged during Ramadan, so I like to sometimes visit the mosque where people gather together to do this!

How do you find fasting from a spiritual and practical perspective?

Spiritually, fasting makes me so much more conscious of the things I listen to, read, engage in, and say. During the month, I’ve got a lot more free time (you’d be surprised how much time we spend on food and drink) and this allows me to spend more time with family, friends, reading and listening to beneficial material. The only thing I struggle with perhaps is the change of sleep cycle!

What do you look forward to the most in Ramadan?

The vibe. The sense of community is much stronger during Ramadan. Last year on my way to the mosque to break my fast, a community dinner was being held in Mosely, Birmingham where I was kindly invited in. It’s not uncommon to see people praying in the corner of restaurants during this time and many I visited last year provided free fruit to break the fast with. The one thing I love is the increase in charitable giving and activities. For example last year there was a ‘rice drop’ where you could take a bag of rice to a container that was going to be sent as international aid.

Any advice for colleagues who are not fasting?

We’re not hypersensitive to you eating, so don’t worry! We might not have as much energy as usual, for myself this is usually due to lack of caffeine, so if any socials are organised, don’t be offended if we politely decline.

How do you celebrate once Ramadan ends?

I spend the day at my grandad’s house, where the whole family come around to have some food and spend time together.

 

Thanks to Sairah for sharing her Ramadan routine with us. Check out our other Ramadan interviews with Ruzwan, Hem, and Yasmin.

Ramadan: an interview with Hem

This week, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan has begun. Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims, during which they fast (no food or drink) from dawn until dusk.

Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims as it is during Ramadan that the Qur’an, the holy book for Muslims, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by Allah (God). The blessings for a person’s good actions are multiplied in this month, and so you are likely to see Muslims not only fasting but also doing more charitable work and striving to improve their character and relationships with others.

We caught up with our colleagues to find out more about Ramadan, and what it’s like to fast:

What’s your name and where do you work?

My name is Hemehra and I work in Internal Audit in the Birmingham office.

What does Ramadan mean to you?

Time to reflect, build up my spirituality and learn something new. This year, I plan to try and memorise a chapter from the Qur’an (The Holy Book for Muslims) as well as learn more about my religion so that I can put it into practice.

How do you structure your day in Ramadan?

Wake up normal for work (lie in compared to “normal days”) – 7:30am and go about my working day as usual. When I get back home from work, I pray and recite the Qur’an, before taking a short nap and then going to the gym. Once I return, I prepare for Iftar (the evening meal to break thefast with). After some food, I will get ready to go to the mosque for the night night prayer. By the time I get back from home from the prayers, not much time is left until the fast begins again, so I recite more Qur’an or read extra voluntary prayers before preparing for the pre-dawn meal again.

What do you look forward to the most in Ramadan?

Look forward to the opportunity of doing more good. I love the night prayers, the coming together of people for one purpose.

Any advice for colleagues who are not fasting?

Be yourself, don’t worry about eating in front of us. Be slightly mindful if you find us at a slower pace than usual.

How do you celebrate Eid (the celebration to mark the end of Ramadan)?

A nice early start, half the cooking is done the night before. We make way to the mosque for Eid prayer, and have a family breakfast, before cooking more and hosting for the family and ensuring plenty of games for the children.

 

Thanks to Hem for sharing her Ramadan routine with us. Check out our other Ramadan interviews with Sairah, Ruzwan, and Yasmin.

Ramadan: a day in the life of Ruzwan

This week, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan has begun. Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims, during which they fast (no food or drink) from dawn until dusk.

Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims as it is during Ramadan that the Qur’an, the holy book for Muslims, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by Allah (God). The blessings for a person’s good actions are multiplied in this month, and so you are likely to see Muslims not only fasting but also doing more charitable work and striving to improve their character and relationships with others.

We caught up with our colleagues to find out more about Ramadan, and what it’s like to fast:

What’s your name and where do you work?

My name is Ruzwan and I’m a Tax Manager in the Entrepreneurial Business Advisory team in the Birmingham Office.

What does Ramadan mean to you?

Ramadan is a month for me to take stock – in terms of my relationship with God, as well as my goals (spiritual goals, as well as non-spiritual goals), reflecting on what I have achieved in the last year, and areas where I have fallen short. I also look forward to what I want to improve and achieve in the next year, and use this special month as a training ground to make the changes required to achieve them.

How do you structure your day in Ramadan?

My daily routine is very different in Ramadan, as I try to make full use of agile working to start work when I have the most energy in the day.

  • The day starts by waking up for the pre-dawn meal, which will be at approximately 3am this year, before then heading out to the mosque for the dawn prayer (the first of the five daily prayers). After returning from the prayers, I typically take out a bit of time to focus on reading some Qur’an (The Holy Book for Muslims), before starting my working day at approximately 4:45am from home.
  • I will then head into the office for approx. 6am and will continue my working day until approx. 1:30pm.
  • By this time, I have already completed my hours for the day, and will leave to try and make it to the mosque for the second of the five daily prayers (the midday prayer). Here, I will again take some time after the prayer to read some more Qur’an, before collecting my son from nursery.
  • I will then head home and try to catch up on some sleep, before waking for the third prayer of the day (the late afternoon prayer).
  • The focus then shifts to spending time with my family and preparing to break the fast (start eating again) at approx. 9pm, which also coincides with the fourth of the daily prayers (the sunset prayer).
  • After a hearty meal with the family, (trying my best to not heave anything too unhealthy – although it can be very tempting!) I will then prepare to head out to the mosque again for the fifth and final prayer of the day, which during Ramadan is extended and typically lasts from approximately 10:30pm to just after midnight.
  • After the prayers, I will head home to try and get a few hours sleep before starting the day all over again.

How do you find fasting from a spiritual and practical perspective?

It would be a lie if I said that it was easy (especially with the day being so long during the summer months), but I can say that I feel amazed each year with just how the body adjusts to fasting. I’m a person who really doesn’t hold back from food and coffee throughout the year, but for this month I really cut back, which becomes relatively straight forward after a few days adjusting at the start.

Balancing fasting with work is a challenge due to reduced energy levels, but at the same time it really helps to keep the day focussed, structured and productive, as fasting is never an excuse to drop productivity – in fact it should be the opposite!

What do you look forward to the most in Ramadan?

Ramadan is a magical month for me because it gives me a glimpse of what I could achieve from a spiritual and productivity perspective outside of Ramadan. So I’m looking forward to reconnecting with certain goals which I have fell short on this year, as well as setting fresh goals for the next year and working to make them a habit during this month.

Any advice for colleagues who are not fasting?

  • Don’t worry about eating food around us – we are used to it and in all honesty it doesn’t impact us…yes, the fast includes food and water!
  • Be yourselves – but at the same time, be conscious of some of your colleagues having reduced energy levels during this month.

How do you celebrate when you finish fasting for the month?

We celebrate Eid when Ramadan finishes. We typically visit family members throughout the day, and are expected to have full 3 course meals at each house – considering the size of Asian families and thus the number of houses we visit, that’s a lot of 3 course meals! At the same time, it is a day of gratitude – thanking God for the blessing of the month of Ramadan and praying that we can continue to retain that renewed connection with God for the rest of the year.

 

Thanks to Ruzwan for sharing his Ramadan routine with us. Check out our other Ramadan interviews with Sairah, Hem, and Yasmin.

Volunteering at Crisis for Christmas – a personal story

In the UK today, there are almost 160,000 households experiencing the worst forms of homelessness, according to the national charity Crisis. This figure is expected to double in the next 25 years.

Homelessness is devastating, dangerous and isolating.

According to Crisis:

  • On average, homeless people die at just 47 years old.
  • People sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence.
  • More than one in three people sleeping rough have been deliberately hit or kicked, or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless
  • Homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.

As a firm, we’ve chosen to support Crisis as one of our national charities, and next week around the country we’re organising Christmas Jumper Days, donations to local food banks and other local services, to help fundraise as well as raise awareness of homelessness in the UK.

One member of staff, Vaishnavi from our Sutton office, has spent the last couple of years volunteering at Crisis centres over the Christmas period. She shares her experiences and favourite memories below.

‘Crisis at Christmas’ – it’s the time of the year I look forward to most

By Vaishnavi, Sutton

For most of us, Christmas is marked by a chance to indulge in every way possible. Families and friend meet, eat, we drink and make merry. But for thousands of people up and down the country, things aren’t quite so straightforward, and Christmas poses a uniquely difficult time for them.

‘Crisis at Christmas’ is a unique volunteer effort that provides immediate help for homeless people at a critical time of year. There are five centres in London and more than 8,000 volunteers come together over 10 days to make this happen. I have been volunteering, usually for three days, over the festive period for the last few years at these centres.

Everyone deserves a memorable Christmas and Crisis aims to do exactly that. Schools donate their space, companies and volunteers donate their time, materials and resources to give society’s most vulnerable a chance to experience the warmth and joy of a real Christmas.

Crisis at Xmas #CrisisXmas

My experience at the City of London Academy

Last year, I volunteered at the City of London Academy in Bermondsey.

While the students were away for their Christmas break, the school was converted into a small community. School corridors became high streets lined with hairdressers, dentists, a haberdashery, counsellors, clean showers and even an internet café. We the volunteers were the hosts and the most vulnerable were our guests.

The main assembly hall was converted into a cafeteria, dancehall and social centre with hot food served three times a day. There was always ping pong, arts and crafts activities and even the chance to take part in some karaoke. I’ve never heard a more beautiful rendition of ‘Have I Told You Lately’ sung by one of the guests, an older gent in a wheelchair. The simplest pleasures are sometimes the most precious.

Volunteers at Crisis are given a badge which denotes their name, and in some cases, this may be accompanied by a nationality should you know several languages. Dressed in layers and paired in couples or in groups, the motto is always to create an ‘everything is possible experience’ for society’s invisible and most vulnerable. When handed a toilet brush or the washing up liquid, the only thing to do is complete the required task and then ask for more.

There are faces you will always remember and expressions that communicate volumes. There are those who may be lost or, for some, a wrong turn made. Different languages and dreams whirling in a kind of controlled chaos. For some of the guests, this is the only opportunity to be off the streets and in a secure environment where they are not invisible. Guests and volunteers interact. Some of them share their stories, some just want to have a laugh, a bit of banter; a chance to feel human – visible and safe. Your only job is to make it memorable without judgement.

I wish homelessness did not exist and hence there was no need for these centres, but until that happens, I hope to be able to continue supporting this amazing initiative by Crisis.

Thank you to Vaishnavi for sharing her experiences with us.

 

How you can support Crisis this Christmas

If you have been inspired by this story, there are several ways you can show your support for Crisis over the coming festive season:

  • Sign up as a volunteer: you can help to make a real difference by applying to be a volunteer at one of the Crisis centres around the country
  • Buy a Crisis Christmas gift: choose a gift, personalise the card and Crisis will email or post it to the person you’re buying it for
  • Other ways to show your support: jump into an icy lido, donate urgently needed items, join a carol service or donate a few hours of your time to collect donations – there are lots of other ways you can get involved and help to end homelessness.

 

 

Photography provided by Crisis.org.uk

 

International Day of Persons with Disabilities – Spotlight on Irlen Syndrome

Disability can be unfamiliar to many, however, 13.9m people in the UK have disabilities. Over the next week, we will be sharing advice on how to become Disability Confident to end the awkwardness around disability.
The following article has been written by Lucy Smith who has opened up about Irlen Syndrome:
I discovered I had Irlen Syndrome as the age of 34! I never realised that what I was seeing on the page when reading was not ‘normal’ and I just accounted for my depth perception and glare issues as part of how things are….what a difference a year makes.
After getting diagnosed it really has been life changing in so many ways, I read for pleasure now without wanting to sleep after 2 pages, I don’t bump into or drop things so often, headaches and dizziness reduced significantly and I can deal with glare more effectively.This is me with my Irlen filters on my lenses:

Lucy Smith Mazars
When I read I see the page with the following distortions: Blurry, Halo and Washout. To give an idea of what it’s like for someone with Irlens please watch the video below.

More Information & How you can get tested

What is Irlen Syndrome?

Irlen Syndrome (also referred to at times as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress) is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. Irlen Syndrome can affect many different areas, including:
  • Academic and work performance
  • Behavior
  • Attention
  • Ability to sit still
  • Concentration
​Around 50% of children and adults with reading, learning, or attention problems have Irlen Syndrome. (https://irlen.com, n.d.)

About Irlen Syndrome

Adults or children suffering from Irlen Syndrome are likely to experience some, but not all, of the following symptoms and characteristics:

  • Slow reading rate
  • Poor comprehension
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Unable to retain and remember information
  • Not able to read for any length of time
  • Difficulty judging distances

Some of the characteristics of Irlen syndrome are generally being sensitive to light which makes reading in a bright light very difficult and the glare from the page can cause significant problems.  In some cases depth of perception is also affected which can result in difficulty judging distances, being ‘clumsy’ e.g. dropping or knocking things over.  It can cause difficulty getting on and off escalators and moving walkways.

Whilst observing a child or adult with Irlens you may notice one or more of the following:

  • Moving closer to the page
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Closes or covers one eye
  • Excessive blinking
  • Shades the page with hand or body
  • Falls asleep when reading
  • Narrows eyes or peers at the text
Some of the types of reading and writing difficulty experienced may be:
  • Skipping words or lines
  • Words appear to move and jump around the page or become blurred
  • Repeating or re-reading lines
  • Losing place
  • Reading is slow and hesitant
  • Missing out small words
  • Unable to remember or understand what they have read
  • Inability to write on a line
  • Writing goes up or down hill
  • Difficulty copying from the books or the board
  • Difficulty following musical notation
    (http://www.irlentesting.co.uk/about-irlen-syndrome/, n.d.)

​Correcting Irlen Syndrome can result in the following improvements:

  • ​Better comprehensio
  • ​Read faster and longer
  • Improved accuracy
  • Reduced strain and fatigue
  • Reduced headaches and migraines
  • Improved flow and fluency
  • Improved motivation
  • Improved academic performance
  • Better attention and comprehension
  • Better self-esteem
    (https://irlen.com, n.d.)

If this sounds like you

Go to the Irlen.com website and take their self-tests https://irlen.com/get-tested/

If your results indicate you may have Irlen Syndrome a list of registered practitioners can be found on their website https://irlen.com/find-an-irlen-test-center/​
Speak to HR if you feel this is something that may be affecting you, they may be able to help towards the cost of testing and lenses if you’re diagnosed.

#WeAreMazars: an interview with Irena

This week we’re joined by Irena, an Associate Director who works in the Global Infrastructure Advisory team. Irena tells us about how her career chose her, her main inspirational figures, and how stereotyping others is one of the biggest hurdles to creating an inclusive culture.

#WeAreMazars Irena

Catch up on our previous interviews with LouiseMartinSiobhan, Tracy, Monika, Lisa, Hemehra, Natasha, Tejal and Lindsay.

 

Tell us about your career – what do you do?

I advise clients in Mergers & Acquisitions transactions, specifically in acquisitions or divestments of renewable energy assets.

Why did you choose your career?

It kind of chose me – I have been in the same industry since I left university. I originally chose to go into it because I thought it was ‘cool’, and I really enjoyed being in contact with clients. A few years later, I can say that what makes me want to stay in this career is the fact that no two days are the same and definitely the client-facing nature of it.

Who has contributed most to your success?

A combination of people – from a professional perspective – it has to be my first boss: he believed in me from day one and helped me become a confident professional in a male-dominated industry. From a personal perspective, my parents and partner: they never doubted my abilities and have been (and still are) very understanding when I have to travel at short notice or work long hours.

What are your aspirations?

I aspire to become a Partner in the next five to six years.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Do the work and speak up!

What can organisations do more generally to create a culture of inclusion?

Unfortunately, stereotyping both consciously and unconsciously is a huge hurdle in creating a culture of inclusion. Implementing hard and quantifiable measures is the only way to break this. Over time, equal-treatment and equal opportunities will be a natural consequence, and no longer a target to work towards.

 

 

Thank you to Irena for taking the time to speak to us. We will be publishing more #WeAreMazars interviews over the coming months so stay tuned!

#WeAreMazars: an interview with Louise

This week, Louise from Manchester, an Assistant Manager, joins us to share her experience of taking part in Mazars’ National Challenge. We collaborated with the charity Sense to run activities in offices across the country in order to raise awareness for deafblind people and those with sensory impairments to help lead a more independent life.

Louise talks to us about the variety of activities that took place in Manchester, from Lunch & Learn sessions to the 370,000 step challenge, and the importance of teamwork and collaboration.

Catch up on our previous interviews with MartinSiobhan, Tracy, Monika, Lisa, Hemehra, Natasha, Tejal and Lindsay.

Louise Wheeler #WeAreMazars

Tell us about the Mazars National Challenge– what is it about?

For me, the Mazars National Challenge is the event of the year where the whole firm can rally together to support a really worthwhile cause while really challenging ourselves individually. This year we chose to focus on local office events, getting staff involved in local fundraising efforts and some fun physical challenges all in aid of Sense, a charity which focuses on supporting those with complex disabilities to help them communicate and experience the world around them.

Why did you choose to play an active part in the organisation?

I am really passionate about making an impact in the community through my work and this event was a great way to get the office together working towards one goal. In the Manchester we have had an influx of new joiners in the last couple of months so it was the perfect opportunity to get the different service lines together and the whole office mixing and learning about a charity which is doing some really valuable work in the community but maybe isn’t a charity many have heard of before.

What three things have contributed most to the success of the #SenseChallenge?

Firstly the support in organising and running the week from the MNC Committees, the office admin teams and the CSR group was absolutely invaluable. There are always more administrative tasks than you initially think when you first start these kind of events.

Secondly, the support we received from Sense this year was great. The Lunch & Learn sessions were a big hit in the office and was very inspirational to watch staff try and communicate without words!

Finally the willingness of staff to throw themselves in and get involved. At 4pm in the Manchester office we were almost 87,000 steps off our 370,000 step challenge but we rallied round had had half the office running laps around the office for the last hour trying to hit the target! After the final push amazingly we ended up 21,000 steps over our goal and was definitely the most fun Friday afternoon I have had at work in a long time.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned from helping organise such a massive initiative?

For me it was to ask for help at an early stage. There was a lot to think about and organise and importantly communicate to staff. I think everyone involved at local level organising was lucky enough to have localised committees and the national CSR group to share out the responsibilities and share success stories of what works.

How was Inclusivity a big part of this year’s #SenseChallenge, and what can organisations do more generally do to create a culture of inclusion?

Whilst last year’s #SenseChallenge was a really great event, this year was extra special in that we got to tailor our events to the staff in our local offices. It was important to us in setting our #SenseChallenge in the Manchester office that the target we set was achievable but also accessible by every single person. Our office step challenge allowed everyone regardless of fitness to get involved and encourage everyone to take part in their own way. We had some of our team going about their usual day with a step counter at hand, and some of the more competitive in our team spending over an hour running on treadmills. The greatest success for me personally in the day was having 60 members of staff all contributing their steps for the day. That level of interaction from the office as a whole is something we haven’t seen in a long time! There was no prerequisite of being the fittest or the fastest, just wanting to support the charity anyway you could. Funnily enough I had actually sprained my ankle the day before so was hobbling around but still managed to get a respectable 7,600 steps in on Friday!

By offering staff the opportunity to learn about challenges faced by others and working on common goals to support change, organisations can help introduce a culture of inclusion. Communication is so key to bringing people together, something that I think the Lunch and Learn sessions really showed, and reminded us that this communication does not always need to be verbal. But ultimately, organisations can only become inclusive if they attract staff from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. To do this they need to show outwardly as well as internally that the channels for voicing concerns or issues are reliable, valued by all levels of staff and that the support is there for anyone who needs it, regardless of what that support may be.

 

Thank you to Louise for taking the time to speak to us. We will be publishing more #WeAreMazars interviews over the coming months so stay tuned!