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!

#WeAreMazars: Martin

To mark #InternationalMensDay 2018, we’re joined by Martin who works in the Forensic and Investigation Services team in Birmingham.

Martin speaks to us about his career at Mazars, his encounter with former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, what good leadership entails, and how organisations should make work more manageable for expectant and new parents.

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

Tell us about your career – what do you do?

I started at Mazars 15 years ago in audit. In the second year of my contract I was asked to do a six week Secondment in the Forensic and Investigation Services (“FIS”) team. The case involved analysing a number of bank accounts from all over the world and tracing the flow of funds. This six weeks became six months and after some negotiation I moved full time into FIS. 13 years later I am now a Director in the team and take a lead in developing the investigation aspect of FIS.

Why did you choose your career?

I studied accountancy at University and vowed that I would not become an accountant. So after ignoring my own mind and not knowing what to do, I joined Mazars. I knew after a year that audit was not for me but didn’t know what I wanted to do. Luckily the FIS secondment came up and I loved the idea of investigating. I was lucky that Mazars gave me the opportunity, however fortunate, to try something I didn’t even know existed. Although, with most things there are bad days, I genuinely say I do enjoy the work I do and the challenges it presents.

Who inspires you?

Those that know me won’t be surprised to hear that I am going to say Sir Alex Ferguson. Having the privilege of meeting him at a Euro away game I was taken aback at the presence and aura that he had (must be the reason for the cheesy grin in my picture).
I have even more respect now than I did when he was in charge, as I have seen the team struggle for identity, purpose and motivation since he retired. This demonstrates what a great leader he was and how he inspired the players to achieve so much.
Whenever you listen to managers speak of Sir Alex its always how much he helped them and regardless of how busy he was, he would return calls and offer guidance to people learning their trade. Even journalists and referees that have crossed paths with him talk of what an inspiration and leader he was and often that the behaviour we saw was to take away pressure from his team and place it on himself. He was a man who never stood still and moved with the times as football became more money orientated and yet still found success. The fact that most players who he managed still refer to him as “Boss” shows the respect that he had. If I can be a 10th of the leader that he is I will have done well.

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

I think the worst leadership style I’ve encountered in my career was someone (not at Mazars by the way) that accepted all of the praise from a client on one task – yet on another task when criticism was given – they “hung their team out to dry”.
After seeing this, I consider as a leader, it is vital to pass praise down but to also be accountable for any criticism that comes your way. If you take the leadership role you have to be big enough to take the rough with the smooth. But another important lesson is that if criticism has come your way, you can explain to the team or just the individual (and certainly not in front of the client) what this was and turn it into a development point for all parties (including you as a leader).
When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?
A lot comes from within as I am an incredibly proud person with a strong desire to be the best I can be. I never want to let anyone down and regardless of how I feel I always strive to do the best I can. I hate to lose and my competiveness keeps me focussed. This can cause its own problems as I don’t always tend to ask for help when I need it and try to get things done myself.
I am lucky that I can rely on the support of my wife who often has to put up with the moodiness that comes with tough times.  She knows when I need a shoulder to cry on and when I need a kick to get me going. Also, I am now a proud father of 4 month old twins, so a smile from them puts things into perspective. Nothing is more important than family and with their support I feel as though I can get through anything.
What can organisations do more generally to create a culture of inclusion?

I feel organisations often look at a problem from one side and don’t consider everyone that can be affected. I have felt this since becoming a dad – I appreciate there are more options available to me, such as Shared Parental Leave.

Also since coming back to work, my life has changed dramatically – things don’t carry on as before. It was difficult surviving on 1-2 hours’ sleep and my ability to stay late in the office was limited. It not only had an impact on my work but also the team’s work and the service we could deliver to clients. Fortunately I have been able to explain this to the team members I work with and we are taking steps to increase the support provided to all expectant parents and their associated teams. I see Mazars as a firm that is really taking this on board and truly wanting to be more inclusive.

Therefore, to be truly inclusive, organisations should make sure they keep the lines of communication as open as possible. Being able to talk to your colleagues is really important.

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

#WeAreMazars: Siobhan

This week, we’re joined by Siobhan who works in the Business Support Team for Mazars’ Financial Planning based in Milton Keynes. Siobhan recently spoke on a panel for the launch of Stonewall’s Starting Out 2018/19 guide, sharing their experience of being a young LGBT professional. Siobhan tells us their career path to date, the main motivation for applying for Mazars, their most inspirational figures in life, and how they handle mental health difficulties.

Siobhan tells us the importance of maintaining an open dialogue at work for business as well as personal matters, creating an inclusive environment where people are not afraid to ask potentially awkward questions.

Catch up on our previous interviews with Tracy CharlesScott Weaver, Monika Salawa, Lisa Brennan, Hemehra Sajid, Natasha Ryan, Tejal Bhogaita and Lindsay Pentelow.

Tell us about your career – what do you do?

I work in the business support team in Mazars Financial Planning, based in the Milton Keynes office. I’ve only been in my role since July 2018 so it’s still all quite new to me!


Why did you choose your career and why did you choose Mazars?

I started out in various admin roles and the companies were pretty varied – events management, sports timing and clothing designers – but a lot of the work was very similar. I also worked in hospitality to make ends meet, working up to three jobs at any one time. I’ve never been afraid to hustle! A friend ended up referring me for a finance administration role at his workplace which was an insurance broker in Central Milton Keynes. I worked in various teams within the finance department, and was active on their Culture Committee for a time. We would organise social and charity events, and act as a voice for staff. I was in that role for about five years before I decided to move on, and I was discussing roles with different recruitment agencies. They suggested this job at Mazars and I thought it sounded interesting. In all honesty the thing that clinched it for me was looking up the gender pay gap data. I’d been following the articles in the media on all the data being submitted by various firms and I was getting really disheartened by what I was seeing, particular within the financial sector. Mazars still have a way to go but the numbers were so much better than others that I’d seen, including the firm I was coming from.

Who and what inspires you and why?

I think every person in my life inspires me to some degree, but the two people I think I look up to most are:

My best friend, Stephanie –hands down the person with the greatest strength of will and character that I’ve ever met. She’s always trying to look at things from different perspectives which I think is a really admirable and valuable skill both in the workplace and outside of it.

And my husband, James – the person who isn’t afraid to make the tough decisions, or do the things the hard way. His work ethic is something I really admire, as is his willingness to learn and adapt. He’s also endlessly supportive, and makes a mean macaroni cheese.

No matter what life throws at either of them they not only keep going but actively try to make things better in the world around them, both through their work and with people they know personally. They’re always happy to be a sounding board for my ideas, no matter how out-there they are, and give honest but constructive feedback. They’ve both taught me that the path of least resistance isn’t necessarily the best one, and to use my voice. They’re the people I try to emulate the most.

What are your ambitions?

I’m still fairly early on in my career, so I haven’t figured out exactly where I want to end up just yet. To be honest my main ambition is just to be able to go home after each work day and feel satisfied that I did my job to the best of my ability that day, regardless of what that means. Although I have been saying lately that I’m going to take over the world, so there’s that.

When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?

I have, or have experienced, a few different mental health difficulties since childhood. While it’s not easy or pleasant it’s meant that I’ve had a lot of treatments to help me manage my moods, which obviously comes in handy in times of crisis or stress. When things get tough, I give myself a set amount of time, anywhere from five minutes to a couple of hours depending on the problem, to wallow in it, and let myself focus on the stress. Maybe have a cry if I need to! Then when time is up I have to get going again. I can still feel upset – you can’t switch off your emotions after all, but now I have to do something about it if I can, and if not, then I have to just try to move on. I try to think less about the problem and more about how I’m going to manage or resolve it.

I’m also very fortunate in that I have a fantastic support network of family, friends and even colleagues here at Mazars, despite only being here for a short time. I always find it helpful to talk things over with someone I trust, even if it’s to have a rant and get things off my chest. Plus it never hurts to get a second opinion.

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

Stay open-minded. Understand that people are different, and will contribute different perspectives and ideas and that’s a really positive thing. I’m somebody who has first-hand experience of mental health difficulties and doesn’t identify as fully male or female but instead identify myself as queer/non-binary in terms of my gender. I know that people may not have much experience with either of these things so I’m always happy to answer questions or have a chat. Organisations need to try to create a culture of openness. They say there are no stupid questions but there can certainly be awkward ones! If you promote an environment where colleagues are happy to both ask and answer questions about their differences then you’re opening up a dialogue. You can remove the awkwardness and can start to celebrate those differences rather than tiptoeing around them or pretending they don’t exist.

I think it’s also important to understand that diversity and inclusion aren’t limited to things like race and gender. I feel very lucky to be where I am because I have no qualifications further than my GCSEs –I never did A-Levels and I didn’t go to university. Because of my mental health and my financial situation it just wasn’t something I felt like I could do. But I’m a hard worker and I’m eager to learn and progress. There are people like me in that regard all over the world, who may not have formal qualifications but are capable and can be developed. Look for new talent in places that would normally get ignored and you might be surprised at what you find. Inclusion needs to happen at all levels, and it’s everyone’s responsibility. Junior members of staff may see gaps that management haven’t noticed. If you’ve got that openness within your organisation, then junior staff will feel more comfortable putting forward their perspectives and ideas. This can benefit individuals and the organisation as a whole.

Colleagues will recognise their own differences, and will know if they need support in the workplace, so ask them! Check in with individuals and see if there’s anything they feel they need, or that they feel the organisation could or should be doing. For me, even if there’s not anything I feel that I need at that point in time, just being asked makes me feel more comfortable with approaching someone for help in the future. I think the networks within Mazars are a really good idea, and they’ve already made some small but incredibly positive changes. One thing that struck me when I joined was the fact that on my new-starter questionnaire I was able to identify myself as being of non-binary gender where most places only have Male and Female as their options. Change builds up over time and little things like that are a great place to start.

 

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

#WeAreMazars: Tracy

This week, we’re joined by Tracy, a National Senior Tax Manager in London. Tracy tells us about how she incorporates her values into her work and how to action some tangible strategies for success. Tracy contributes to our discussion around inclusion and gives us her opinion on how organisations can create a more inclusive culture. 

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

Tell us about your career – what do you do?

I’m one of the Birmingham Hub Leaders for the personal tax compliance services for clients and also have a part time role in National Tax dealing with the National Technical Training programme.

Why did you choose your career?

I had no intention of having a career in tax when I left college – I got an offer from HM Revenue & Customs as a Junior and started learning different aspects of tax, and became more and more interested in tax. It took off from there.


What’s contributed most to your success?

Being myself and bringing the values that I was taught by my parents when I was growing up into my role at Mazars. Respect people, treat people the way you would like to be treated, and work hard.  Keep on smiling

I enjoy the work I do which in turn brings passion and commitment to my role. I think I’ve demonstrated this by being at Mazars for just under 29 years. I would like to thank Liz Ritchie, Paul Barham and Rosey Blundell for recognising my ability and strength to be able to take on new challenges and roles within the business.

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

Having a sense of purpose – everyone in the Hub knows what they are doing and how to do it, but as a Hub leader I have to make a big difference by sharing a strong sense of why they are doing it and where it is heading.  I have to assist my team and colleagues with how to develop an understanding of our purpose and how each of their individual roles contribute to the success of the Hub in line with the firm’s vision for compliance going forward.

What’s one of the biggest advances you’ve seen at Mazars over the past 5 years?

Trying to take action against barriers of diversity by setting up groups, having open discussions and listening to all people respective of their gender, faith or sexual orientation to make a difference. Tackling the progression of women in Mazars has also been one major advancement.

What are some of the tangible strategies for success?

Enthusiasm – you have to be enthusiastic about the business and role or you will not feel motivated and you will not encourage your colleagues to be motivated.

Desire to learn – you can never know everything about your role, Mazars and the industry in general.  But if you are willing to always read, watch videos, learn from your peers and take up opportunities for training, this can lead to continuing success.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Always communicate but be prepared to listen and work as a team.  Always challenge yourself and be confident in what you do, never be afraid to ask questions and enjoy what you do. Find a good mentor and learn from them!

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

Challenge your biases and take new approaches to add value to the business, for example to encourage staff to share their cultural heritage with others and make room for different cultural and religious celebrations. Organisations can embrace the differences of their staff – an organisation is only as valuable as the talent it retains and attracts! Finally, organisations should commit with a purpose – leaders of organisations need to show that they are committed to inclusion and ensure this is communicated externally – not just within the organisation.

 

 

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

Feeling stressed?

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To mark World Mental Health Day, Mazars Partner Tom Brichieri-Colombi shares his personal experience of stress in the workplace.

In June of this year, AccountancyAge published an article entitled: What we have learned about mental health at work, highlighting the results from its 2018 survey on this topic. The top two findings from the report were:

  1. Mental health is no longer a taboo in most workplaces, but there is still more to be done
  2. 74% of survey respondents said that if leaders shared their own mental health experiences, this would make them feel so much more comfortable in talking about it themselves

To mark World Mental Health Day (WMHD) 2018, I’d therefore like to share with you some personal reflections on this topic. You won’t find another post on this topic in a Mazars blog, but to help change attitudes, someone has to go first…

Since 1992 World Mental Health Day has been marked on 10 October. Rather surprisingly, given that my mum had for many years worked for the mental health charity, MIND, the first time I became aware of this fact was on 10th October 2017. I was sitting on the sofa on that Tuesday watching breakfast TV when Harry Judd popped up to talk about his mental health issues (and to sell his book, “Get Fit, Get Happy“), part of the BBC’s feature on WMHD.

I’m not usually a fan of daytime TV, but this was not a usual day. I had just returned from seeing my doctor who had signed me off work for stress: this was the start of five weeks away from the office.

My experience of stress at work

As a partner in an accounting firm, one is expected to work hard, and I am not one to hold back from putting in the hours. The run up to last October had been particularly tough, as I had been in the midst of an international team merger. It was an exciting time, but one filled with new challenges across people, technology, processes, clients and projects; with team members based in the UK, India, Australia and the US: someone, somewhere was always working, and wanting to be in touch. I had found my stress levels rising, sleeping hours decreasing, and weight increasing. I ignored pleas from my family to take my foot off the gas, until I met the straw that broke the camel’s back: my youngest son’s 8th birthday (those who are parents will know that these can be stressful occasions!).

Like many professionals, “admitting defeat” (AKA taking a break from work) is not an easy thing to do, as we are aware of the pressure that this will pile on to colleagues as well as the potential impact on clients. But on this occasion, I just felt totally mentally and physical exhausted, and unable to cope with the small things in life, let alone decisions at work. I also felt like I’d failed at my job.

 

What helped me

Having concluded that there was no way I could go into work the next day, I found I was fortunate to immediately get the full support of both my business unit leader, and senior colleagues in the business. In fact, it turned out that others had experienced the same issues in their careers, and were open in sharing this with me. As a consequence, I received strict instructions to turn off my phone and for my laptop to stay closed. It was extremely helpful to have someone in a senior position who could empathise with what I was going through, and also to allow me to see that it was possible to come through the other side and continue to build a successful career.

It was a tough time, learning to stop. During my absence I initially did a bit of sorting myself out: dry cleaning, dentist, medical, etc, but over the weeks also took some more meaningful steps, including signing up with a personal trainer. I caught up with some ex, and current colleagues and had some good conversations. Importantly, my time at home also helped me reconnect with my family – including taking on the school run, cooking dinner, and being generally more awake and ‘present’.

I received a number of kind messages from team members, and these we gratefully received.

After a few weeks I met up with both my managing partner and our national senior partner to discuss role changes and also explore what sort of professional help would be available to me. I was fortunate that the firm agreed to provide a series of counselling sessions focussed on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which incorporates mindfulness.  These sessions are continuing, and have allowed be to rethink how I structure my working and professional life.

After five weeks at home, which seemed like an age, I undertook a phased return to work. It was full time, but with different responsibilities, and a set day each week to work from home. If I’m honest, we could have done this return in a better way, but a lack of experience (all round) meant that we were learning as we went. I decided to be open with the wider team about my so sent an email to let them know why I had been away and how I would be coming back.

 

What I learned

Reflecting on my ‘time out’, there are a number of lessons that I have learned. First, if you ignore your mental (and physical) health, things will not go well for you. Neither your clients, or your team are served well by you if you run yourself into the ground. This might seem obvious, but when you’re caught up in an ever-increasing whirlwind of deadlines and problems, then things are a little less clear!

Second, you are not alone. More people that you might think are facing a tough mental battle. A recent study by Business in the Community found that 61% of employees have experiences mental health issues due to work, or where work was a related factor. Knowing this can make it easier to ask for help, either from work, or from outside (see below for some useful resources). My advice is to have a conversation at an early stage, rather than letting issues build up, and then potentially blow up.

I have also noted that my absence had had a significant impact on a number of people at work. I am very firmly ‘Generation X’, and many who are younger than me took quite a long hard look at my experience and asked the question: ‘if this is what happens to partners, do I want to work hard to become one?’. Therefore I’m now conscious that, as a partner in the business I not only need to ensure that I look after the mental and physical health of our team members, but also must show by example that you can also remain mentally and physically healthy whilst being a partner.

As I said in my ‘return to work’ email:

“Although it has been far from pleasant to go through this process, it has been quite a learning experience for me, and hopefully I’ll be better for it. It has certainly taught me to know my limits and think more about balance in my life. I would therefore encourage anyone who feels that they may be in a similar position to the one I was in to discuss this early, either with their line manager, HR rep, or with me.”

 

It’s not been easy to share this personal account, but I’ve done it as I firmly believe that it can help others who may be finding things tough.

Guidance for partners who may be experiencing ‘burn out’ can be found on the AccountancyAge website here

Other resources include Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA) and the Samaritans.

Tom Brichieri-Colombi is a partner in our Global Infrastructure Finance Team, based in London.

A spider and a sky god and what this means for Diversity and Inclusion at Mazars

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June Sarpong came to speak in the London office on 12th September about how organisations can create an inclusive culture where people can be themselves. June Sarpong then joined a few members of the team for a panel discussion. I was asked to sit on this panel to speak from the perspective of disability and mental health. I was delighted to also be on the panel with Ian Wrightson, Lee Cartwright and Tracy Charles who each have individual perspectives on diversity and inclusion from their experiences and understanding. The conversations were candid and highlighted that all of us have unconscious biases that we need to acknowledge and disallow to cloud our judgement. So, what does a spider and a sky god have to do with diversity and inclusion in Mazars? June Sarpong spoke of Anansi the spider and the story of becoming the keeper of wisdom against all odds. The story of Anansi showed the success of a combination of self-belief and opportunity. June Sarpong was able to mix Ghanaian storytelling, provocative concepts, and important takeaways for the wider discussions around diversity and inclusion in the workplace. What pleasantly surprised me was how engaged the audience were. All of the questions which were asked were difficult and key to the diversity and inclusion debates. This showed me that many people in Mazars want to get involved, have their voice heard and see real positive change within Mazars. None of us know what the answers are to make our workforce inclusive and diverse. What I think we need to do is ask questions. June Sarpong raised an interesting point in her ‘6 degrees of integration’. She asked us all to check our circle. Do all our friends look like we do? If this is the case it is important that we speak to other people who may not fit into the same category. This will help us to fully embrace one another and break down barriers and unconscious biases. We need to challenge ourselves to speak to different people and if you do not know what to say then ask questions. If we ask all of the awkward questions we will find out more about different people, be put at ease, and know how to make their work life as easy and full of opportunity as possible. Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’ – John F. Kennedy Ask yourself what you can do to add to the inclusive culture at Mazars for which we are all responsible and how you can actively have an impact on equal opportunities and making our workforce diverse.   By Olivia Perry Olivia Perry runs the Speakeasy Network at Mazars which aims to champion all kinds of disabilities in the workplace – from the more identifiable physical disabilities, to “hidden” disabilities.

#WeAreMazars: Scott Weaver

​​​For this week’s edition of #WeAreMazars, we’re joined by Scott Weaver. Scott works as a Client Relationship Administrator for Mazars’ National Creditor Services in Gloucester. We speak to Scott about his career thus far, who inspires him, and how taking parental leave at Mazars has benefited him and his family.

Catch up on our previous interviews with Monika Salawa, Lisa Brennan, Hemehra Sajid, Natasha Ryan, Tejal Bhogaita and Lindsay Pentelow.

Scott Weaver #WeAreMazars

Tell us about your career – what do you do?

I work in the National Creditor Services as a client relationship administrator based in the Gloucester office. My role revolves around providing support to the work winning team to identify new business opportunities and administering the processing of our clients’ insolvency claims.

Why did you choose your career?

After leaving university, I started working at PWC as a temp in Gloucester and continued there after being made permanent. Mazars then acquired the personal insolvency business from PWC and I have continued to work in personal insolvency since then.

What’s one of the biggest advances you’ve seen over the past 5 years?

The use of IT in my role has increased significantly. We previously has a high amount of manual imputing, however our IT systems have developed and this data can now be uploaded, which has increased efficiency in my team.

Who inspires you?

I would say my dad inspires me. Before his retirement he had a successful career, including working abroad, which gave me new experiences growing up. He has always had time for his family, taught me well and encouraged me to always try new experiences.

When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?

I’ve learnt to focus on the positive things I’ve done that day rather than the things I haven’t done. Setting small goals and learning to recognise what I’ve done right.

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

I recently took shared parental leave with Mazars taking 3 months off. This was a great benefit to my family as it allowed me to spend time with my two young children and allowed my wife to continue with her career. I also work compressed hours which helps manage my family life and shows how Mazars creates a culture of inclusion and diversity in a way of working.

 

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

#WeAreMazars: Monika

In this week’s edition of the #WeAreMazars series, we’re joined by Monika, an Assistant Manager in the Indirect Tax (VAT) team in the Bristol office. Monika shares with us some of the lessons she’s learned throughout the course of her career, her advice for the next generation of leaders and her thoughts on what businesses can do you create a culture of inclusion.

Monika Salawa Mazars #WeAreMazars

Catch up on our previous interviews with LisaHemehra, Natasha, Tejal and Lindsay.

 

How did you get started in your career?

During my time in high school I knew I was quite good at two subjects – creative writing and maths. It was hard to imagine a career path where both of those could go hand in hand, so out of the two I chose to study Accounting and Finance at university. It’s fair to say that my literature teacher was a little disappointed!

What do you think has contributed to your success?

I set up and ran my own coffee shop business while I was at university and this was by far the toughest, most rewarding and most life-changing process I have gone through. The skills I developed during that period – be it customer service, time management, tenacity or team management – helped me to become who I am now in both personal and professional life.

How has running a coffee shop impacted your approach towards work today?

Thanks to this experience, I can also look at my client’s businesses from their point of view and focus on the bigger picture, coming up with solutions which are not only effective from a tax perspective, but workable and which will benefit the business in a general commercial sense.

Do you have any tangible strategies for success that you can share?

Stepping away from the daily hustle of work and evaluating the bigger picture: where am I going, what are my targets and plans, is what I am doing aligned to the long-terms strategy and does it benefit me? I try to do this regularly to keep myself in check, and adjust as I go.

Who would you say has contributed to your growth?

I would have to say my husband – since the time we met while we were studying, he kept on encouraging me to push myself through difficult times to reap reward for hard work in future. He taught me that there are truly no limits to what we can achieve if we have a clear goal and strive hard enough.

Can you share a leadership lesson that you’ve learned in your career?

I’ve learnt that it’s fine to delegate and allow others to work at their pace and according to their ideas. It has always been a difficult thing for me to do; as a perfectionist I often wanted things to go exactly as per my plan, but I’ve learnt that by allowing others to contribute and giving them full control over specific tasks without micromanaging, we can encourage them to thrive in their own ways. And we come across ideas and solutions which we would not have found ourselves.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Know where you are going and how want to get there. Do not compromise your values in the process and be patient. All of the people I admire in the workplace or wider world worked hard and fought through hardship to become great leaders. Remember that often what inspires others is not necessarily achieving the goal but the journey you took to get there.

When times get tough, how do you keep yourself going?

As a Muslim I believe that everything that comes our way is a test from God – whether it’s a period of hardship or a period of happiness, it is placed in our life to help us strengthen and develop our character.

It helps to have a healthy distance from events in our lives and not to get overly excited during good times but also not to feel down when things do not go your way – remember that all is temporary, and just do your best in every situation. From a more tangible perspective, I find that listening to podcasts or lectures every morning on my way to work keeps me motivated and helps me start the day with enthusiasm.

Do you think that progress is being made when it comes to diversity in the workplace?

I love seeing Mazars and other businesses embracing diversity – and not only ‘accepting’ that people are different and do not all think or work in the same manner, but actively promoting diversity in the workplace. I think it is incredibly enriching to be able to draw from the experiences of people from all walks of life.

Finally, what do you think organisations can do more generally to create a culture of inclusion?

Organisations are on the right track with increasingly adopting flexible working models, openly encouraging the employment of people from diverse backgrounds and speaking about prejudice and unconscious bias.

More needs to be done to promote strong role models from diverse backgrounds; to inspire junior colleagues or new joiners to be brave to pursue careers they want. However, it is not enough to only speak about unconscious bias, we all must make sure we evaluate our actions on an ongoing basis and remain open-minded. ‘Different’ is not wrong, or strange – it’s just simply not the same.

 

 

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