Earlier this year, I launched a survey about mental health, which was promoted in the run-up to my talk at London’s Calling – thank you to everyone who shared their perspective and offered advice. This blog will explore the insights the survey brought to light in terms of best practice and how we can improve together – it’s especially important for the 36% who think that consulting has negatively affected their mental wellbeing.
Over the last year, I’ve found that a lot of the skills I’ve honed as a consultant are really useful in helping to manage my own mental wellbeing. As with any role, there are challenges we face as Salesforce Consultants (and other professionals), and sharing practical tips and experiences is an effective way to support each other.
Common Themes of Working in the Ecosystem
When it comes to Salesforce, there are common themes that can affect mental health:
- The vastness of it all can mean it’s tricky knowing where to start or how to specialize.
- It’s an ever-changing space, so it can be difficult to keep up with the latest updates.
- The huge demand for work can result in very heavy schedules and poor resource management by consultancies.
- The ‘grass is greener’ mindset can make moving to a new space seem appealing.
In 2022, Google saw the highest ever search volume for ‘Salesforce Jobs’, with a 15% increase during the last year alone. There are thousands of Salesforce Consultant jobs currently being advertised on LinkedIn, as well as the countless recruiters out there.
With more people joining the ecosystem and the pandemic setting new expectations of employers, it seemed like a good time to hear from the community and accelerate this conversation.
Here you can see the breakdown of positive, negative, and zero impact in terms of the relationship between working in consulting and mental health. Below you can see the four main themes that appeared repeatedly in the survey:
Historically in consulting, there has been a culture of working long, difficult hours at the expense of employees’ wellbeing, which has even been glorified in some workplaces. The Mason Frank Survey reported that full-time employees worked overtime more frequently during the pandemic and experienced burnout more often. Interestingly, it was the opposite with contractors!
As a result of widespread lockdowns and increased levels of remote working, we have embraced new ways of approaching our work environments. Some companies, such as PwC, are offering shorter or flexible working hours on a large scale.
However, even with this shifting trend, burnout remains a risk in all workplaces, so it’s important to be well equipped. Look out for the potential symptoms of burnout below.
Tips: Risk-Manage Your Workload
As consultants, we’re trained to spot, raise, and mitigate risks. These skills can be applied to personal wellbeing too! Recognizing risk factors and the early signs of burnout can really help, especially if it makes sense to you in a professional context – like risks and issues adapted from the RAID theory in consulting.
Think about the sorts of things that are risks to you and, crucially, try to understand what the mitigation might be. These can be really simple – for example: “during discovery sessions I lose concentration after a couple of hours, so I will make sure we schedule regular breaks.”
2. Wellness Benefits
Personally, I’m on the fence about whether these sorts of benefits should be offered by companies at all. I would like to see organizations make improvements elsewhere to support mental wellbeing before these measures are put in place. However, they can be a nice bonus!
For the purpose of this blog, we’ll be looking at the types of benefits companies offer and how they can be made more useful to employees.
This chart summarizes the survey responses about which wellness benefits are offered by companies. It looks at a range of wellness benefits, indicating whether they are being offered (lighter blue) or not (darker blue). Private Healthcare was reported to be offered the most globally, with 85% of UK respondents saying it is offered to them.
One of my favorite insights from this year’s survey by Mason Frank focuses on the reasons why people would accept a pay cut when changing roles. “Culture” is listed as number 1, which goes to show just how important it is.
For me, culture is a feeling. It takes ongoing consistency and development, and even then everyone will describe it differently. Try to dig deep and don’t look for quick fixes. Benefits (wellness or otherwise) are ranked 10th in the list.
Tips: Offer Inclusive Benefits (Your Employees Actually Want!)
Gym membership saw the highest proportion (60%) of people not using the benefit, even though it was offered. To consultancies offering this, I would suggest broadening it to be more inclusive – people have a wide range of exercise preferences and abilities. In the UK, benefits like National Trust membership can also be an effective way to encourage exercise in a more accessible way, with other health benefits too!
A top tip from Laura Brown, Employer Brand Manager at PwC, is to ask people what matters to them and check in regularly about how useful the benefits actually are. Offering budgets or a wide range of options will be the most effective way to ensure you are catering for a variety of needs. It also fosters a culture of communication in terms of finding what works for different people, and trusting your team members to share their insights.
Being able to say “no” is an important skill to keep in your mental wellbeing toolkit. 36% of survey respondents said they felt more comfortable taking time off in-house than in consulting, compared to 19% who said they felt more comfortable in consulting. This contrast is one of the starkest in the survey. With consulting, there is a dual pressure (internally and with clients), which can make it harder to maintain boundaries.
The definition of “work-life-balance” and what it means in practice is very personal. Think about boundaries like scope – what’s been agreed, and what can you reasonably do in the time you have available? What can be re-prioritized in order to adapt? Our energy is limited and understanding these limits can help to set effective boundaries.
Tips: What Works for Me
Here are some personal tips that work for me:
- Use your calendar effectively and make anything you are willing to share “public”. Managers, encourage a culture of checking and respecting calendars as this will really help with hybrid working. In Google calendar, I find color coding and the ‘focus time’ features to be really useful.
- During lockdown I tried out ‘commute time’. I no longer do this every day, but I notice the benefits when I do. Typically, this will be a walk in the morning with my husband, reading for 20 minutes at the start/end of the day, or putting the radio on and making a meal after work. This helps create some ‘buffer’ time or ‘space’ between work and rest, helping me to decompress and create some boundaries when working from home.
- Slack is what I’ve found the most difficult in terms of setting boundaries, but after a few years of trial and error, I’ve learned to keep it ‘off’ on my personal phone, set most notifications to mute, and use sections to remind myself that I don’t always need to check it. It’s a work in progress – as someone who’s easily distracted, I’m still exploring ways to use it and maintain my focus.
Share your own tips in the comments below!
There are of course mental wellbeing challenges that are specific to managers and leadership too. However, the survey focused on emotional support as there is a real culture shift happening in the world of work. It was really encouraging to see that 49% feel supported by their manager, but the comments indicated that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Much of these learnings can be extended to how you interact with your peers in general. However, for those of you in management roles, please do sense check on these things with your team, and take a look at the resources out there. Senior leaders, think about how you can equip your managers to support multiple roles and get the best out of the whole organization.
Tips: How to Be a More Empathetic Manager
It’s now well known that emotional security is a fundamental aspect of team success. Pei Mun Lim delivered an excellent talk at a previous London’s Calling event, which explores emotional security in the context of Salesforce – you can watch it via YouTube.
Managers and other members of senior leadership are in a privileged position to uphold the values we have discussed to implement real change. Lots of existing tools continue to be useful, such as regular 1-1s, effective communication, and support in prioritizing workloads to avoid burnout. Alongside this, there are now specific courses available to help support the mental wellbeing of your team.
In summary, there is a lot to learn, but small steps each day will take us in the right direction. Work in a way that is effective for you; think about the project methodologies you enjoy and apply some of those principles to your mental health.
Here are some prompts to get you started!
- Support: Speak to your manager or a colleague about your mental health at work. Think about what works/doesn’t work for you and how you can support each other.
- Goals: Recognize that your time and energy is limited – use it in ways that work towards your goals.
- Plan: Draw up a process for mitigation or a ‘Wellness Action Plan’ you can refer back to (with your manager, if possible).
- Decompression Sessions
- MAD World Summit
- Mind Wellness Action Plans
- The M Plan (Own your Awkward)