Accenture, the world’s largest management and technology consulting firm, says that it is making efforts to cut down on employee stress as the bulk of its workforce has shifted to a work-from-home arrangement.
“It’s not like we’re working from home — it’s that we’re living in the office,” Jack Azagury, Accenture’s market leader for the US Northeast, told Bloomberg News. “We do need to be very careful about people burning out.”
Accenture shifted 95% of its half-million-person global workforce to remote arrangements as the pandemic spread across the world in March. The firm told Bloomberg that it has seen productivity increase with the change to remote work, but that it is actively monitoring stress and burnout.
The consulting sector is famous for its high levels of stress and burnout, where employees are often expected to work well above the standard 40-hour work week – similar to the long-hours culture of law firms. The added stress of client deadlines and (pre-Covid) extensive travel schedules contributes to high levels of burnout for early-stage employees especially. On the flipside, of course, is high compensation levels and strong benefits packages, and the promise of diverse and interesting work with high-performance colleagues.
With the office now being located at home, the workday for many consultants can last long into the night. And with the usage of digital collaboration tools, such as the popular Microsoft Teams, workers are always reachable and always available.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added additional stresses of its own, as employees worry about the safety of their friends and family, have to manage additional childcare tasks, and perhaps fear for the safety of their jobs.
The management consulting sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, as rattled clients cancel or delay projects amid an economic downturn. Accenture in the UK, for example, announced that it will be cutting approximately 8% of its 11,000 employees.
In order to combat employee stress, the consulting giant has asked its workers to end conference calls by 5:30 PM and to limit the number of big meetings on Fridays in the summer, according to Bloomberg. Accenture is also promoting training to help employees understand and tackle stress, and offering access to applications such as popular meditation app Headspace.
“We’ve been very focused on mental health and helping people make sure they take breaks,” Azagury added.