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Home is where the heart is

Graeme Gordon blog

By Græme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity

​An enforced ‘detox’ can work wonders in professional services, writes Graeme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity Global Alliance.

As some of you may know, a few weeks ago I was running the Praxity Global Conference in Gleneagles, Scotland, where Managing Partners from around the world discussed the hottest issues in accountancy. Thanks to my great team, it was a very successful event. 

However, once both the conference and allied golf competition were complete, I went ‘home’. Not the home I share with my family in Buckinghamshire, England, but the place where I feel a starry-eyed sense of belonging – a little village at the northern tip of the Isle of Arran in Scotland.

This was the first time I had been back to Arran since I left for university 44 years ago, except for a few hours the day after my youngest daughter was christened 19 years ago.

A feeling of belonging

I was looking forward to my week on this magical island, as it would, I hoped, allow me to unwind and unclutter my thoughts. But I was also apprehensive that it would not live up to my expectations. I need not have been concerned. When I got there I felt totally ‘ay home’, as the locals say, and I knew I was where I should be. 

It helped having my wife and my dog with me, and the fact that the sun shone every day except the last, but the overall feeling was of belonging. 

It was almost visceral.

Whenever I breathed in the air, it felt like home. It was probably the purest air I had breathed for many years, but that was not the only reason it felt and tasted right. It was a deep down feeling of belonging, contentment, and almost serenity.

I recognise I am a very fortunate person, with a great family and a wonderful team to work with, and I do a job I truly enjoy. However, day-to-day life can cloud one’s perceptions and a ‘get-away’ like I have had is essential for clearing the mind. I now know that there is one part of this world where I can go and feel totally at home, while allowing the rest of today’s hectic, stressful and busy life to go on without me.

This is something I would recommend to everyone, especially professional services firms. A designated period of “enforced” slowdown or unwinding is not only valuable to the individual, but invaluable for the organisation itself.

Compulsory sabbaticals

At least two US accountancy firms that are members of Praxity have compulsory sabbaticals for partners. Every five years they must take a full month off. They are required to leave their company phones, laptops etc., behind and not communicate with the firm during this period. This not only lets the individual unwind, thus revitalising them for their return, and, I would submit, improving their personal efficiency, but also benefits the firm in other ways. For example, when an individual goes on sabbatical, they still need to ensure their clients and other work loads are taken care of. So this ensures that our clients and our work flow is able to continue at the same high level of service regardless of one individual’s absence. Thus the mechanism is always in place to maximise the support to clients regardless of one person’s availability. This ‘seamless’ support is one of Praxity’s key brand values.

So am I happy to be back home in England? Well, yes and no. I was very sad to leave our cottage on Arran, and will definitely be going back at least once a year now. But here, in the south of England, I am nearer to most of those who are very dear to me, and I get to go back to work, if not with a spring in my step, at least a twinkle in my eye.

It is an old adage but I think I’ve just proved to myself that ‘home is where the heart is’. My heart is both here with my loved-ones and friends as well as back on the north of the wonderful island that is Arran. I hope that wherever your home may be, you too can find a place to escape, recharge and get perspective.