Home Spotlights & Interviews Spotlight on Clare McDonald at Oliver Wyman, UAE

Spotlight on Clare McDonald at Oliver Wyman, UAE

Well-being lead Clare McDonald provides insight into this key arena


Tell me about your role at Oliver Wyman?

I took on the role of Wellbeing Lead for the India, Middle East, and Africa region at Oliver Wyman in October 2023. The Wellbeing Lead is a new role designed to promote health and happiness among employees. I originally joined the company in 2013 as EMEA Talent Coordinator and progressed through several roles before taking on my latest challenge.

In many ways it is a dream role because it is something I am genuinely passionate about, having experienced the positive impact of focusing on my own physical and mental wellbeing. I love helping other people to develop themselves, seeing how it improves their wellbeing, and then measuring the impact this has at an organizational level. It’s fascinating and makes life so much more rewarding for everyone.

How is your personal experience helping you in your new role?

A personal health crisis when I was younger led me to make some drastic changes to my lifestyle in terms of fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness. I did a complete 180-degree turn and, as a result, I am now a marathon runner working as a wellbeing lead. I train regularly and I love to share the physical and mental health benefits of that. My confidence and mental resilience increased, I became more focused and had a lot more energy. This made me realize how important wellbeing is, not just for people and their careers, but also for the organizations for which they work. Mental resilience is key because when you build physical strength, you also build mental stamina and resilience, which improves self-discipline.

It’s a subject I’ve studied and learned from experience, and I’ve brought a lot of that personal knowledge to Oliver Wyman through our wellbeing initiatives.

What would you say are the biggest wellbeing challenges that you typically see?

Consultants are busy and their work can be stressful. There is often a belief that there isn’t enough time to prioritize wellbeing – people think work should come first, and health and wellbeing comes second or third, or maybe doesn’t even figure at all. In fact, what’s needed is a mindset shift: The priorities should be the other way around because when you are at your peak physical and mental condition, or in other words your best self, you will perform better at work – you will think clearly, have more energy and motivation, and your productivity and the quality of your work will increase.

How do you go about implementing wellbeing?

We take a holistic view of wellbeing that incorporates physical health, mental health, and financial and social wellbeing. We’re refining the programs, but there are three core pillars in our approach: employee support, wellbeing initiatives, and finally, data collection and analysis to track work life balance at the project level and hold managers and senior stakeholders accountable.

Employee support includes one-to-one conversations with consultants on wellbeing concerns. This keeps the subject top of mind and means everyone has a point of contact for wellbeing.

Data collection and analysis are done via internal Oliver Wyman balance surveys, which we ask everyone to complete once a week. This helps employees assess what went well and what didn’t go so well during the week, and how Oliver Wyman can support them. This survey gives us a dashboard that enables us to take a kind of pulse-check each week for all members of the team. We also have other important Oliver Wyman internal surveys around engagement, inclusion, and satisfaction.

I also work very closely with our HR team to address any wellbeing concerns or systemic issues on specific projects.

At a practical level, we want to ensure that the consultants, and indeed all employees, make time to exercise regularly, eat healthy food, maintain a good work-life balance, and generally consider their wellbeing every day.

How do you try to encourage employees who find it more difficult to implement lifestyle changes?

It’s important to accept that you can’t have a complete lifestyle overhaul overnight. I like to encourage people to start by considering  smaller steps they can take first, and then build on. A good question to ask is, “What’s one thing that you can do this week that’s a bit healthier than the week before?” I know that sounds basic, but one good habit becomes two habits, and then keeps on building and compounding over time.

How have employees responded to these initiatives so far?

Everyone’s really excited about it. They love the fact that there’s someone keeping an eye on this, and they feel accountable for their wellbeing. They also appreciate the additional employee support where they can discuss issues anonymously and receive guidance on how to navigate particular challenges.

Oliver Wyman extended its maternity and parental leave in the India, Middle East and Africa region. Tell me more about this.

The increase in parental leave means that all new parents in the IMEA region are eligible for six months of paid maternity leave, or eight weeks of paid paternity leave. This change gives consistency across the entire region, and brings the maternity leave offering in the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Qatar in line with what was already available in India.

This initiative sends a clear message to all employees that Oliver Wyman is a company that appreciates them as human beings and supports their wellbeing, making sure that employees can feel they can have both a long term career and  a family.