Mental Health in the Recruitment Industry – Then VS Now

Mental Health in Recruitment

With the next 7 days being ‘Mental Health Awareness Week 2021’, I couldn’t think of a better time to share my perspective around where mental health in recruitment used to be, and more importantly, where it’s going.

At the start of my recruitment career, there was a large ‘work hard play hard’ culture. Personally, I thrived under the pressure and have many fond memories that I will always cherish. However, I do remember having a lot of colleagues who didn’t cope well with the environment and ended up underperforming, taking sick leave or leaving the industry altogether. I look back on that now and it truly saddens me; I often question how many of those individuals would have had better recruitment careers and stayed in the industry if they had worked in a supportive environment where they were encouraged to be open about their struggles. Unfortunately, I believe many did have huge potential and could have had successful recruitment careers.

Thankfully, today we live in a world where talking about issues around mental health and encouraging positive mental health is normal. Of course, there are still big barriers, especially in industries like recruitment, that’s why I’m honoured to be involved in Mental Health in Recruitment. I’ll be honest in saying that when MHIR’s founder Rhonda approached me about taking up an Advisor role, in addition to being incredibly flattered and surprised, I felt underqualified.

Although mental health is a subject I feel strongly about, and I’ve made steps to improve it in my personal life and business (VIQU literally stands for ‘Vitas Qualitas’ meaning ‘Life Quality’), I have never been a massive advocate of mental health amongst my peers or on social media, and I take the idea of influencing others in my industry extremely seriously.

Personally, I know myself and my team’s mental health and resilience has been tested over the past year, not only with the impact of Covid-19, but with the passing of VIQU’s Director Edward Barnshaw. In addition to being instrumental to the VIQU team, Ed was my best friend and business partner. Losing Ed was a massive shock and something no one could have seen coming.

The old Matt, the individual who didn’t really recognise other people’s struggles, would have swept his emotions under the carpet and wouldn’t have really thought about how his team were feeling. Instead, I reached out to Rhonda for guidance, unsure of how best to proceed in the circumstances. I was overwhelmed by her kindness and advice, guiding me to be honest with my team about how I was feeling and encourage open conversation about how they felt and everything they loved about Ed.

I won’t say that VIQU is a leading example of encouraging positive mental health in a recruitment workplace; we have a long way to go. But speaking with the other Advisors and Champions of MHIR is nothing but inspiring, and I do feel like the small changes we’ve made in the last year, including introducing working from home opportunities and structured maternity/paternity leave, will benefit our team, and I look forward to making more changes to support our team in the future.

I think the important thing to remember is that mental health awareness doesn’t just happen in one day. It takes time and the energy of amazing organisations like MHIR to encourage recruitment companies to take small steps forward. The way our industry has taken mental health awareness under its wing, especially in the last 12 months, leaves me hopeful and excited about the future of recruitment.

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