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What did you want to be when you grew up?

07/08/18
Posted by: Louise Plummer
What did you want to be when you grew up?

Good question hey. A lawyer, an astronaut, a teacher, a footballer, a scientist, a doctor, a princess, a racing driver, a vet, a firefighter, a pop star and a pilot.

Some of those careers may have been unachievable by the time you left school, or perhaps you grew out of them. One chap in the office noted he wanted to be “first a roadworker, and then a spaceman. Yes, I think everyone wanted to be an astronaut at some point”. According to family I had very little inhibitions stopping me – a lawyer, a teacher, but consistently I’ve wanted to be a wife and a mum. Growing up, one of my (still) closest friends always said she wanted to ‘be a WAG’ – disclaimer, she’s not one (yet!). Looking at the list above, it seems the room full of recruiters that we have here had some serious career considerations to make!

But overall, I bet every single person out there can name the same thing they wanted to be when they grew up – happy.

Happiness.

What is happiness? And most critically in this case, what is happiness in your career? Your career forms the biggest chunk of your day to day life, time wise, if you work full time.

So, work. It’s a funny one isn’t it. It’s a place where, let’s face it, like it or not, we spend more time than anywhere else when we are awake, usually five days out of seven, 8.30am – 5.30pm, so it’s vital to work in the right place, with the right environment to support you. The average recruiter in this room, working JUST core office hours, would work 1,914 hours per year. A year has 8,766 hours to put it into context. I personally spend on average 9 hours a night sleeping – so that’s 3,287.25 hours a year sleeping (sounds great when you put it like that, but never feels enough in the morning!). With work and sleep so far we have 5,201.25 hours accounted for. If we take away sleep from the hours in the year, on an average we are working with 5,478.75 waking hours to fill with happiness. 35% of that time is spent at work. That’s over a third of your time. So we have to be mentally well equipped to start with in the first place at work.

Your mental health can really be affected by not having the right working environment, or even a role that you enjoy. It can be clouded by your perception of what you do, and the way you think that others view what you do. Mind (Mental Health Charity) notes that 14% of employees researched “agreed that they had resigned and 42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress affected them”, and that “30% of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’”.

I work in a business that is sales focused. There’s no two ways about it. Our main goal each and every day is to make money, and lots of it. How we go about it, well that’s down to each specific team. My job, more specifically now, is people focused; learning, development and training. I no longer work in the sales focus of the business, instead with the people within the business, and how we keep the people that work within TDM at the top of their physical and emotional wellbeing, both in and out of work.

In recruitment its paramount to recognise the stresses and constraints on our mental health that can be further compounded by the rollercoaster nature, much like many other sales roles. It’s a constant pressure cooker, working month by month, constantly looking both over your shoulder, checking you’ve performed well enough and hit targets, that all deals are sticking and that customers are happy, whilst looking forward to ensure you’ve got enough in your pipeline to keep going. You never get to switch off, and successes are celebrated whilst you’re chasing further successes.

Over at TDM we’ve been changing things up a bit. Instead of just focusing on how we make big money, we’ve been looking at our employees a little bit deeper; working out what makes them tick, what motivates them and most importantly what keeps them getting out of bed in the morning and coming into work. A lot of research has been done into the values of our employees (see our blog on the values elicitations we have undertaken). Having a healthy, happy and productive workforce is paramount to us, as is having a strong team who come together to battle any issues.

Mental health is rarely a subject discussed at work. It’s easy enough to come into work in a foul mood or upset because there’s something going on outside of work, but what happens when it runs deeper, and issues become larger? It’s far more commonplace to phone into work sick because of a physical problem; the flu, an infection, a headache, but we rarely hear of people phoning in due to poor mental health. Yet 1 in 4 people have a declared mental health issue, and 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, stress or depression. So why don’t we talk about these things more at work, particularly as these factors can stop people performing at their best? Surely we feel comfortable with the people we work with considering the amount of time we spend with them? Well, that’s not always the case unfortunately. Mind addresses this, detailing that “team work, collaboration and joint problem solving are increasingly demanded by employers, but these working processes cannot thrive in an environment where there is not mutual trust between employers and employees and where staff’s abilities are not valued. Engagement cannot happen without good mental health – research shows that when staff wellbeing is not supported, employee engagement declines, motivation and performance levels drop and staff retention is affected”.

Although some 11 years ago, a 2007 enquiry into mental health in the workplace (Mental health at work: developing the business case, Sainsburys centre for Mental health (referenced in Mind; Support for Employers) noted that stress and mental health problems account for 70 million lost working days per annum, and that employees leaving their jobs as a consequence of mental health costs the recruitment process as a whole £2.4 billion per year as employers account for the cost of staff turnover.

It all starts with breaking those barriers down and being honest with those around you. Admitting something isn’t going right or you’re not fully happy is never easy.

This year, I’ll lay on the line (oh that good old fashioned honesty!) has been an absolute corker for me. It’s done my mental health no favours whatsoever. A culmination of a number of events outside of work have completely floored me and definitely changed who I am. Yes, it’s separate from work, but yes it has also affected my presence at work.

Putting a positive face on at work when things are tough is challenging. I remember my first phone call back at work after my Dad had passed away suddenly. To put it lightly I wanted the phone to meet the wall and to just sit there crying – everything seemed so menial. Candidates were talking to me and it wasn’t registering, and their demands seemed so menial. I cried at men in the street, I cried in the toilets at work, I cried to and from work all the way. Neither TDM nor I knew how to deal with such a close bereavement, and so it was a lot of give and take and learning together as to what worked best. Now, when the time arises again within the office confinement with another member of the team, we have somewhat of a blueprint for approaching it.

The thing is, there isn’t a hard and fast rule book in place with mental health and the ups and downs rollercoaster of work. It’s learning as you go along, particularly in the development of people within a business. It is as much the employees’ responsibility as it is the employers responsibility to be open on the mental health front, be it big or small. Sometimes even opening up and admitting that you’ve had a bad day can entail similar standpoints from others, and eventually you can break it down and see that an issue shared is an issue smaller quite often.

On a basic level, responding to negativity and rejection in a work setting is individual, a situation evokes differing responses from differing personalities. Someone in the team may be able to bounce back within seconds when something goes wrong, take it on the chin and crack on with their day, not stopping to think about it, whereas someone else may need to take time away from their desk to resonate what has happened, they may go home and mull over it. No response is right or wrong.

However, for an employer its hard from the periphery to judge when to step in, and that’s something at TDM that we want to implement at work; a safe space wherein consultants can admit that things aren’t all dandy and we work on them together. Going forwards, building resilience within a team is paramount to us. This isn’t to say our team are falling apart, far from it in fact, however provides a buffer should anything go wrong one day. We want to ensure that leaders within the business understand the triggers of falls, and how to respond to them in order to support their teams and ensure they are well functioning, high performing teams at any given moment, having harmony across the business. 59% of employees researched by Mind alone said that they would feel more loyal to their employer if their workplace offered wellbeing initiatives.

It’s all about having humanity at the end of the day. If you can see someone is struggling or not performing to the best of their ability, how do you go about supporting them, instead of jumping down their throats at the first instance? It’s that ability to step back and not let your head run off in business mode immediately. Take our trainee academy for instance; what we have to remember is that the very premise of our trainee academy is that we have people join us who have little to no recruitment experience or understanding, so how can we expect them to run before they can jump and then have the tools in place to understand that sometimes things just go wrong at the drop of a hat with no indication, but can also pick back up again straight away? But that’s the same to be carried across the business in general.

The thing that I’ve learnt about recruitment is that as much as you can push it as sales and business orientated, every single person that you have working in a room could be going through something on the outside world, and you may not know, or you may know and not truly understand the impact. We all know that good mental health underpins productivity and activity within the workplace, so it really is something that we should be championing.

When our new academy starts later on in the year, we will be developing a mental health module, and likewise it is something we are tapping into for our current team also. We will be rolling our wellbeing initiatives over the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for a further update!

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