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Pre-Covid, the professional services industry was already focusing on ways to better foster employee mental health. However, the pandemic has greatly amplified the need for wellbeing support across the sector, with the impact of working from home and the broader health impacts of the virus taking a growing toll.

This should come as a warning shot to professional services businesses – well-known to often be fast-paced and high-intensity workplaces even before the pandemic. Indeed, poor mental health has a very significant economic cost to employers, with recent research from Deloitte putting the cost to UK employers at up to £45 billion each year (a rise of 16% since 2016).

Put simply, employee wellbeing is no longer something that businesses can afford to overlook. From embracing more flexible post-pandemic working to tackling ‘always on’ culture, forward-looking firms are already starting to benefit from investing in the long-term mental health of their staff. What’s more, recruiters and hiring managers are going to need to highlight their firms’ mental health policies during hiring processes earlier and with more prominence than ever before.

The impact of the pandemic

One of the most significant and lasting impacts of the pandemic has been the mass exodus of workers from offices to home working environments – this shift has had a significant impact on people’s mental health. In fact, according to recent research by ‘Divided Together’, 49% of UK professional services employees experienced a drop in the quality of their mental wellbeing during the first lockdown in 2020, with 44% saying they ‘were making an effort to seem upbeat when they didn’t feel it’.

This overwhelming decline in worker mental health can partly be attributed to the solitary nature of working from home, but it is also a result of reduced concentration levels. Professional services respondents attributed this mental health deterioration to missing their usual routine (46%), finding it hard to concentrate (44%), being worried about the health of others (43%), or spending more time alone (36%).

With restrictions easing, long-term remote working policies have been the topic de jure. However, it is how people will return to their offices that have the greatest significance for mental health. In a recent Totum Partners survey, more than 70% of firms said they are considering implementing some form of hybrid working policy in the future (some days spent in the office each week, others working from home). Done well, hybrid working can offer huge benefits to employees, providing everyone with long-term flexibility, all-important face-to-face contact, and critically, better balance for worker mental health.

Therefore, companies looking to hire new talent will need to show that their firm is willing to adopt hybrid working policies while also being able to balance the mental health needs of their current employees. With a larger proportion of new recruits asking about mental health policy and hybrid working in interviews than ever before, hiring managers and recruiters need to highlight this company attributes at a much earlier stage.

The ‘always on’ work culture

A further wellbeing consideration that has come to light as a result of the pandemic is the risk of the ‘always-on’ culture. Presenteeism and the inability to switch off was a growing concern already prevalent before the pandemic, but taking the workplace home has only intensified the pressure for employees to be constantly available, with people finding it more difficult to separate home and work life. This has been especially challenging for workers that have not had the benefit of a home office and have found themselves working from the kitchen table or at makeshift desks.

Addressing ‘always on culture’ and encouraging employees to set boundaries between work and home life must be a top priority for businesses in the post-pandemic era. In fact, those businesses that equate more hours with greater productivity, stand to lose not only the best talent and the best their employees can offer, but they also stand to bear the financial cost of workers’ mental ill-health.

When recruiting new talent, it is equally important to show prospective employees that the business they are interviewing for respects the need for a good work-life balance, especially in a world where the ‘always-on’ culture has become second nature.

A perfect time to find an effective solution

There’s little doubt that the pandemic has created a significant challenge for worker mental health – a shadow epidemic in its own right. However, the pandemic also serves as a watershed moment to address the issues that have faced workers even prior to Covid. Now is the perfect opportunity to address the deep-seated issues concerning mental health within some parts of the professional services sector. Those that fail to seize this opportunity, will not only pay the price in lost talent, but they will also see the impact on their bottom lines.

By Deborah Gray, Director at Totum Partners.

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December 12, 2023

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Chris Ellsworth was my recruiter and I was greatly impressed with the level of his assistance throughout the process from start to finish. He provided me with job role applications that were personalised to me based on what I told him I was looking for. If there was any confusion, I was always able to contact him throughout the whole process and ask for clarification which he would then, always happily give. Chris genuinely made me feel that he wanted me to get the role as much as I did and helped me with every step on the way.

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Amazing experience with Agilis, a professional company. I have no words to thank Edward. He found a great role for me.

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February 5, 2021

I had a great experience with Ed and Agilis. It was great to have a recruiter who understands exactly what his clients are looking for in a candidate. 5 stars!

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Laura is a lovely individual and easily the best recruiter I have ever worked with: proactive without being pushy, professional without lacking sincerity, and most importantly, she genuinely cares about her clients. She was incredibly conscientious in understanding my background and aspirations, and matched me with a role I WAS really excited about. I knew I was in good hands from our very first conversation – and I am happy to say I am a month into my new job and loving it!

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April 21, 2020

I worked with Ed when securing my role. It was a massive step in the direction I wanted to move my career in and Ed was pivotal in making that happen. I liked that right from the start he was not pushy, he listened to what I had to say and feedback and he kept in regular contact without bombarding me, using the most suitable form of messaging whether it be LinkedIn, Email or a Phone Call. I would highly recommend Ed and the guys at Agilis - keep up the great work guys!

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March 20, 2020

Laura and Ed at Agilis helped me get placed last year, and Laura was exceptionally accommodating and patient, calling me outside of hours when it was convenient for me and keeping me in the loop about everything that was going on. I'm happy with my role and feel like the guys at Agilis really put time and effort into their work -- thank you!

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March 20, 2020

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March 19, 2020

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March 19, 2020