It is well known that work is good for mental well-being, but inadequate working conditions and an unsupportive environment can have a significantly negative impact on our psychological health, hindering our ability to perform well and remain productive.

Often a vicious cycle, the chief causes of work-based depression, stress and anxiety relate to the type of employment carried out, managerial contexts, employee skills, and the support they have available. Harassment and bullying, limited involvement in decision-making, inflexible working hours, and poor communication leading to unclear objectives also play a considerable role in harming people’s wellbeing; and that is in a typical year.

Regrettably, 2020 has been anything but typical and I suspect the ONS statistics of 1 in 7 people experiencing mental health problems in the workplace, and 1 in 8 sickness days being linked to mental health conditions will increase in the wake of furlough schemes, home-schooling, cancelled holidays, self-quarantine, redundancies, lockdown, and a raft of people being forced to work from home.

Everyone’s experience will be different, with the impact depending upon the industry you work in, the role you have, and your circumstances. One certain thing, however, is that the new challenges we continue to face will create new pressure for people at a time when achieving a healthy work-life balance has become much more of a blur.

It is in times like these when employers must step up. Whilst also a very difficult time for many businesses, companies have a duty of care to do all they reasonably can to support their employees’ health and wellbeing.

Organisations need to quickly adopt new processes and technology across their business, as well as investing to ensure people have the right working space, particularly at home. This means completing risk assessments and providing the resources people need, rather than assuming they can safely work remotely.

Creating a culture where people can talk openly about mental health is also important, as problems are less likely to build up, reducing time off and improving morale. Training and support to raise awareness of the commonality of the issue, with well-documented action plans in place to support anyone with mental health concerns will also help to ensure people feel supported when they are not feeling great.

With so many people working from home, falling team comradery is another obvious weakness, indicating leaders should be encouraging their teams to carry on collaborating regardless of where they are based, coming together regularly to share ideas, stay in touch and feel included in the wider operational side of the business.

When speaking to clients and candidates, the majority of people are now searching for a mixture of office-based and home working which, if done well, can offer an opportunity for people to plan their work around their personal needs. This not only supports mental well-being but often leads to improved productivity and loyalty.

In an always-on world, it has never been more important to find a positively balanced ‘work-life integration’. It’s a continuous work in progress and I for one have a lot to learn in terms of creating a distinction between being on and off the clock; something I suspect I’m not alone in right now.

What I have found, however, is that it is often the little things that make the biggest difference to how I feel. So, whether it’s reducing pressure by simply allowing yourself or your team the time to complete their weekly life ‘errands’, or recognising the right time to encourage a friend, family member, or colleague to take their foot off the gas before they burnout, the difference we can all make will be enormous if we simply remember to speak out, take time to listen to others, and be kind to each other and ourselves.

After more than 20 years providing advice and support to accountancy professionals, I am all too aware of the negative reputation the recruitment industry often endures.

Of course, there are some very bad recruiters out there – including those who blindly fire out CV’s in the hope that something will resonate with someone somewhere – but the truth is that the majority of recruiters work extremely hard, act incredibly professionally, and are genuinely trying to help people make a positive change.

For the entire sector to be tarred with the same brush makes absolutely no sense. It’s just not the way business works, especially in a service-based environment which relies upon the skills and performance of people.

If you’re working with a recruitment consultant, or have been thinking about approaching one to help you find a new role, here is a list of the qualities you should expect to find as a bare minimum:

Honesty and Transparency
A healthy working relationship must be fair, ethical and transparent. In recruitment, this not only applies to the current state of the market and whether your expectations can be met, but also to who it is that will be directly representing you and working on your behalf.

Sector Expertise
A specialist recruiter will be capable of talking comfortably with you about your current role regardless of seniority, offering advice on your next move and job prospects. As a leading authority in the market, they’ll be highly networked, knowledgeable about the latest trends and job movements and, because they work regularly with the best companies, will be able to give you an immediate advantage through their connections.

Impartial and Unbiased
Recognising the importance of diversity in successful teams, a good recruiter will work with you to make sure you find a company that not only matches your aspirations but has a culture that aligns with your values.

This means for confidentiality, privacy, and also for you and your timescales. A consummate professional, rather than focusing on what works best for them, your recruiter will work with you to find the best opportunity possible.

Excellent Communication
Looking for a new job is time-consuming and can be stressful. It is a big decision which requires serious thought and consideration, especially in a market where talent is in high demand. Regular and clear contact throughout the recruitment process is critical. As well as keeping you up to date, you should also feel that your recruitment consultant is listening carefully to you so that they understand your needs and can react quickly and appropriately when required.

Helpful and Supportive
Flexible in their approach and happy to offer educated opinion or thoughts on salary advice, your consultant will support you all through the recruitment journey – and beyond. By investing time in building a strong relationship before they begin their search, they will not only understand your needs in-depth but also be able to find you the perfect opportunities.

I often ask myself what it is that people expect when they ask for help from a recruitment consultant and, as well as being excellent at what they do, at the top of the list is honesty, integrity, and a positive, helpful manner.

In my experience, when you are working with a recruiter, they will be motivated by one of two things: hitting targets or helping people. While no one works for free, a good advisor is someone who wants to find the best outcome for you.

Placing the right people in the right place is their motivation, and there are a lot of us around so please don’t be afraid to be selective, and don’t ever settle for less.

Whether a parent, employer, recruiter or employee, we all have a role to play in encouraging the next generation of happy workers.