Why employee wellbeing starts at the hiring stage

Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2024 by Hannah Hassack

Your job has a profound impact on your wellbeing 

I often think about this concept in the job that we do here at Ryder Reid Legal, and in relation to peoples working lives. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime! Given this, the impact of your working life on your wellbeing is not small. If our job is potentially our biggest lifelong time commitment, it stands to reason that the way we feel when we’re at work will have a significant effect on our whole selves.

This link between a person's job and their overall wellbeing is something I’ve been acutely aware of since my early days of supporting people throughout all stages of their careers, including new positions, redundancies, promotions, and total career overhauls. I know first-hand that how people feel about their work can dictate how they feel about themselves and life in general - a huge responsibility for employers and recruiters alike, and one they should give thought to.

There’s a lot to be said for the positives in this. When we’re in a role that supports us to thrive and offers us a healthy work-life balance, when we’re surrounded by supportive leaders and colleagues, work can be uplifting and good for our overall wellbeing. The Public Health Agency says that for people who experience poor mental wellbeing or who face mental illness, their job can be a remedy and instil a sense of purpose, and that generally working is good for our mental health.* And I’ve seen that day in and day out when working with candidates from all walks of life, and seeing how transformative a positive new work opportunity can be for them - it’s very rewarding to witness!

Worrying statistics 

However, unhappy employees can have the opposite experience. For those people feeling unfulfilled or miserable in their role, work can become a trigger for poor mental health -  and reportedly this can permeate their entire lives. A study by UKG found a high number of employees reporting that work negatively affected their home life (71%), wellbeing (64%), and relationships (62%)*, sometimes rendering them unable to work at all.

Worryingly, it’s been found that more than half of long-term sick leave is due to anxiety and depression*, while in 2023 the Workforce Institute found a scary 40% of C-suite leaders planned to leave their job in within 12 months on account of the stress they were under*. These high numbers are very confronting, but perhaps not surprising given the rise of fast-paced working habits and the much-talked-about glorification of overworking. 

Irresponsibly large to-do lists and daunting deadlines might be a short-term motivator, but long-term that sort of pressure can chip away at a person until they no longer feel good inside. I’ve witnessed this in candidates at various points throughout my career and it’s always so sad to see someone full of potential feeling flattened by their job. At Ryder Reid we see it as our job and our mission to help people turn it around in their careers, in whatever way we can.

People First

It’s not just the overwhelm of too-much-to-do that can bring employees down either – it’s just as much about the environment they’re working in and the people they’re spending time with. A poor cultural fit, weak relationships with colleagues or lacking people management can all impact employee self-esteem, confidence and motivation. Not to mention the devastating effect of workplace bullying, which apparently 35% of us experience in our careers*. It’s clear to see how working in the wrong role for the wrong employer can quickly diminish otherwise good mental wellbeing, and physical health too.

All this speaks deeply to why we’re so passionate about upholding our people-first ethos at Ryder Reid. Why we work tenaciously to ensure that every single candidate we place is a good fit for the hiring firm. Why we care about our candidates' whole lives, not just their skillsets. For us it’s about more than filling a vacancy, it’s about fulfilling a person. Because we understand that for many people the job they have and their workplace happiness is a huge factor in their overall health and life enjoyment.

There’s clearly wide scope for all business leaders, employers and hiring managers to make progress in this area, though, and to recalibrate their priorities when it comes to employee wellbeing.

Businesses have a duty of care to their employees and their candidates

As a people-first recruitment consultancy, we wholeheartedly believe that businesses have a duty of care to implement processes which encourage employee wellbeing, to support their teams and appeal to quality candidates who need their employer to care. There’s clearly wide scope for all business leaders, employers and hiring managers to make progress in this area, though, and to recalibrate their priorities when it comes to employee wellbeing.

Here, we have designated Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) who are a contact for anyone in our team who might be in emotional distress. They’re fully trained to listen without judgement, signpost to professional help, and assist using a five-step action plan. 

As well as this, we know that a huge part of sustaining such a successful team is supporting them to maintain healthy work-life balance and feel genuinely happy in their work - and we put effort into that every single day. Our Recruitment Consultant Jon Shepherd says “Ryder Reid’s commitment to ensuring its staff are looked after is clear. I have personally experienced the supportive approach of my colleagues at all levels of seniority which has lifted me and given me a sense of belonging during tough times.” 

Interestingly, it’s been found that mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion annually* i.e. investing in employee wellbeing actually protects the bottom line. We recently asked our LinkedIn audience what this looks like in their role or business, and 68% of respondents said their employer offered flexible working, while 20% said they had MHFAs or equivalent in their team. 

There are, however, many ways to maintain greater wellbeing in a workforce - from ensuring employees take their allocated annual leave and make the most of perks, to financial rewards and increased annual leave. The key is in deciding to make employee wellbeing a priority and empowering senior team members with the tools to lead with the same compassion. 

It starts at the beginning

We believe this person-centred approach starts before day one in an employee’s journey, though. In fact it begins at the hiring process, during which hiring managers should take the time to understand and get to know their applicants and interviewees. A candidate's individual qualities and cultural fit should be given just as much consideration as their skills and experience, because this is what will make the difference between a thriving partnership and a short-lived or unhappy one. 

Asking candidates outright about their preferred working style gives employers the opportunity to consider if their business can realistically offer them what they need, and if they can support this person's wellbeing. For example if someone has care responsibilities (children, elderly parents etc), they might absolutely require extra work from home days or more flexible hours. If employers can really listen and get to know their candidates and their needs and consider if they can truly meet them  before offering them a job, they’re not only protecting themselves as a business, they’re protecting the wellbeing of their potential new employee.

For our clients, we address this key aspect of candidate search from the get-go, knowing they’ll be more likely to have lasting relationships, fewer vacancies and an enhanced reputation as a good employer and a great place to work. 

How candidates can strive for workplace wellbeing

It’s not just on the hiring manager to think about this though. Candidates can and should protect themselves when they’re going through the recruitment process too.

My advice to applicants is: if you know that a supportive employer is important to you or you have niche working needs, take the time to find out if a company is going to give you that. Often doing your research on their website will give insight into how much emphasis they place on employee wellbeing and general flexibility (look for the corporate responsibility or social impact pages on their site) . LinkedIn is also a great window into current and past employees, how they work and how they feel about the company they work for.

If you reach the interview stage, don’t be afraid to ask outright about the things that are important to you within a company culture, such as the chance to chat to colleagues or lunch away from your desk. It may feel scary, but being upfront will likely save you and the hiring firm time and stress in the long run. This is also the opportunity to ask about flexible working, personal days, and any other internal policies which will matter to you and your mental wellbeing when this is your everyday life.

I’d always urge candidates to consider at length if a workplace culture truly feels right for them, and to place this as a top priority in their job search - because you can’t put a price on your wellbeing.

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives

So when we talk about people-first and placing candidates in the right roles for them, we don’t just mean ticking the skills and experience boxes. We refer to whether or not this job will give this person the opportunity to thrive in all aspects of themselves and their wellbeing. 

As writer Annie Dill famously said “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” and we are passionate about helping people to spend theirs fulfilled and in a role that supports good mental health. 

If you’re a firm who would like some guidance on building employee wellbeing into your job ads, or a candidate looking for support to find a role that will work for you - get in touch with me or the team. We want to help!

Written by Andrea Prendergast, Ryder Reid Legal co-owner and Executive Search Director. Andrea started her recruitment career in 1998 in her hometown of Liverpool. She moved to London and joined Ryder Reid in 2008, becoming a director and shareholder three years later, before buying the business in 2018 with Callum Smith, Ryder Reid Legal Business Director.


*Public Health Agency quote: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/Promoting%20Mental%20Health%20At%20Work%20LR%2001_14_0.pdf

*Impact of work on life stats: https://www.ukg.com/about-us/newsroom/managers-impact-our-mental-health-more-doctors-therapists-and-same-spouses#:~:text=At%20the%20end%20of%20work,%2C%20and%20relationships%20(62%25)

*Personnel Today study on long-term absence: https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/work-related-illnesses-2021-22-hse/#:~:text=Mental%20illness%20accounted%20for%20914%2C000,accounting%20for%2051%25%20of%20cases

*C-suite statistic: https://businesschief.com/leadership-and-strategy/ukg-survey-finds-two-fifths-of-leaders-plan-to-quit 

*Workplace bullying stats: https://civilmediation.org/bullying-workplace-statistics
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