The Recruiter's Soapbox

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Healthy body, healthy mind – minimising burnout in our recruiters

We meet with a lot of candidates who have great recruitment experience and skills but, for want of a better phrase, are simply burnt out and this is such a shame.  It is no secret that agency recruitment is not for the faint hearted.  It takes resilience, determination, drive and extreme persistence in order to make it in this industry.  We are constantly picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and starting again.  We talk about how to remain positive and how we move on from a day where everything we touch just goes wrong.  Sound familiar?

When do employees experience burnout?   The commonly known formula for burnout is too many work hours in a high stress environment.  Couple this, in agency recruitment land, with possibly not achieving the results or the financial rewards that you want and you have an industry that is prone to burnout.   The standard articles on burnout talk about the Consultant themselves putting in steps to counter-balance it: setting a schedule and sticking to it; prioritising the important stuff; working smarter – all true but I read this and can’t help but wonder shouldn’t at least some of the onus be on the employer?

In doing my research for this blog, I was particularly interested to read that the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, has another theory:  “I have a theory that burnout is about resentment,” she says in a Bloomburg Businessweek post, “and you beat it by knowing what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful……Resentment in the office grows quietly, especially because employees might not even understand why they are feeling resentful in the first place. Something is missing. And it’s an employer’s job to find out what it is.”  Once you understand what matters to your top talent – dinner dates with family, floor hockey games on Thursdays – accommodate it.

She uses the example of a Google employee who was happy to stay up for 1am conference calls with executives in India so long as she got to attend her daughter’s soccer games and music recitals.  Those activities were important to her personal life, and so were accommodated by her workplace.  This made it easier to keep up with the demands of her job.

I had a eureka moment when I read this.  Without even realising it, I had put this into place early last year.  I lost consultants in 2013 and it hit hard.  They were working long hours but just not getting the results to match the effort put in.  When we started to rebuild our team, we wanted to make changes – long lasting changes to the culture of the business that would prevent burnout.  We decided to move away from alcohol-fuelled team building activities (although don’t get me wrong, we still love them from time to time) and instead invested in a healthy culture that promoted work/life balance, high energy levels and sustained productivity.  We spoke to our clients to see how they managed burnout and we simply plagiarised!!

One of the best ideas we pinched from a client was to start a weekly fitness training group.  We are 12 months in and I can confidently say it is one of the best things we have ever put into play.  Everyone in the team participates, enjoys it and sees it as a genuine perk of being with the business.  It does help that our trainer is awesome (Mel Tully at Revive Fitness – can’t recommend her highly enough).  In addition, a number of our team have joined forces with a neighbouring company and play in a competitive corporate football league once a week – that’s two options a week, fully paid for – getting consultants out of the office away from the desk and the phone and into the fresh air.  What we find is that when consultants have to stay back late for after -hours interviews etc there is  no resentment – they accept that it goes both ways and they get plenty of flexibility and perks during the day.

There are just so many benefits to exercise, as Mel Tully from Revive Fitness points out: “Organisations who provide their employees with the opportunity to get out of the office at lunchtime to exercise will reap the benefits in numerous ways.  We are all learning that sitting for long periods of time has a strong association with chronic illness and disease so if your job is a sedentary one, getting out of the office and away from your desk during the day will deliver massive benefits to your overall health.

Exercise releases endorphins, those important neurotransmitters that promote a feeling of alertness and wellbeing. If you’ve had a stressful morning and you have a tendency to feel sluggish in the afternoon, getting out for a workout at lunchtime will fire up your energy levels, reduce feelings of stress and leave you feeling invigorated for an afternoon in the office.  Training with your workmates has huge benefits too – not only do you get to know you work colleagues better; there’s always a bit of healthy competition to be had!

My advice – swap some of the booze laden affairs for a team building activity that actually promotes health habits and reduces stress.  It is a recipe for sustained performance and longevity.

Mayer, Marissa. “How to Avoid Burnout: Marissa Mayer.” 12 April 2012. Bloomberg Businessweek
Mel Tully, Revive Fitness


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