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An Easter break was a relief, but it is worth being familiar with the month of April, a ‘Stress Awareness Month’ for the workforce and people. Especially, the role of the recruitment industry in the UK as a supporter experiences challenge of the the extraordinary labour market, but the ‘signs of burnout’ can be recognized and solved.


The focus on being aware of stress is apposite as even a cursory glance at the data will reveal. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Report published in December 2021 (entitled “” Health and Safety at Work”) lays this in stark statistical terms

It reports some 822,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new of long-standing) in 2020/21. Of these some 451,000 workers were suffering from a new case of work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The incidence of such stress was increasing prior to the pandemic. Clearly, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic were found to be a major contributory factor to the above figures.

Notwithstanding the lifting of coronavirus restrictions here in the UK (and indeed across much of the world, certainly in terms of travel restrictions) there remains the realisation that the effects on wellness of the pandemic remain pervasive if not pernicious. In McKinsey’s Talks Talent publication in February 2022, it was claimed by talent expert Bill Schaninger.

“Compared with last year at this time…. employee’s mental health is worse. There have been pronounced amounts of stress, prolonged anxiety and prolonged uncertainty”


Battling Burnout: Supporting the Soul of the Workforce
In addition to the multivalent trends affecting the UK (and indeed global) labour markets which we encapsulated in our last wellness blog – the current cost of living crisis and uncertainties unleashed by the Ukraine conflict have added to the sometimes febrile atmosphere within which leaders must operate across all sectors. “Global instability” for example being cited as the leading risk to growth in the latest Mckinsey Global Survey (“Economic Conditions Outlook, March 2022“) on economic conditions.


If there is one theme that predominates much of the commentary and reporting on workforce wellness, it is “burnout”.

Talint International for example reported in November 2021 that in the previous three months, according to Google search data, there had been a 221% spike in searches for “signs of burnout” and experts warning that we were witnessing a “burnout build up” for employees. Talint International also reported that nearly half UK employees had suffered from excessive stress over the last year and this has led to 10% leaving their job. This followed an earlier report called the “healthier Nation Index” from Nuffield Health which had stated that 54% of employees were close to burnout.

Burnout also fuels what has been labelled “the retention crisis” and it is noteworthy that according to McKinsey&Co study (reported by Talint International in November 2021) that some 15million US workers have quit their jobs since April 2021 and that this is because of burnout according to the study.

It should also be recalled that burnout has been an issue for some time and certainly existed prior to the pandemic. Indeed, in 2019 the World Health Organisation identified the term as an occupational phenomena and that pre-pandemic burnout was responsible for the deaths of 2.8million people a year (cited in Author Talks: Why Burnout is an Epidemic- McKinsey November 2021).

Another facet of this wider wellness issue is the presence of what has been called “pleasenteeism”; According to new research from Lime Global (published by Talint International in February 2022), 50% of workers in the UK take time off from work to avoid having to put on a “brave face”. The research added that in the UK up to 75% of workers surveyed admitted to feeling like they had to put on such a brave face in front of colleagues regardless of how they were really feeling. Shaun Williams, CEO and Founder of Lime Global, commented:

After two years of stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic, concerns over health and wellbeing are understandably on the rise. Its therefore vital that businesses and HR managers act to offer each one of their employees as much support as possible.”

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EMPLOYER RESPONSES – “Normalising and giving parity to Mental Health”

There has been much commentary and expert guidance on what employers can do to support workforce well-being to drive retention and the attraction of the workforce.

Some initiatives were identified in a webinar featuring Erica Coe and Kana Enomoto (co-leaders of the McKinsey Centre for Societal Benefit through Healthcare) and their discussion with former US Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Paul Gionfriddo, former President and CEO of Mental Health America,

Top of the agenda was to eradicate the stigma associated with mental health issues through the sharing of stories by leaders of their own mental health challenges as part of “normalising” mental health. In the words of Paul Gionfriddo, “There’s no such thing as overall health without mental health.”

Another recommendation from commentators includes implementing meditation spaces and courses in the workplace, with evidence showing that employees who are experiencing anxiety in the workplace show marked improvement upon practicing meditation.

In her book “The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix it” (Harvard Business Review Press September 2021), author Jennifer Moss highlights the importance of employers providing safe places to be able to talk about mental health. She also advocates the leveraging of “positive gossip,” which is aimed at instilling the practice of using positive narratives across an organisation so as to focus on what the company has rather than what it does not have. Moss is adamant about claiming:

Positive gossip is one of the greatest interventions that could be inside our organisations

Other initiatives for employers that have been recommended include providing mental health benefits that are on parity with physical health benefits. This can include remote counseling for example as well as greater flexibility and career development opportunities.

Although this, recent reports have revealed some concern amongst employees about the level of wellbeing support being offered by employers. The Employee Mental Health and Remote Working Report (from in-person team building company Wildgoose and featured in Talint International’s article on 18th March 2022) revealed that still one in six UK employees feel worried that raising mental health concerns with their employer could put them at risk of losing their jobs. Furthermore, 86% of those surveyed believed that their workplace was not a safe space for employees to be open about mental health.

Notwithstanding these findings, it has been encouraging to see initiatives from across the UK recruitment sector that have sought to support the wellness of not only substantive staff but also the contingent workforce, which plays an ever more vital role in the dynamic UK labour market,


Within healthcare, Newcross Healthcare Solutions has provided a three webinar inner wellness programme for its community of workers, from office-based staff to carers and nurses. It is one of the leading healthcare solutions providers in the UK and has the vision to be the sector’s “learning partner for life.” At a time when the healthcare workforce in the UK faces unprecedented pressures, including burnout threat, such support redounds for the benefit not only of New cross but the sector and its workforce as a whole.

Meridian Business Support continues to support the contingent workforce across the multiple sectors in which it operates, including the industrial, built environment, health and office and professional. It offered inner wellness webinars for the workers it places in leading retail organisations; Pete Cheshire, Operations Director at Meridian, emphasised the importance of this for the business;

“Our contingent workforce is a vital part of the economic sectors in which we operate and support leading brands; to support their wellness and mental health is part of the core values we have as a business.”

UK recruiters have broadened their support for the wellness of workers, including the contingent workforce, to global markets too.

Supporting freelancers and contractors in the specialist technology space has become a key strategic imperative for Montreal Associates; Maurizio Gioffre, who leads growth within the Salesforce ecosystem in North America, chaired a panel discussion on supporting freelancers’ inner wellness in March this year. He states:

“Working as a contractor, even in the salesforce ecosystem, can come with a lot of unpredictability. Particularly for those that have recently or are considering switching from a permanent role to a contracting role. Hence we wanted to add to earlier inner wellness webinars we have delivered to support freelancers with a Panel discussion that created a platform for freelancers to receive expert guidance on managing their wellbeing through such unpredictability and hear from other contractors who have walked this journey.”


In each of the above cases, the webinar, group training and in some cases one to one wellness support provided drew on a growing body of evidence that extols the virtue in a whole person’s approach to wellbeing; one that focuses on mind, body and spirit or what has been called inclusive inner wellness. And even when people are facing despair, this may be the basis for greater resilience and flourishing.

In her latest book (“The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life- August 2021), Lisa Miller, Professor in the clinical-psychology program at Teachers College, Columbia University, states a vision with much hope

“We have within clinical science a road map that says that depression is an invitation to awakening. Our traditions around the world have known this for a long time, but clinical science now says there is indeed a road map.”

And the theme of finding flourishing amidst challenge is a message brought out in the work of Dr. Amid Sood, Executive Director of the Global Centre for Resiliency and Well-Being and a leading expert on psychological resilience for more than two decades. In a conversation with McKinsey in December 2021, he states that psychological resilience is defined by the ability to withstand, bounce back and grow despite downturns. He adds:

“If I had to summarise the whole gamut of wellbeing research, it is simply this; you want to tell your genes and immune system, “I’m having a good time on this planet”. This type of positive outlook tells your genes to switch from inflammatory to anti-inflammatory actions and boosts your antiviral immunity.”

He applauds employer initiatives that support well-being, from offering safe places to talk and removing stigma about mental health issues to offering access to counsellors, coaches and therapists.

And it seems that the centrality of resilience and wellbeing is moving to centre stage in terms of political vision. In March 2022 the House of Lords Covid-19 Committee Report commented that the pandemic had revealed that current understandings of resilience were not fit for purpose. It set out a range of recommendations to improve this and called for a move from the Welfare State to a Wellbeing State.

Wellness, well-being and mental health will (quite rightly) likely remain at the epicentre of not only the labour market but social and political policymaking itself.