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    In honour of Suicide Prevention Month, we wanted to talk about two topics that are incredibly prevalent in the recruitment industry: depression and addiction. Our Co-Founders have worked in the industry for nearly a decade each, and over that time we’ve experienced the industry change drastically, and in our opinion – for the better! 

    However, there are still stigmas surrounding working in recruitment and being a recruiter in general. There are assumptions that recruiters are “out for themselves”, careless, and only driven by financial gain. It’s important to note that this isn’t just found in the recruitment industry – you can find individuals of this nature in any line of work.

    Company culture is shaped by the individuals within it, but it’s largely driven by the leaders or business owners who lay down the foundations for how people should act personally and professionally. The “old school” mentality of recruitment was very much the aforementioned: not focussed on client or candidate satisfaction, fast-paced and also a very male-dominated environment. The type of personality that recruitment attracts does vary, but they all have one thing in common: they want to consistently achieve and be the best.

    So, what does all of this have to do with depression and addiction?

    “Someone with an underlying genetic weakness exposed to an environment full of negative emotions and habits can lead to addictive personality disorder. With drug and alcohol addiction, common environmental factors are stress and the availability of addictive substances.” [source]

    Addictive substances can be anything from drugs through to alcohol, two things which have been associated with sales and recruitment cultures for years. The fast-paced environment as well as the stress that can come from working in a sales job can lead individuals who already have addictive personalities to spiral out of control. 

    The by-product of this can then be depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. If someone is working within an environment that is encouraging these behaviours rather than nurturing them for something good, this is when issues can start to arise.

    This, coupled up with someone who wants to achieve well and be “the best” can often leave lines feeling blurred – especially in an environment where it is the norm to engage in damaging behaviours and habits to be accepted and liked.

    Addiction and recruitment can be inherently linked, Recruiter produced a compelling piece on this in 2019 detailing that there are drug and alcohol issues within the industry that need to be addressed. Beyond corporate initiatives, company culture needs to be looked at in depth to mitigate addictive personalities from being fed in a negative way.

    “Within my 9 years in the industry, I think that recruitment typically attracts people who have addictive personalities. To be good in recruitment (speaking generally), you tend to be addicted to earning money and progressing, so naturally it attracts individuals who already have addictive tendencies. What can then come hand in hand is someone who struggles with their mental health because of this.

    There have been several cases of people that I’ve known in previous recruitment companies and also at Apsida who have struggled with the stress of the job and the negative impact it can have. This isn’t always down to the company either, a big contributing factor is also the pressure that they put on themselves. It can be quite easy to fall into that trap of finding ways to de-stress like alcohol, drugs, gambling etc. which then aids the downfall in your mental health.” Jamie Salmon, Director at Apsida Life Science

    Can addiction be transformed into something good?

    Having an addictive personality doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be seen as something negative. In fact, a lot of us have the potential to develop an addictive personality regardless of whether we have the genetic ability to. 

    Healthy habits like going to the gym or investing in a hobby that you can become good at can be encouraged from within the workplace. Allowing extended lunches for employees to go to the gym, healthy snacks and prioritising wellbeing (as well as work-life balance) can help to combat negative habits and create a more positive culture. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a drink down the pub or a night out with colleagues – but reframing the way employees handle stress can help massively with depression as well as addiction.

    “With incentives, it’s a fine balance to ensure they tick a box for everybody and don’t stray away from the core of what our culture is. We have incentives that don’t involve alcohol and/or going out until the early hours of the morning when things could spiral out of control. We offer incentives related to health and well-being: company sports days, spa days, and extra time on lunch to go to the gym. 

    We try to embrace innovative approaches, to create an environment that doesn’t proactively encourage behaviours associated with addiction. We have a lot of people within the business who are choosing to stop drinking and take a step away from it as they’ve realised it has a negative impact on their life, and we support them rather than shame them!” 

    Jamie Salmon, Director at Apsida Life Science

    Monitoring junior people and checking that they have the right tools to succeed is also vital. Particularly in the early stages of someone’s career, they can be largely influenced by the leaders and colleagues around them. Ensuring that your work environment equips junior people with stress management techniques as well as ensuring that their workload is within the scope of their abilities can help, too.

    “Most people that get into recruitment are young. Maybe they’ve just finished university, or they’re even younger and they’ve just finished college. So at that age you are young, you’re impressionable and you don’t always have a mature head on your shoulders to know what’s right and what’s wrong because you haven’t experienced it yet.” Michael Georgiadis, Director

    “I think that mental health and depression are unavoidable in any area of life, so trying to avoid it completely would be a struggle. However, based on my experiences, I think the culture of a company (not just in recruitment) is what can support people who are struggling. We aim to have a business that is supportive, creating an environment where people feel they can talk openly and feel safe to confide in the team and something I’ve learned

    from my personal life is that if you bottle things up it makes it much worse. We have people within Apsida who have really turned their lives around and grown as people. We don’t take the credit for this because it’s ultimately down to that person, but we also understand the importance of creating a culture where people feel loved and listened to.” Jamie Salmon, Director

    “With individuals in my team, I’m supportive of whatever they decide to do. I have someone in my team who has decided to take a step away from alcohol. They wanted to better themselves and realised that it was becoming a negative habit. It doesn’t mean that they’re an addict nor that they’ll never drink again, but it’s something they were aware of. My approach is to be mindful of it – not put pressure on them but equally support them when it’s brought up in conversation – in essence be that voice who will be there to offer advice around social events or scenarios where alcohol is involved.

    I don’t think it’s about reinventing the wheel as a manager, but there has to be a human element to your approach. We speak about our personal lives a lot as three Co-Founders, and something we discuss regularly are people’s “pillars” needed for them to be stable to perform well at work. 

    For example, a family pillar, social life pillar, and work pillar. It could be anything that contributes to you being happy and healthy, and if one of those pillars is unstable it’ll have a knock-on effect on the rest of your life. What we say to people is that the work pillar isn’t all that important – you can go and get another job if it doesn’t work out. Whereas if your family pillar is being affected, that can be so much worse. So, in our 1-2-1 conversations with our teams it’s about understanding that: how are they personally? Not just centered around the numbers they’re bringing into the business. It’s all about having that human element.” – Michael Georgiadis, Director

    Fostering an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their problems, whether work-related or personal, plays a vital role in cultivating a workplace that values open conversation and empathy. This practice extends beyond addressing addiction issues, as it nurtures a culture of understanding and confidentiality. As a manager, it is essential to prioritise the support and assistance of team members struggling with addictive tendencies, especially when made aware of these challenges.

    Regardless of industry, we have a duty of care to ensure that those within our teams receive the appropriate support they need to thrive. By embracing this responsibility, we contribute to a workplace that not only recognises issues but actively works towards resolving them, ultimately creating a safer and more compassionate professional environment for everyone.

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