Mental health: its importance in productivity, attracting and retaining talent

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March 2020

Written by Adam Richardson (, Managing Director and Owner of AR Resourcing. Adam has 20 years’ experience recruiting preconstruction, procurement and commercial professionals across the built environment industries.

Academic studies show that the recent abundance of news articles and programming is not the result of a mental health epidemic but simply a growing recognition of and destigmatisation around mental health issues. The result is a huge surge in the number of people seeking help and greater media coverage. 

That is not to say mental health is getting unwarranted attention. Mental health problems at work cost the UK economy £34.9bn in 2018 – that equates to £1,300 for every employee in the UK economy (source: Centre for Mental Health).  In comparison the estimated the cost of cyber crime to the UK is only £27bn! (source: Detica report published in conjunction with the Cabinet Office) and workplace absenteeism, some of which is the result of mental health issues, is thought to be a comparatively modest £18bn in 2017 (source: Centre of Economic and Business Research)….


Approximately 1 in 5 candidates will proactively raise issues relating to their mental health with me or my colleagues during a recruitment process. These individuals have identified how much their employer’s attitude to mental health matters to their own wellbeing and are often proactively seeking out a working environment that will let them flourish. Many are among the best candidates we place.

No doubt a significant proportion of other candidates would be interested in prospective employers’ approach to the mental health and wellbeing but feel unable to ask. 


Studies show that addressing wellbeing at work has a significant and positive impact on productivity – as much as 12% (source: The Mental Health Foundation). Not only that, it reduces staff turnover (improving productivity and reducing recruitment costs) as 46% of employees will look to change jobs if their employer doesn’t provide enough support in relation to their mental health (source CV Library research, 2018).


The fact that 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year (source: Mind) means almost no workplace is exempt. Employers have the choice of looking the other way or accepting that the cost is to the business is likely already £1,300 per employee per year and that they may be able to reduce this by offering support and encouraging employees to address issues either openly or confidentially. 

A progressive approach doesn’t simply reduce costs; in our experience it also attracts better candidates (irrespective of their mental health). Whether this is because a proactive approach to wellbeing often reflects an employer is generally progressive or because prospective employees value the mental health support who knows – probably a bit of both. 

Either way some employers are actually using their mental health and wellbeing policies as part of their talent attraction strategies. For example, by publishing relevant policies and support on their websites or in job descriptions they differentiate themselves from other employers. In a market where competition for the best candidates is often fierce it can make all the difference. 

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