We caught up with LawCare, the mental wellbeing charity for the legal profession, to discuss ways law firms can support staff wellbeing. Here are their eight top tips for supporting your team.
8 ways to help law firms better manage staff wellbeing
Wellbeing has been a key focus for the conveyancing industry, even more so in recent years with the pressures of increasing transaction volumes, the SDLT holiday, and a shrinking talent pool. We recently caught up with LawCare to find out how law firms can support their staff, promoting improved employee wellbeing and creating an open and safe environment for all.
A healthy law firm is a happy and productive workplace. Everyone needs to feel valued and supported, and that their work is meaningful. A positive culture that values all staff and invests in their skills and development builds the trust and integrity essential to maintain commitment and mental wellbeing.
There is also a strong proven business case for law firms to promote good physical and mental health for all staff. It leads to greater productivity, better morale, better retention of valued and experienced staff, and reduced sickness absence.
Yet support for mental health often does not get the investment it needs and can be seen as the responsibility of the individual. In this article, LawCare shares some ways that law firms can support better staff wellbeing, so that they can look after their greatest asset: the people that work there.
1. Offer flexible working
Flexible working can support healthier and more productive ways of working for staff and benefits everyone. Flexible working depends on what an individual needs, but it could include remote or hybrid working, flexible start and finish times, or part-time working.
Flexible working can also be a vital early intervention to prevent mental health problems from getting worse and can support a phased return to work after a period of sickness absence.
2. Email management
Encourage staff to use email in a way that values their wellbeing and reflect this in your email policy. Here are a few ideas that could help your staff manage their inboxes:
- Encourage people to resist the urge to look at their inbox all the time. They should disable notifications so that they don’t get distracted when an email comes in - once we are distracted it can take up to 25 minutes to fully refocus.
- Make sure staff only send emails when they are needed. Emails should be relevant and concise, with subject lines that help others know what the email is about.
- Make sure your email policy says something about not copying everyone into emails – ideally people should only get emails that are directly applicable to them.
Discover more email management tips from LawCare.
3. Work/life balance
Having the time to pursue the things we enjoy and spend time with friends and family is vital to wellbeing. Make sure teams are well-resourced to enable this. Your firm should encourage everyone to:
- Work sensible hours – staff will take cues from how leaders behave.
- Take full lunch breaks.
- Rest and recuperate after busy periods.
- Avoid working at weekends.
- Use their annual leave entitlement.
4. Raise awareness
Law firms need to talk about mental health openly and positively, and hearing from people with lived experiences can help break down stigma and stereotypes. You can support openness around topics related to mental health by:
- Inviting a speaker to come and talk about their experiences.
- Encouraging mental health champions; so that people at all levels talk openly about mental health.
- Using existing internal communication channels to share information about wellbeing.
5. Provide management training
Regular catchups and appraisals are vital for supporting the mental health of staff. Despite this many people in management positions have never received leadership, management, or supervisory training. Offer management training and make it part of your workplace culture.
You should ensure that managers are available for regular work-related conversations with employees. Embed mental health in inductions and training so that staff will understand how mental health is managed and what support is available when they join your firm.
Ideally, make mental health training available for all staff so they are aware of what to look out for in colleagues who may be struggling and how to support them and signpost them for help.
6. Mentoring and peer support
Encourage staff in your firm to support one another and set up initiatives to support this.
Peer support can allow colleagues to support one another outside the line-management structure and offers a great way to maximise the range of skills and experience held within your firm.
Mentoring and buddy schemes can help new staff to understand your firm faster and can support all staff to gain confidence and develop new skills.
7. Consider how can technology help
Technology can help staff be more efficient, effective, and support flexible working. It may speed up processes such as case and project management, and help staff keep on top of time management.
It can also make keeping in touch with others online very easy. Most of us are familiar with Zoom, One Drive, Dropbox, Slack, and other tools and apps that allow us to work from different locations, at times to suit us, and without the need to be logged into a desktop in an office.
However, firms need to ensure that staff are maintaining healthy work/life boundaries, and that they aren’t expected to be contactable out of hours. It is much harder to switch off if your phone is alerting you each time you have an email, or you can take a call on Zoom when you are on annual leave.
8. Consider the use of wellness technology
Technology also makes mental health information much easier to access in the workplace. Law firms can easily provide online access to mental health information and resources. This could include educational information, training, counselling, mental health first aiders within the firm, and ways to access further support. This also helps to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health support.
There are a range of ways firms can support the mental wellbeing of their people. The starting point is to recognise why it matters and to develop a firm wide strategy to address mental wellbeing that is communicated and understood by everyone. For further resources please visit www.lawcare.org.uk.
You can also access more support for mental health through the following organisations: