Emma Fernandes examines if lawyers need professional help to de-stress
Long before the pandemic hit, lawyers were already stressed, regularly featuring among the top five most pressured professions. Not exactly news.
But factor in a covid 19-induced leap into the digital age – and a couple of years of working from home – and the issues have merely been exacerbated, particularly for junior staff.
Working from home became living at work. The nine-to-five (wishful thinking) bled into personal and domestic space, contaminating time normally reserved for leisure – and intensifying isolation. Personal development went out the window, along with mentoring, water-cooler chat, the buzz of an office atmosphere – and, in many cases, mental wellbeing.
And that, perhaps, is the greatest challenge today, as the world navigates the new landscape of work, now the hybrid model looks here to stay. How do we ensure the workforce remains psychologically safe and able to flourish in this new era?
Potential burnout may always be an aspect of the profession – but knowing how to handle it before it reaches its end game is crucial.
Why is this needed?
Some firms are already recognising this and have drafted in wellbeing specialists to support stressed employees. During the pandemic we had a record number of requests for our burnout programme from firms who are becoming increasingly conscious of a raft of pressures on teams.
The boom in mergers and acquisitions has had a particular impact on overworked staff. The pressure to return to work has also been significant with more than four out of ten law firm staff (42 per cent) feeling anxious about going back into the office after working from home (WFH), according to a YouGov survey for PUSH on mental wellbeing in the workplace.
More than a third (35 per cent) believe someone who does go back into the workplace is more likely to be promoted over someone who remained WFH.
The good news is 63 per cent of firms were positive about allowing homeworking, compared to just 43 per cent pre-pandemic. It is clear there has been an acceptance of some homeworking and the hybrid model will remain, along with the restrictions it imposes.
It is up to employers to fulfil their obligation to support staff in this new environment. Mental health sits at the foundation of everything – and using resilience training can be enormously beneficial for firms, who not only have a duty to take care of staff wellbeing, but want to ensure they retain good staff who are enthusiastic and invested in the business.
What can we do?
There are a number of positive steps firms can take to foster healthy wellbeing:
- Recognise your workforce is unique. A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to work for a diverse range of personalities and circumstances
- Be flexible. Flexibility and choice are important in creating a truly workable framework for this new landscape
- Support staff personal development – even when working remotely
- Keep lines of communication open. Don’t just message people asking ’Can we talk?’ Take the time to contact them personally. Always give clear messages and feedback
- Create psychologically safe environments so people can speak freely about mental health without fear or stigmatisation
- Tackle any issues with training, before they reach a critical point
- Display model behaviour as a leader. Designate a time for turning off company laptops and phones and announce you’re leaving for the day
We know the success of a business depends on its people – and workplaces are more likely to flourish when they’re psychologically safe and able to support employees within the new working environment.
At the end of the day, firms don’t want to lose the best staff to burnout or stress. They want to keep them engaged, motivated and enthused. That only happens when a workforce is happy and has a healthy mindset.
Emma Fernandes is managing director at Push Mind and Body: pushmindandbody.com
Push Mind & Body