Improving lawyers' health and wellbeing
Law firms need to get ahead of the curve sooner rather than later and introduce staff welfare schemes that are becoming the norm within other industries, writes Tim Scott
The legal sector is notorious for its high-pressure environment and long working hours. Many lawyers often work up to 80 hours a week and usually have to juggle huge caseloads, all of which are of crucial importance to their clients. All of this can have a serious impact on their mental and physical wellbeing.
So how can law firms still achieve the same results, but in a way that is less damaging to worker wellbeing?
Getting staff active
With exercise a proven way to relieve stress, some law firms have started to look at ways to get their employees more active to boost their health and wellbeing. In fact, businesses within various industries have started to offer benefits to improve the health of their staff – over half of UK bosses have started offering employee benefits packages that focus on getting employees up and active.
Encouraging staff to be more active in their free time can pay dividends when it comes to overall wellbeing, so it is worth investigating subsidised corporate gym or yoga class memberships. One initiative we found particularly effective was providing all staff with a pedometer, which appealed to their competitive spirits, encouraged them to be more active in the day, and helped reduce inter-office emails.
Another vital aspect of improving both the physical and mental health of staff is ensuring there is time to relax and switch off after hectic days. Simply encouraging breaks or offering additional benefits such as spa days can help relieve pressure.
In a hectic and pressured profession like law it can be more difficult to introduce flexible working policies, as law professionals are usually expected to be on hand to deal with client issues during and after normal working hours. That is not to say flexibility is impossible, however. Firms just need to have the right structure in place to allow this to happen. For example, by creating groups of teams carefully, there will always be someone available who can assist on cases or provide other information. Client communication will remain strong and it will allow teams greater flexibility.
Not only this, but having more flexibility over their working hours will ensure staff have a better work-life balance. Since we implemented our flexible working policy, our employees often say it is one of their favourite things about the firm – so it clearly has its value.
Ensuring a business has strong employee welfare standards can have a number of benefits. Aside from boosting morale, it can cut costs and make recruiting and retaining staff a smoother process. Since introducing various employee initiatives in 2014, we have saved around £70,000 in recruitment costs. While to some firms it may seem difficult to introduce wellbeing policies in an extremely busy environment, there are many rewards to be reaped from doing so.
Law firms need to get ahead of the curve sooner rather than later to introduce these schemes, which are likely to become the norm within many other industries. This will prevent them from losing top quality talent to more forward-thinking firms, and help them retain valuable employees.
Tim Scott is director of people at Fletchers Solicitors, which was recently named by Great Place to Work as one of the best workplaces in the UK