Well-being in in-house legal teams

Studies focusing on the legal profession have reached alarming conclusions about the mental health risks faced by lawyers. On 25th January 2017, the LexisNexis Strategic Advisory Board, Knowledge Management and Chief Legal Officers forums met to discuss well-being in in-house legal teams.

The roundtable session was facilitated by Richard Martin from Byrne Dean. Richard was an employment law partner and now works with organisations to help promote awareness of mental health and create healthier, more productive workplaces. The discussion covered two key areas:

  • Recognising the signs of stress and risks to mental health
  • What can you do to protect the well-being of employees?

What do we mean by pressure and stress?

Pressure is necessary for productivity and it is part of life. Stress is not. Stress is a state of mind where our perception of the demands upon us exceeds our perception of the resources available to us. The more we get into a state of stress, the worse our sense of perspective gets – suddenly everything seems urgent and insurmountable.

Anxiety is a problem when it becomes an unhelpful response to things that aren’t a threat. The roundtable session considered some of the risk factors that heighten susceptibility, including major change, persistent stress and lack of light in the winter months. A constant state of stress causes low performance and a high risk of mental health issues.

Why is it important to consider the well-being of your team?

  • Moral case: The need to look after ourselves and the people that work for us.
  • Legal case: Employers have a legal duty of care and responsibility to look after their employees.
  • Values of the company: Well-being and employee satisfaction are often incorporated into an organisation’s values.
  • Business case #1: Absence comes at a high cost to the business.
  • Business case #2: Performance and productivity are massively impacted by our state of well-being.

How can organisations deal with stress?

Practical measures an organisation can put in place to support employees include Employee Assistance Programmes and in-house counsellors. But how can you prevent employees from reaching a crisis state? Prevention methods include:

  • Culture: Ensure the organisation has a strong sense of purpose, meaningful values and a sense of community.
  • Good conversations: Meaningful conversations with managers are essential to understanding the well-being of employees.
  • Systems and policies: Are employees being rewarded fairly for what they do?
  • Mental health awareness raising: If you want a culture where you can have conversations about well-being, then you must understand the language.
  • Monitoring and data gathering: Organisations need to find out how people are, for example through surveys.

Well-being can, and should, be monitored and addressed at both a managerial and an organisational level. There is no reason why an organisation can’t be a high-achieving, high-pressured business at the same time as safeguarding the well-being of its employees.

Read a full summary of the LexisNexis In-house Advisory Board meeting here.

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