Law firms not providing staff with the wellbeing support they want


Rimmer: Firms need to foster a wellbeing culture

Law firms are not responding to employees’ need for support with mental health and wellbeing, according to new research.

A YouGov poll found that despite a strong demand for help with the cost-of-living crisis and stress and anxiety, employers saw supporting staff morale as low on their list of priorities.

Where support was offered, in the form of wellbeing advice and counselling, take-up was low, suggesting it did not always meet the needs of staff.

The poll, commissioned by welltech company Frog Systems, surveyed 100 law firm employees and 41 firms, finding that 59% of staff required support for stress and anxiety, while 44% said they needed help to get through the cost-of-living crisis.

In addition, 51% said they would benefit from support from their employer to help cope with grief and loss.

However, only 37% of the firms said they regarded improving staff morale or encouraging healthier lifestyles as their responsibility. They listed attracting and retaining talent and improving productivity as their main priorities.

By far the most popular support offered and taken up was flexible working, followed by private healthcare.

Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive of wellbeing charity LawCare, said: “Employee assistance programmes, educational seminars, mindfulness, and gym sessions don’t create a working environment that is psychologically safe, where people feel valued and able to talk with colleagues about concerns.

“It is time to widen the approach to wellbeing from a focus on individuals to looking at how organisations foster a culture that supports the mental wellbeing of their people, and this responsibility lies in the boardroom.”

Psychologist Peter Abrahamsen, who works with stressed lawyers, said: “My typical lawyer client is at crisis point from excessive and sustained pressure at work directly affecting their mental and physical health.

“They are disillusioned by their profession and struggle with the effects on their home life which is often falling apart.”

Henrietta Jowitt, an adviser to the Mind Forward Alliance and a former deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry, added: “Most leaders are focussed on attracting and retaining talent and improving productivity, and yet a third of them spend nothing on employee wellbeing. They need to make this connection.

“Wellbeing is an output – it is the result of a whole range of inputs that support your people. It is not a package, off the shelf. If you don’t understand your colleagues’ needs and look after their wellbeing, so that they feel they are safe, belong and are supported in a way that works for them, they will neither stay nor produce their best work.”

Phil Worms, CEO of Frog Systems, said the report showed a gulf in trust in the workplace around wellbeing support for employees.

“Whilst many employers seem to understand the emotional and physical challenges being faced by their employees, they don’t appear to be able to provide the right wellbeing tools and information to support them.

Meanwhile, another survey by legal technology company Clio found that two-thirds of the 154 lawyers it polled were still working longer hours than before the Covid-19 pandemic, despite saying they had more ‘flexible’ working arrangements.

Nonetheless, 68% of them felt they have a better work-life balance than before the pandemic.

Sarah Murphy, general manager at Clio EMEA, commented: “While it’s great news that legal professionals have more flexibility in their working arrangements, it’s essential that they maintain a positive work-life balance. Overworking is still overworking, even if you’re at home and have flexible hours.”

Separately, the International Bar Association has created a professional wellbeing commission as a new permanent body. Its objectives include promoting the importance of wellbeing as a core issue and priority for the global legal community, working towards changing the profession’s culture and mindset, and promoting and sharing policies and working practices.

The association has been developing its work on wellbeing, surveying lawyers around the world in recent years and establishing core wellbeing principles.




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