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Well-being in the legal workplace: how does your firm stack up?

Well-being in the legal workplace

Well-being in the legal workplace, or any workplace for that matter, is rapidly rising to the top of everyone’s agendas. 

As someone who works for a legal tech. company, I could sit here all day and write about the benefits technology can bring to the working environment. However, although efficient and flexible software can make the job easier, it’s not just about tech.

There are a number of other issues to bear in mind. However, before I get to grips with these, you can ask yourself a straightforward question…

Take the acid test…

It’s a grim, grim morning in say, Manchester – that means it’s raining. You’re stuck in traffic on the ring road and you have a packed day ahead. Are you looking forward to the challenges with relish, or are you counting the minutes until home time?

If it’s the latter, perhaps there is room for improvement to well-being in the legal workplace. More to the point, how do your colleagues feel when they ask themselves the same question?

What can you do to improve things?

It’s not just about heading off mental health issues. There are a few key starting points:

  • Flexible working.
  • Support.
  • Communication.
  • Appraisal Integration.

Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Flexible working.

This is the most obvious one when it comes to reaching the holy grail of good work / life balance. It can be as simple as not having to fight the clock, not having a two-hour return commute or not having to juggle work and the kids. 

Flexible working doesn’t just mean working from home full-time or part-time. Many firms are buying into the idea of part-time working or job share arrangements to cater for employees needs at certain times of their lives.

This approach will not suit all types of businesses. However, in the legal profession, with a fast internet connection and efficient, cloud-based practice management software, it can pay dividends.

Support.

The starting point for this is awareness. This means training staff to spot issues for themselves and for their colleagues. Take a look at Mente. It’s an online e-learning platform which you can use to provide ongoing training in these issues for all your colleagues.

Spotting problems early is one thing. You should also be able to extend practical support to those who need it. This starts with ease of communication about stress inducing situations. It should continue on to medical support and counselling where needed.

Communication.

It goes without saying that good workplace communication is essential to get things done effectively. However, it’s not just about work and workload communication.

Staff who know they can have frank discussions about stress, health and mental health, are usually happier and more productive people. Nowadays, health and safety at work is a given. That should also extend to mental health and well-being. For that to happen, open and frequent communication is the key.

Appraisal Integration.

Although many work-related meetings take place in most practices, appraisals come around less frequently. Appraisals are a golden opportunity to cover a variety of issues.

The real problem with most appraisal systems is their narrow focus. Usually they concentrate on performance, work objectives and training needs as well as goals for improvement. Even worse, they tend to be directly linked to salary negotiation.

Why limit them to these alone. If performance is directly related to health, well-being and satisfaction – and it is – surely appraisal time is one of the best moments to bring these things out into the open?

What benefits will workplace well-being bring?

If your practice has a structured approach to well-being in all its forms, you are in a win-win situation.

  • You avoid the loss of time and the costs of absence caused by ill-health.
  • Employees feel valued and are more likely to stay with you longer.
  • Motivation and morale are boosted, leading to productivity gains.

And don’t forget, a happy, well-motivated workforce is more likely to come up with innovative ideas for your practice that will set you apart from your competitors.

The cost of creating this type of working environment are negligible and far outweighs the losses incurred if you don’t.

For further information about how you can improve the well-being of your practice take a look at the MIND website.

Mike O’Donnell, May 2019.

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