The legal industry is characterised by a workforce of ambitious and hard-working high achievers; something that has consistently proved both a blessing, and a curse.
Legal professionals are perfectionists by nature, and push themselves harder than most – with 75% frequently working beyond usual business hours. And while they might get enviable results, it’s having a worrying impact on both their mental health, and their employer’s bottom line.
Last year alone, 31% of lawyers reported feeling depressed, 64% admitted to suffering with anxiety, 10% experienced an alcohol problem, and 3% felt they had a drug problem; while back in 2019, 63% of UK legal professionals claimed to experience stress on a daily basis. There’s also the one in every 15 junior lawyers who has entertained suicidal thoughts.
With presenteeism rife, and a combination of absenteeism and presenteeism costing employers £54billion every year, the legal sector is facing its own pandemic. But in the wake of Covid, legal firms have actually been handed a golden opportunity to direct the conversation towards employee wellbeing.
One approach adopted by some UK legal firms in a bid for workplace change is to sign the Mindful Business Charter. Supported by Mind, the Law Society, LawCare and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, the Charter acts as a commitment for signatories to overhaul the archaic working practices that often lead to stress, burnout, and poor mental health.
How the Pandemic Changed Attitudes to Mental Health
The rise of mental health conditions during the pandemic made mental health conversations commonplace; helping to smash a longstanding stigma that has prevented people from seeking support for decades past. But there is still much work to be done – particularly in the workplace.
During lockdown, many in the legal industry found common ground in their shared experience of anxiety, depression, and burnout. There was greater acknowledgment, greater education, and greater acceptance. And for those employers willing to invest in employee mental health, greater success.
Leaders who embrace the opportunity for a fervent focus on workplace wellbeing have much to gain – particularly when you consider that 75% of Gen Z, and half of millennials, have left a job for mental health reasons. Since the dawning of the pandemic, people increasingly want to work for companies that prioritise mental health, and are willing to leave if their needs are not being met.
Today’s forward-thinking leaders embrace the balance of flexible working, discourage their teams from slogging through the night, speak honestly about the demands of the job – and the impact it can have, and discuss mental health with the transparency it deserves.
And they’re the leaders people are clamouring to work for.
Preventing Employee Burnout Through Better Leadership
We know that where mental health is concerned, it’s far easier (and cheaper) to intervene before ‘crisis point’. And employers have a significant role to play here.
Last year, the World Health Organisation declared ‘employee burnout’ (responsible for 120,000 deaths globally each year) a diagnosable occupational phenomenon. But burnout can also lead to a whole raft of other mental health conditions.
As a leader in the legal profession, your role is pivotal in bringing about change. Encouraging your people to monitor and care for their own wellbeing is critical to preventing employee burnout, and guarding against the development (or worsening) of other mental health conditions – but the most effective stance is always one of prevention.
Countless companies give their workforce access to counselling, which of course has a place, but this approach is largely reactive; it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, and it risks relapse when not supported by cultural change.
There’s also the unavoidable fact that every person, in every team, in every firm, is different. We all have different triggers, different needs, and different responses to wellbeing resources and treatment types. That’s why personalisation is so very important.
How Tailored Wellbeing Solutions Support Cultural Change
The multi-generational make-up of the legal sector means that one size of wellbeing solution will rarely fit all; not only that, but with partners, support staff and fee owners to appeal to, a blanket approach just isn’t going to cut it. Personalised benefits is where the real impact can be seen.
In our work with Magic Circle law firm Linklaters, giving employees control of their own wellbeing budget – with guidance around resources based on an initial wellbeing assessment – returned a 94% engagement rate. With average engagement of 2-5% for EAPs, and 10-40% for gym memberships, the link is clear. People crave control over their own wellbeing: they just need the access, and the budget, to be able to take charge.
During the pilot, we saw 93% of our platform’s 500+ resources being used – demonstrating the importance of (and need for) choice. Furthermore, 92% of Linklaters employees said the allocation of a personal budget allowed them to try things they wouldn’t ordinarily.
Today’s leaders have a real chance to revolutionise the legal industry for the betterment of everyone involved; archaic attitudes to mental health no longer have a place, and savvy employers are becoming wise to the need for solutions that recognise the nuances in the needs of their people.
BetterSpace is the employee wellbeing platform putting control where it belongs: in the hands of the individual employee. Our groundbreaking solution has been developed with medical and domain expertise and is aligned to our Six Pillars of Wellbeing. BetterSpace empowers your workforce to understand and fulfill their mental health needs.
This approach has achieved engagement rates of 94%, compared to the average usage rate of 2-18% for Employee Assistance Programmes and 10-40% for points solutions.
Want to know more? Schedule a product demonstration with us today.
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