Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wellbeing and Mental Health Awareness Week

It is nothing new that the legal profession is thought to be one of the most demanding professions to work within.

A recent study by insurance firm Protectivity found that lawyers are the second most stressed professionals in the country, surpassed only by those working within Human Resources.

Inevitably, increased stress levels lead on to lawyers experiencing higher rates of alcohol abuse, depression and lower levels of overall psychological wellbeing compared to other professionals.

The findings of the third Junior Lawyers Division resilience and wellbeing survey, published in early April 2019 revealed concerning trends, including 37% of respondents regularly feeling stressed at work in the month prior to the survey and 25% experiencing severe or extreme levels of work-related stress, compared with only 3% experiencing no negative stress in the previous month. The most frequently mentioned consequences of work-related stress were disrupted sleep and negative impact on mental health.

Within the same survey, 76% of respondents had not informed their employer that they were experiencing mental health issues, indicating that many were suffering in silence. For those who did speak out, it was encouraging to see that there was an increase in numbers from the previous year responding positively to their employer providing help/guidance/support in relation to mental health (49% in 2019 compared with 37% in 2018), however 78% were still of the view that their organisation could do more to help.

With more law firms making a concerted effort to implement flexible working practices such as reduced hours and the option to work from home and wellbeing options being added to benefit packages e.g. counselling and subsided yoga classes, there are indications that positive changes are starting to be introduced. There is however arguably greater scope for the wellbeing of employees to be placed more to the forefront of many law firms’ agendas.

Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from 13th to 19th May 2019, provides an ideal opportunity for firms to hold events and get their employees’ talking about their own wellbeing. This in turn could provide a useful stepping stone in beginning to embed good mental health into the organisation’s culture and encourage more employees to feel comfortable to speak out about such issues. With improved employee satisfaction levels and efficiency comes improved staff retention, productivity and profitability therefore it is in everyone’s interests to work together to provide an open and supportive working environment.

For those that would like some support from further afield, the LawCare charity which helps the legal community with personal or professional concerns that may affect their mental health and wellbeing has factsheets and wellbeing resources available on their website, which can be accessed at: https://www.lawcare.org.uk/

Author: Siân Riley