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Taking care of business: talking about mental health at your work

27 February 2018

Kayleigh Leonie looks at the results of the Junior Lawyers Division resilience and wellbeing survey and asks: Is your organisation doing enough to support the resilience and wellbeing of its employees?


In early 2017 the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society surveyed its members about resilience and wellbeing. The survey found:

  • 73% of respondents either did not know, or thought that their employer did not provide, help, guidance or support in relation to mental health at work
  • 73% of respondents thought their employer could do more to provide help, guidance and support in relation to stress at work.
  • 90% of junior lawyers were experiencing stress in their roles with over 26% reporting severe/extreme levels of stress.
  • More than 25% stated that they had suffered with a mental health problem in the previous month (whether formally diagnosed or not), with only 23% of those informing their employer.

The survey highlighted that the legal profession has a long way to go to alleviate the stigma surrounding mental ill-health. Organisations should be doing more to make talking about stress and mental health part of their culture.

The business case for investing in resilience and wellbeing 

Work conducted by Deloitte estimates that professional services businesses are losing in excess of £1,500 per employee per year due to the costs associated with poor mental health. For an organisation employing 300 people, that equates to more than £450,000 per year.

Wellbeing interventions, when implemented correctly, can lead to substantial returns on investment. For example, a professional services firm of circa 1,000 employees that invested £40,000 in mental health training saw a return on investment of £387,222 within one year (London's Business Case for Employee Health and Well-being).

Employees with good mental health can significantly improve an employer's ability to attract and retain talent and boost workplace morale and productivity (which has the potential to increase realisation rates). There is real value in investing time and resource to improve employees' mental health. Recognising and supporting mental health in the workplace can help to reduce absences, reduce the risk of mistakes, and create a positive open and sustainable workforce.

What should your organisation be doing to support resilience and wellbeing in the workplace? 

To help organisations put mental health and wellbeing at the core of their business, the Junior Lawyers Division has produced Supporting Wellbeing and Resilience in the Workplace guidance for employers.

The guidance focuses on three central themes: support; education & culture; and training.  It looks at ways to reduce stigma and foster good mental health. The aim is to encourage more dialogue around mental health and foster positive change.

For organisations to be successful with new initiatives, change must be championed from the top. 

Recommendations for changing workplace attitudes to mental ill-health

  • appoint wellbeing champions at a senior level that are clearly signposted to staff
  • provide line managers with appropriate training to enable them to properly support the wellbeing of their team
  • ensure that line managers are regularly speaking to their team members about their wellbeing (perhaps even by including wellbeing into the appraisal system)
  • ensure that employees understand the importance of downtime when they are not at work

Our survey showed that it is the time for organisations to put resilience and wellbeing is at the top of their agendas. The Junior Lawyers Division believes getting more people talking about the issues faced by the profession is essential to improving support for those who are currently struggling to manage the increasingly high demands and pressure of this industry. Without dialogue, the legal profession is at risk of losing some of its best talent.

 

Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society. 

Download the Supporting resilience and wellbeing in the workplace Guidance for best practice

Supporting resilience and wellbeing in the workplace

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Tags: communication | emotional resilience | stress | wellbeing

About the author

Kayleigh Leonie is an associate at Trowers & Hamlins LLP. She is a Law Society Council member for the Junior Lawyers Division and sits on the Law Society's Employment Law Committee.
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