Essential support for solicitors and other law firm employees suffering with work-related stress

Insight

Published

09 May 2022

Are you paying attention to the mental health and wellbeing of all those working in your firm?

A research study recently released by LawCare entitled “Life in the Law”[1] found that 69% of the 1713 participants (who all work in the legal sector) had experienced mental ill health in the previous 12 months[2]. Only 56% of that group had talked about this at work. The study also found that legal professionals were at high risk of burnout.

Stress is an issue that can have an impact on mental health and wellbeing. While certain levels of stress are normal for some, high levels can have some serious consequences for both the individual and for your firm. So it’s important that you recognise the signs of unhealthy stress and put in place steps to support those who are suffering.

How to recognise those suffering from stress

High levels of stress can often go unnoticed, especially with team members working remotely. It’s important to be aware of the signs of stress, including:

  • Making mistakes which are “out of character”.
  • Changes in normal behaviour – are they more irritable, restless, depressed or anxious than normal?
  • Lack of interest and productivity issues.
  • Taking increased number of sick days.
  • Visually tired, overwhelmed or burned out.
  • Socially isolating themselves.

Clearly, unmanageable levels of stress can be a serious problem. So let’s explore some ways to help your team.

Six ways to help those suffering with work-related stress

  1. Improve stress and mental health awareness. Ensure principals, supervisors and line managers understand the policies and support that is available. Providing mental health awareness training for all those in management or supervision roles is a popular tool. This will help them to recognise the signs of mental ill health and empower them to feel confident in approaching an individual they feel may be struggling and signpost appropriate support.
  2. Encourage open conversations. A great way to limit unnecessary stress is through clear and regular communication. This is to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of the direction of the business and what is expected of them.
  3. Remind everyone of the importance of taking regular breaks. Stress often leads people to feel that they do not have time to take a break. However, getting away from the desk and outside for some fresh air will really help people to recharge and refocus. Teams could instigate a “meeting-free” time period each day to encourage people to take a break. Annual leave is also important for reducing stress levels, improving mental health, and increasing productivity.
  4. Create a friendly social workplace. Provide opportunities for social interaction amongst everyone in the firm, including team lunches and outings. This can greatly reduce workplace stress and increase collaboration and morale.
  5. Implement benefits that offer support. Many law firms offer some kind of Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as part of Group Health or Group Income Protection Insurance. EAPs are designed to support mental wellbeing and they often include telephone and face-to-face counselling. Mental health and wellbeing apps are also a cost-effective way to support your people and can be used to create firm-wide challenges for everyone to participate in.
  6. Make use of free resources. LawCare is an excellent place to start and has the advantage of being bespoke to the legal sector. Mind offers training and toolkits and Anxiety UK has similar services including a support line to call with any questions about preventing stress and anxiety at work.

Stress is something that can affect everyone, and with people spending so much of their time working, its important law firms put plans in place to provide support and avoid unhealthy stress and burnout.


    [1]The report is available here: www.lawcare.org.uk/media/14vhquzz/lawcare-lifeinthelaw-v6-final.pdf
    [2]The questionnaire providing the information for this study was open for response from 6 October 2020 to 15 January 2021

     

    Robbie Weston

    Robbie Weston - Director of Asset Management & Legal

    Robbie is an experienced Employee Benefits specialist and leads our proposition in the Asset Management and Legal sectors.