This month there’s been a national push on opening up conversations about mental health, with mental health charity, Heads Together selected as the London Marathon’s Charity of the Year. Stress Awareness Month, which runs throughout April, is a time used to acknowledge the difficulties people face when dealing with issues of stress. It’s important that everyone does their bit, which is why we’re highlighting the prevalence of stress in the professional services industry and praising the work of firms whose initiatives are setting examples for the rest.

The average employee spends over 40 hours a week at work, so it’s no surprise that many cases of stress can be traced back to the workplace. In fact, according to a survey carried out by Health and Safety Executive, in 2016 there were 488,000 reported cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety. This resulted in a staggering 11.7 million working days lost.

The good news is that work to combat these worrying statistics is happening. Legal firms throughout the UK are demonstrating an effort to combat workplace stress and better support employees who are suffering. Those doing so are experiencing increased productivity, less lost man-hours and a higher quality of output from their employees.

In this blog we’re showcasing some of the initiatives being adopted by these firms and highlighting the successes they’ve experienced as a result.

Herbert Smith Freehills

This international commercial law firm launched an internal mental health mentoring programme for its 1,714 employees based in its London and Belfast offices. All of its mentors’ – who have taken on the role voluntarily – have received basic training on how to advise others of ways to cope with workplace stress, mental health and improve their general wellbeing. For any issues they aren’t comfortable giving advice on, they are encouraged to direct the individual to the appropriate support service.

As well as their advisory role, the 60 mentors are acting as ambassadors for the firm’s other wellbeing initiatives, such as hosted talks by keynote speakers, panel events and workshops with consultant psychiatrists.

Herbert Smith Freehills’ Managing Partner for US and UK, Ian Cox told Employee Benefits that the initiatives were designed to open conversations surrounding stress and mental health in the firm and reduce the stigma that’s associated with admitting you’re suffering.

Hogan Lovells

Rather than waiting for employees to seek help, this firm has taken a proactive approach to tackling the problem. Noticing that the period after promotion is a particularly stressful time – deemed a ‘stress point’ by the firm – particular attention is paid to those who receive them, with resilience training forming a large part of its key development programmes.

Having understood that not everyone will feel comfortable talking openly, Hogan Lovells employs a third party organisation to offer a confidential support line service to its employees.

The firm has seen overwhelming successes will all of its initiatives. Over the course of last year, there was 4,000 hits on its wellbeing intranet site, wellbeing events are frequently oversubscribed and the on-site counsellor has had a great take up from employees of all levels and departments.

Clifford Chance

Back in 2014, legal giant Clifford Chance launched a unique graduate development programme in conjunction with The Positive Group. The scheme’s aim is to raise awareness of the benefits of good mental health for its new recruits. Having identified this group as particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress and pressure, the firm have spent time and effort into developing a graduate programme which fully supports their transition into full-time work.

As part of this scheme, all recruits are put through resilience training, which gives them access to the firm’s Resilience and Wellbeing Speaker Series. The series has partnered with some impressive speakers including sports psychologists, neuroscientists and nutritionists, amongst others.

Of course, not every firm will have the resources or capacity to implement programmes similar to those adopted by these large organisations, however there are ways of reducing the unnecessary stress that contributes to the loss of a significant number of man hours.

With workload pressures being the main factor cited as causing stress, depression and anxiety in the workplace, legal firms should be paying careful attention to what employees have on their plates (source: Health and Safety Executive). Having defined roles and responsibilities within your legal firm helps employees understand what is and isn’t in their remit. So, rather than asking over-loaded solicitors to take on work outside of their scope, look at outsourcing or redistributing within the team.

Propero Partners works with legal firms like yours across the UK and understands the pressure you’re under to deliver for your clients. To find out how we’ve freed up time for similar business to focus on what matters, start a conversation. One of the senior team will be happy to help.

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