Simply having mental health policies in place is not enough post-pandemic; initiatives need to be adaptable to specific staff requirements, according to Lander & Rogers.
During this year’s World Mental Health Month – and in the wake of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, Lawyers Weekly spoke to Lander & Rogers’ chief people officer Catherine Whitehead on the mental health initiatives the firm currently has in place. She said that for legal professionals, having good workplace culture is paramount to combat mental health issues.
“Numerous studies have shown legal professionals have some of the highest rates of mental health-related issues of any industry. It’s our responsibility as a profession to understand the factors contributing to stress and other psychological issues; to reduce stigma and normalise talking about our mental wellbeing; and to promote a healthier and more nurturing work culture,” she said.
“Workplace culture is becoming increasingly important to lawyers, especially young lawyers. We are hearing this repeatedly from candidates applying for jobs at Lander & Rogers. People want to work in an environment where they are well supported and cared for.”
The firm has a number of initiatives in place to support their staff’s mental health, including extra time off for proper breaks, a holiday program for those caring for school-aged children, wellness webinars, and virtual thank you cards. Ms Whitehead said the latter had been “one of the most popular initiatives” to date.
“Our virtual thank you cards are a way for people to celebrate each other’s everyday achievements and promote gratitude,” she said.
“Focusing on recognition and gratitude is an important part of creating a psychologically safe and productive work environment that promotes openness and collaboration.”
“Throughout the year, we also invite prominent speakers to speak to the firm about mental health and staying well. We’ve recently hosted Tokyo Olympian Peter Bol on the power of connection, psychologist Rhonda Andrew on wellbeing and mental health during lockdowns, and psychologist Dr Lea Waters on positive parenting. We’ve also worked closely with The Resilience Project,” Ms Whitehead added.
In last year’s Lawyers Weekly annual Top 25 Attraction Firms ranking, Lander & Rogers was crowned the most popular choice in the state of Victoria, with legal respondents indicating that if they were to switch firms, the Aussie law firm is where they’d want to go.
Ms Whitehead said that attracting and retaining staff, as well as looking after their wellbeing, has remained a priority over the last two decades.
“Health and wellbeing have been a priority for our firm for a long time – we established a dedicated wellness committee almost twenty years ago. We adapt our initiatives in response to what our people need most. Our focus has evolved from simply providing support to those experiencing mental health-related issues to a wider focus on prevention, management, and looking after our mental and physical health within and outside of work,” she said.
“Our most recent initiatives have been beneficial in keeping people engaged, connected and supported. In a recent pulse survey, 92 per cent of people reported feeling supported in their roles, and 85 per cent reported feeling connected to their teams.
“Our wellness initiatives also have the benefit of allowing us to connect in new ways with our clients and community. We encourage our families, friends and clients to take part in our wellbeing seminars, and many have found them enjoyable and worthwhile,” Ms Whitehead added.
And whilst having mental health policies in place is good, they need to be tailored to staff.
“It’s important that our wellbeing initiatives respond to the immediate needs of our people while promoting positive practices that enhance our lives day-to-day.
“In the early days of the pandemic, our focus was on creating connections while working from home and managing the stress of dealing with new and uncertain circumstances. Our more recent initiatives are designed to provide continued support through challenging times while promoting work-life integration and allowing time for rest,” Ms Whitehead added.
“Looking after your mental health and creating a culture where your wellbeing is genuinely valued is incredibly important to Lander & Rogers. It enables our lawyers to speak up if they need help and creates a sense of community and belonging.”