When it comes to management of the health and wellbeing of lawyers in corporate counsel roles, progress has been made but there is still a long way to go, according to the new head of legal at SafetyCulture.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly following her appointment to the Australian workplace solutions technology company, Kate Pullinger said “we are not quite there yet” with in-house wellness.
“There is certainly 'room for improvement' as my Year 5 teacher would say. It is a known fact that one in three lawyers will suffer from depression at some stage, and I have no doubt many more have suffered prolonged periods of intense stress and anxiety,” she said.
“Lawyers tend to have perfectionist traits which can sometimes be a positive attribute but in an in-house role, when the expectation is to gallop through work, respond quickly and be across a variety of matters, it can lead to in-house lawyers feeling unprepared, stressed and overwhelmed.”
A well-rested, engaged and energised workforce is ultimately what will ensure productivity and success, she argued.
“That means providing support to employees to eat well, sleep properly (7–9 hours a night) and exercise. It’s about making lawyers feel supported and comfortable and to know that, sometimes, people just have bad days and that's okay too,” she suggested.
“I’d like legal teams and the wider workforce to incorporate a "wellness" goal as part of the yearly review process – wellness and health to in-house lawyers is just as important as the company meeting its commercial and strategic goals. Numerous studies have concluded that the happier the workforce, the more motivated the employees. We should be encouraging companies to view employee wellness as a key pillar of a successful company.”
There are dangers, she added, of legal departments not adequately considering such health matters.
“A failure to cater to the wellbeing of staff leads to burnout, less engaged employees and staff churn. You will often find that when environments are toxic, more mistakes are made and employees are less productive.”
“The biggest danger for the legal industry is losing some fantastic and very capable lawyers to different industries because of the levels of stress they are put under,” she said.
In her new role with SafetyCulture, Ms Pullinger said she has particular objectives she’s looking to achieve when it comes to workplace wellness, to complement what is already in place.
“Luckily, the senior management at SafetyCulture genuinely promote flexibility and work/life balance so we are in a fortunate position. We often have dogs in the office which instantly lifts morale. We have also recently rolled out the wellness app Uprise to all employees – it's a mental health app that specialises in providing preventative support for employees and gives confidential access to mental health specialists.”
“In addition to embracing health and wellness technology, in the future I’d love to have some Sydney wellness gurus visit the SafetyCulture office to share their knowledge. We can all do with some wellness up-skilling.”
And, she’s not forgetting her own holistic wellness either, concluding our interview by saying: “On that note, I’m off to book in a massage and get some vitamin D.”