Wellness Programs for Law Firms – Managing the Practice of Law

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We agree that COVID-19 has brought about various changes – some good and maybe some not so good. There is an ongoing debate as to whether these changes are permanent or not, and for now, I’ll leave that to scribes far wiser than me to inundate us with their predictions.

At least these changes are impersonal and we can choose to adopt them.

But the real impact we should be focusing on is the personal impact of COVID-19 – an overall deterioration in mental health. The shortage of beds for COVID-19 is nothing compared to the lack of programs to deal with the growing level of mental health issues.

According to the World Health Organization, mental well-being is defined as “A state of well-being in which the individual becomes aware of his abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and can make a contribution to his community. “

Feelings of sadness, stress, confusion, fear or worry exist and always will be. But they have never been at the level and as widespread as they are today. Coupled with this is a growing acceptance that the pandemic is far from over – who knows how many waves we will face before it gets under control (this clearly does not suggest that it will end soon). day).

Everyone knows someone or has even felt in the past 18 months:

  • a sense of social exclusion or judgment
  • concern about the education and well-being of your children
  • fear of getting sick with COVID-19 or making others sick
  • worry about losing your job, not being able to work or your finances
  • fear of being separated from loved ones due to isolation or physical distancing
  • helplessness, boredom, loneliness, and depression due to isolation or physical distancing
  • unexplained anger with loved ones about non-events
  • not having the experiences that others have had – graduation, weddings (invitations and venues), births, vacations, etc.
  • weight gain

A handy “label” for all of these negative feelings is “fatigue”.

During the pandemic, various medical agencies and mental health workers developed several tips that you can use to deal with fatigue, including:

  • Stay informed but take breaks from social media and news.
  • Practice physical distancing, but stay socially connected to friends and family through:
    • E-mail
    • Phone calls
    • video chats
    • social media
  • Practice mindfulness by:
    • elongation
    • meditate
    • take deep breaths
  • Take healthy steps:
    • eat healthy meals
    • regular exercise
    • Have had plenty of sleep
  • Follow safe food handling and cooking practices to keep you and your family safe by killing the virus and reducing your risk of infection.
  • Think about how to use any unexpected flexibility in your daily routine.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of your life and the things you can control.
  • Be kind and compassionate to yourself and to others.
  • If you can, limit your substance use.
  • If you use substances, practice safer use and good hygiene.

Unfortunately for law firms that have adopted “hybrid employment policies”, there is real potential exposure to mental health issues among their members, particularly firms that have chosen to adopt a “First Distance” policy. The basic principle of the “Remote-first” approach is that the firm has not imposed any real restrictions on lawyers and staff working remotely.

With increased flexibility comes greater responsibility (if you want to make your business sustainable).

The potential risks if companies do not develop comprehensive “wellness” programs include:

  • A drop in productivity;
  • Attrition – both lawyer and staff;
  • Erosion of corporate culture;
  • A decline in customer service; and
  • Exposure to extended group insurance claims.

The types of planks you might consider in a wellness program include:

  • A monthly allowance that people can use whatever services they choose for things like gym memberships, house cleaning, or living rooms (they submit receipts and receive reimbursements for expenses);
  • Well-equipped home office including the supply of items such as:
    • Ergonomic chair
    • Flexible computer desk
    • Blue light glasses
    • Suitable lamps
    • Humidifier or dehumidifier
    • Air conditioner
    • White noise machine
  • Host group workouts online. The best way to host an online exercise class for everyone is to send a recurring calendar invitation that includes a video meeting link (you can even hire a fitness instructor to lead the session);
  • Virtual self-help programs which could include:
    • Nutritionist consultations
    • Healthy cooking class
    • Goal setting sessions
    • Relationship advice
    • Mini telemedicine check-ups
    • Employee Benefits Information Sessions
  • Virtual volunteering – use video calls to write letters of encouragement to frontline workers, mentor school children, host a community workshop or video chat with nursing home residents;
  • Virtual coaching available – both career and life;
  • Digital coworking hours help break down the isolation that comes with working remotely. Designate a block of video time where dispersed team members can connect through a video app and work together in silence;
  • Virtual Buddy Systems is a kind of online correspondence program. It is more difficult to form professional friendships in remote environments, but the buddy system makes the process easier; and
  • Firm Anecdote Sessions – scheduled monthly / weekly sessions where senior members of the firm share humorous and proud stories of past accomplishments / events within the firm.

Wellness programs have been an increasingly important aspect of talent management, but never more so than today in light of remote working arrangements.

The positive impact of a wellness program on productivity, retention, recruitment and focus is absolute. This is why so many large, successful businesses continue to invest in their wellness programs.

Stephen Mabey is CPA, CA and Managing Director of Applied Strategies, Inc. Stephen focuses on law firms in general and in particular on small and mid-sized law firms. He has advised on a wide range of issues including leadership, business development, marketing, key performance indicators, strategic planning, mergers, practice acquisitions, competitive intelligence, finance, mergers, transition of practices, compensation, organizational structures, succession planning and transition. , partnership agreements and firm pensions. In 2013, Stephen was named a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management in recognition of his continued commitment to the highest standards of professionalism in the management of the practice of law. He is the author of
Leading and Managing a Sustainable Law Firm: Tactics and Strategies for a Rapidly Changing Profession (Amazon). For more information, visit appliedtrategies.ca or contact Stephen Mabey by email at [email protected] or by phone at 902.499.3895.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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