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with mental health issues among their staff. Recent research found that 75%1

of line managers do not feel as

though their company’s policies and procedures support employee mental health. And according to Mind, 30% of employees do not feel they could talk openly with their line manager if they were feeling stressed.2 However, promoting a healthy

working environment and supporting staff who may be experiencing difficul- ties doesn’t have to be a mammoth task. Te main area to focus on is whether the company is fostering a positive working environment. Do people feel good about coming in to work? If not, then time needs to be spent on identifying why this might be and finding ways to address any issues that are affecting team morale. Using regular staff surveys (an-

onymised to encourage honesty) can be vital in revealing problems. Tey help to show company-wide issues that may be invisible because they blend into the accepted patterns of day-to-day work. Te work hard, play hard cliché can

be guilty of masking unhealthy behav- iours both in and out of the office.

Creating a healthier culture

Achieving positive change begins with corporate culture. It’s all very well telling people to have a better work life balance, but if everyone around them is still working an 18-hour day, they will soon revert to the norm. Tere can be many

causes of stress within a work culture that need to be considered. Tese causes could be related to workloads – perhaps they feel disengaged from their work or are struggling with large workloads. Tis is especially the case in the legal sector, where huge caseloads can cause stress levels to rise, or very important, high value cases can begin to feel overwhelming. However, stress can also be the

result of relationships and attitudes. When the culture has a positive and supportive feel to it, employees are more likely to enjoy their jobs and it can also help to ease the

28 | July 2017 |

pressure. However, if the environment feels negative, this will only add to their stress and create feelings of unhappiness. Creating an open and understanding culture helps to identify and ultimately prevent mental health problems occurring. Every year, a quarter of people in the UK will experience an issue with their mental health and yet there remains a culture of silence around these issues at work.3

Part of

this silence comes from a belief that talking about mental health or how you’re affected by the pressures of work is a sign of weakness or failure. To increase employee wellbeing and

ensure that staff do not feel weighed down by their work, or even their personal life, firms need to establish an open and transparent culture where people feel they can talk about stress, anxiety or any concerns they may have. Tis will help to remove the stigma that often exists when it comes to dis- cussing mental health. It will also help to foster a greater sense of community, where everyone communicates openly and can share ideas and suggestions.

At Fletchers, we have provided

our managers with specialised training to help them create an open culture where employees can discuss their mental health or any issues they might have. Half of our managers are now known as Mental Health Champions, following ACAS training on how to proactively spot and prevent mental health issues in their teams, which is an innovative move for the sector. We also offer access to an

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which provides independent support to employees with any kind of issue, including mental health.

Organisational change

Tere may also be practical steps that firms can take to reduce causes of stress. We all have work and tasks that we find easier and more natural than others. Solicitors are no different. One way we found to reduce

workload stress has been to increase the amount of administrative support to pick up many of the incidental tasks that accompany legal casework. Detailed reading of expert statements, picking out areas most crucial to the case, chasing up pending evidence, proactively managing client com- munication, ensuring deadlines are met and important forms are filed correctly, are all crucial tasks, but ones that can be delegated to expert administrators. Freeing up the

‘head space’ of solicitors from these tasks, safe in the knowledge that

they are being expertly managed, does a lot to

reduce stress and put an end to sleepless nights wondering if all the tasks are complete.

Increasing flexibility

While a career in the law is unlikely to ever be 9 to 5, firms need to embrace new working models or risk losing talented staff that are increasingly unwilling to sacrifice family life for their careers. It’s also important to remember that people sometimes just need time to themselves, away from the stresses and demands of

working life. If a person is constantly @TrainingJournal

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