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One-in-four law firms Say Fee Earners’ mental wellbeing at risk

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Employee mental well-being, burnout and workplace stress are getting worse amongst 23 percent of fee earners and 17 percent of non-fee earners in law firms.

Thirty-eight percent say that stress levels are high or very high for fee earner, but 73 percent of employers say they are very supportive of the mental health of their staff. Work life balance programmes, time management training and fitness facilities are some of the most commonly used workplace wellbeing solutions. Survey conducted by Xerox HR Services (formerly known as Buck Consultants).

Nearly one in four (23 percent) of law firms say  the mental well-being of their fee-earning staff has deteriorated in the past five years, according to the latest  Xerox HR Services survey. Another 17 percent say non-fee earners also are suffering. Many of the surveyed law firms said high-stress levels exist within their companies, particularly amongst fee earners. Thirty-eight percent believed their fee earners are under high or very high stress in their jobs, compared to just 11 percent of non-fee earners.

“While the survey found increasing levels of stress, we’re also seeing an increase  in the number of firms looking to improve this situation,” said Chris Evans, senior consultant, Xerox HR Services. Most firms believe in promoting working environments that support the mental wellbeing of employees, with 95 percent saying that they should take a good or great deal of responsibility.  Nearly three in four (72 percent) believe they are:

  • Taking steps to ease the pressures
  • Are very or extremely supportive of the mental well-being of their employees
  • Putting activities and programmes in place as part of this support. Educational programmes that promote work/life balance are the most popular tool law firms use to mitigate workplace stress, with three quarters offering it to all their employees. Time management and delegation training is offered to 63 percent of fee earners and 71 percent of non-fee earners.

The most common reasons for running these programmes are to improve productivity (47 percent) and performance (45 percent), with managing the long hours and employee’s physical wellbeing also featuring highly. Collecting wellbeing data and reporting the findings to senior leadership is commonplace in the legal industry. Ninety- four percent of fee earners are given the chance to take part in employee engagement surveys, 67 percent receive mental well-being scores and 57 percent undergo mental health screening.

When asked what additional programmes might become available in the future, firms often mentioned the option of taking a sabbatical, and the creation of emergency childcare facilities. The recognition that mental wellbeing is at risk suggests that the plans, programmes and activities currently in place may not be adequate.  “It’s important to measure and monitor the impact of each programme, collect feedback from the staff and explore what other support could be offered such as health care information or financial well-being guidance,” Evans said.

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