An appeal to employers and individuals in the legal profession to reach out to colleagues this week, in order to combat feelings of loneliness, has been issued today by LawCare at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.
The theme of the week this year is loneliness. LawCare says it often hears from people working in the law who feel lonely, isolated and disconnected.
LawCare itself has its helpline (0800 279 6888), email support and online chat service, plus a network of around 90 trained peer supporters who can offer one-to-one support, friendship and mentoring to those who need it. However this week it encourages people working in the law to:
- reach out to a colleague this week for an informal chat about how things are going;
- share experiences about the challenges they have faced working in the law – which might make someone feel less alone;
- if they are having a hard time, talk about how they are feeling to LawCare or a trusted friend or colleague;
- signpost to LawCare's services wherever they can.
Employers should check in regularly with people – “little and often works best, and informal chats are as important as work conversations” – asking how people are and how they are managing their workload. They should make sure employees are looking after themselves, asking them about their lives outside of work.
LawCare’s Life in the Law research into legal workplaces wellbeing found that of a wide range of workplace measures available, from private health insurance to mental health training, regular catchups or appraisals were reported to be the most helpful.
Other particular recommendations for employers are:
- Pay attention to vulnerable groups: trainees and juniors will often need more support.
- Build a culture of connection and community: look for meaningful ways to increase connection/interaction at work and meet employees’ psychological needs for social exchange. “Brainstorms, informal tea breaks, weekly catchups, team days, peer support/mentoring programmes can all be useful here.”
- Encourage people back to the workplace. Incentivise and encourage people to spend at least some time in the workplace interacting with others, even if the majority of their work is carried out at home.
- Ensure a work/life balance is possible. Encourage everyone to work sensible hours – staff will take cues from how leaders behave. Take full lunch breaks; rest and recuperate after busy periods; avoid working at weekends; take annual leave entitlement. Make sure teams are well resourced in order to make this happen.
- Signpost to support – in particular that from LawCare.
LawCare is holding a webinar titled “Loneliness and the importance of connection” tomorrow, Tuesday 10 May, from 11.30-12.30. Register here.