· 2 min read · Features

Health and wellbeing in the legal sector

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?The legal sector is not renowned for wellbeing, but flexible working and carefully considered benefits can go a long way

Recent research by market research consultancy Comres showed that more than 80% of young people believe a career in law would not offer a good work/life balance. So how can firms go against the grain?

Ensuring that a business has a strong employee wellbeing strategy can have a number of benefits. Aside from boosting morale, it can cut costs and make recruitment and retaining staff smoother. Since we introduced various employee initiatives in 2014 as a firm we have saved a predicted £70,000 in recruitment costs. While it may seem difficult to introduce wellbeing policies in an extremely busy environment there are many rewards from doing so.

Improving health and communication

Ensuring that communication between employees is strong regardless of the firm's hierarchy is essential to wellbeing and the overall working environment. While it may sometimes be difficult to encourage dialogue across all levels it's best to keep a culture of openness to ensure everyone is heard.

Being able to communicate around sensitive issues such as potential problems inside or outside of work is important. For example, half of our managers are Acas Mental Health Champions following training to ensure they can identify and support employees that are struggling with mental health issues. We also have an independent employee assistance programme available to all staff, which gives them access to help. A testament to the effectiveness of these systems is Fletchers’ absence rates, which have dropped significantly over the past couple of years.

The same open approach should be applied for any potential news or business updates – these should be communicated at all levels to create an atmosphere of respect and equality.

Implementing a flexible working system

In a hectic and pressured profession like law it can be more difficult to introduce flexible working policies because there is often an expectation that law professionals will be on hand outside standard working hours. However, that is not to say flexibility is impossible.

To introduce a flexible working policy you need to have the right structure in place to allow it. For example, by creating groups of teams carefully you can ensure that there will always be someone available who is aware of cases and other information. This will allow team members flexibility, and they can work together to make sure client communication standards remain strong.

Rewards and remuneration

Implementing a benefits package can help companies attract and retain top-tier talent, but it is essential to tailor it to the business. An effective benefits package needs to hone in on what motivates employees. A good way of doing this is to provide options to choose from and discuss benefits packages in an open way. Since introducing our rewards package our retention has risen to almost 90%.

While monetary rewards may traditionally have been most popular, benefits that will have a positive impact on people's health and wellbeing can also work well. For example, offering treatment vouchers to staff who have worked particularly hard or are in need of some ‘me time'. We also give our employees access to subsidised gym memberships or classes, and provide pedometers to encourage them to move more while at work.

Benefits should also be understood and handled correctly by managers to ensure that employees are receiving their entitled remuneration. You could use specialised sections on your intranet to provide information for managers.

Employee wellbeing strategies are by no means one-size-fits-all. It is always best to find out from staff – whether in discussions or anonymously – what they are looking for from their employer. However, by implementing a robust strategy firms of all sizes and their employees will certainly reap the rewards.

Sara Duxbury is head of people at Fletchers Solicitors