Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

How to Set Up a Well-Being Program in Your Firm

A great way to boost your profits, bolster your workforce – and maybe even save a life – is to create a Well-Being Program in your law firm.

How to do it is up to you. There are no rules. The only limits are your budget and imagination.

The potential rewards are great. This study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that employees with healthy habits are 3.1 times more productive than unhealthy employees. This one from Brigham Young University found that absenteeism drops 29 percent when employees make a few simple changes in diet and exercise.

Conversely, the cost of ignoring well-being can be fatal. One in five adults reports some form of mental disorder each year. The problem is even worse in the law. The ABA Report on Attorney Well-Being declared the profession to be in crisis, with rising rates of stress, burnout, and suicide.

“Employees with depression miss six to 25 more days of work per year, and their productivity affects between 13 to 29 percent of their time at work,” writes Elyse Cohen for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The private sector is uniquely positioned to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and implement programs that create healthier and more inclusive work environments.”

Tips for Getting Started

When it comes to being proactive about employee well-being, the legal industry lags behind the business sector.

Some companies have come up with remarkably innovative ways to promote wellness in their workplaces. Here are some pointers for starting your own program, courtesy of Elyse Cohen and the U.S. Chamber.

  • Appoint a well-being czar. Things won’t get off the ground unless someone takes the reins. In 2015, Deloitte created the executive-level position of Chief Well-Being Officer. One of Jen Fisher’s first moves was to launch Deloitte’s Mental Health at Work campaign, which included initiatives to mitigate stress, boost resilience and promote employee health at work and home.
  • Empower your team. Johnson & Johnson named Craig Kramer as its first Mental Health Ambassador. He spearheaded the J&J Mental Health Diplomats, an empowerment network that recruited 1000 employees in 32 countries and trained more than 350 employees in Mental Health First Aid.
  • Offer confidential aid to employees in need. Johnson & Johnson created a state-of-the-art Employee Assistance Program that not only helps employees struggling with depression, anxiety, and substance use but also teaches a range of life-work skills like physical fitness, time management, and financial budgeting. Mental health services are extended to employees’ family members as well, ensuring well-being beyond the workplace.
  • Create a safe space. Encourage your team to talk about wellness and its benefits. Promote an office atmosphere of empathy and concern. At your next staff meeting, bring in a nutritionist to give a presentation on healthy eating. Or invite a personal trainer to discuss cardio or strength training.
  • Provide incentives. Health and dental insurance, parental leave, gym memberships and a breakroom stocked with nutritious snacks are perks that benefit both the employee and the firm.
  • Give your employees Wellbeing Leave. Lendlease lets employees take one day off every quarter to attend to their health and well-being needs. The company adopted this policy after a survey revealed that 10 percent of its employees suffered from work-related stress and 16 percent were at high risk of developing depression. The Lendlease Wellness Hub is a learning center focused on preventative care. Each room in the Wellness Hub provides resources and activities, including Mental Health First Aid training.
  • Create a culture of wellness. Make full-spectrum health – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – a part of your firm’s business plan. Everyone – especially the firm’s leaders – should buy into the program and contribute to the culture.

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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