In any law firm or in-house legal department, there will be people who feel apprehensive about returning to the office, as well as people who are more than ready.
Some firms are aiming to restructure their workforce by having fewer days in the office, potentially creating a cultural shift. Clearly, there are positives to this, but there are some negatives, for example, a lack of connection and social interaction, both of which are important aspects of people’s work life.
So, how can these potential downsides be mitigated? By implementing wellbeing initiatives that bring people together in a social environment. There are three key steps to take.
A comprehensive wellbeing plan
An effective wellbeing plan for any firm or team should be a shared document of information, that everyone has read and has access to. It should reflect the ethos and culture of the practice.
The wellbeing plan details how the organisation looks after its employees in addition to the traditional benefits like gym memberships and holiday days.
For example, it could include a list of events funded by the practice that employees across the workplace can attend. Choosing activities that focus on wellbeing can have a hugely positive effect. They build morale, embed the culture, help develop and strengthen relationships, and ensure that employees are looked after, as well as knowing how to look after themselves and each other. These events work especially well if the experiences or activities are engaging and fun – rather than always about work.
Although wellbeing is very difficult to measure and some benefits are intangible, an effectively delivered wellbeing plan can improve many areas of the business, so keep a log of the improvements; some will be measurable, some anecdotal. But success is a motivator, being back together after 15 months or so is something worth celebrating.
A “Welcome Back” day can help rebuild connections, introduce new people to the team, help smooth the transition to new ways of working, changed work schedules, and being apart from colleagues.
By specifically organising a day with a wellbeing theme, you can address many of the remote working and return to work concerns that people may have in a safe, relaxed environment. An event or adventure away from the office, something that staff would happily choose to do themselves at the weekend is ideal.
Involve your staff in choosing the sort of day they want and the activities they’d like to take part in. This will demonstrate that the day is about them, not the business.
Providing you choose activities that are fun, and not just “let’s talk about work and how much more we can do” then this type of event can also be a great way to say thank you.
Scheduling wellbeing events
Bringing in regular, enjoyable, wellbeing-themed “Away Days”, perhaps on a monthly basis, that the entire workforce can benefit from, can help keep communication alive, relationships fresh and engagement high. Over time, the boost to morale will have everyone on board and working towards the goals and visions of the firm, making it not only more productive but an employer of choice.
The scheduled events can be worked to create cross-selling and information sharing within the firm and between departments, while strengthening those internal relations around the activities. Mixing fun and work creates a relaxed, open environment where ideas and creativity are more likely to flow and where they can be easily shared by individuals.
Now is not the time for law firms or in-house departments to get complacent about the mental wellbeing of their staff. Indeed, you should be revisiting the concerns you had at the start of the pandemic about keeping your team in touch and connected and, most importantly, retaining the sense of camaraderie that can be lost when people are working apart.