Working as a solicitor can be incredibly stressful during ordinary times, but with COVID-19 the stresses of modern life have been amplified exponentially, both in people’s professional and personal lives. As a result, it is vital law firms recognise the importance of solicitors’ mental and physical wellbeing, especially during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis when any pre-existing wellbeing issues will likely be aggravated.
Through this article I will be emphasising the importance of solicitors maintaining a balanced mental and physical wellbeing and top tips to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
What is wellbeing?
Wellbeing is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy’. Although this is important, wellbeing encompasses a far more broad notion that is difficult to precisely define.
Wellbeing is often split into two main categories: physical and mental wellbeing. Physical wellbeing ensures one maintains a balanced lifestyle, body and mind. Whilst mental wellbeing focuses on how you are feeling and coping with the stresses of modern life.
Why is wellbeing so important for solicitors?
Physical and mental wellbeing in the legal profession is incredibly important especially considering the 2017 research by the Stevenson Farmer Review which suggests lawyers are ‘surviving but not thriving’, with 3 out of 5 people suffering from mental health problems at work (Samaritans - Wellbeing in the Workplace programme).
This is a prevalent problem throughout the legal profession but especially for trainee solicitors. The 2019 Junior Lawyers Division Resilience and Wellbeing Survey paints a worrying picture of the levels of negative stress and mental ill-health experienced by trainee solicitors, stemmed from increased mental health problems during law school. These concerns will only be exacerbated with the uncertainties surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19). Therefore, law firms must be made increasingly aware, and put contingencies in place, to support solicitors, especially trainees’ physical and mental wellbeing.
The Law Society argues wellbeing across the legal community is all too often overlooked. This is extremely troubling especially in the current climate and thus must be tackled head on. Physical wellbeing is important to improve health and reduce the risk of solicitors developing preventable diseases. This is vital when good physical wellbeing enables solicitors to work more effectively and productively whilst giving the client the best level of service possible. Furthermore, mental wellbeing is incredibly important to maintain a healthy state of mind to in order for solicitors to work effectively and efficiently for their clients, and to create happy, healthy, long-lasting relationships.
Ultimately, a strong, balanced sense of wellbeing creates happy, healthy, more productive, effective and efficient solicitors which is important for yourself, your clients and your firm.
The importance of wellbeing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis
Unsurprisingly, Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having the biggest impact on solicitors’ wellbeing in recent history.
Interim findings of a Working From Home Wellbeing survey recently published by the Institute for Employment Studies indicates the negative impact of lockdown on employees’ physical and mental wellbeing is very significant.
The main problems concern poor diet and exercise, with 20% of respondents increasing alcohol consumption, 33% eating a less healthy diet and over 60% exercising less. This has affected people’s physical health, with 58% disclosing new neck and back pain. Exercise is the number one best way to improve your mental and physical wellbeing and therefore these figures are extremely worrying. Furthermore, poor sleep and increased exhaustion is a further problem that is troubling, with 64% admitting to less sleep and 60% experiencing fatigue. This is a huge concern as tiredness will not only impact one’s mental and physical wellbeing, but could have a detrimental impact on one’s work and the service provided to clients.
Lastly, 50% of respondents reported they were unhappy with their current work-life balance, with a 33% feeling isolated. This is extremely worrying and something law firms must focus on to improve mental wellbeing.
Therefore, the importance of maintaining a good and healthy mental and physical wellbeing has never been so important. For more guidance please look at the top tips below and for further support, see the contact details of specific organisations providing help and support during these extremely challenging times.
How have Tees supported its solicitors physical and mental wellbeing?
Although wellbeing has always been a key focus for Tees, naturally this has been extended during this difficult time to support its solicitors and staff.
That Tees has regarded the vital importance of wellbeing long before COVID-19, is reflected in the firms’ generous benefits package. This not only includes the typical benefits of working for a modern law firm, such as a pension scheme and health insurance, but also includes birthday leave and Perkbox membership to help enhance solicitors both physical and mental wellbeing. This includes free weekly drinks from Caffè Nero, monthly cinema tickets, birthday hamper as well as online fitness and wellness classes to truly enhance the focus on solicitors’ wellbeing. This is one way Tees rewards hardworking staff and helps them to feel valued.
Secondly, Tees have supported physical wellbeing during lockdown through creating a fantastic ‘Steps Challenge’. A brilliant walking initiative designed by the managing director, Ashton Hunt to promote physical and mental wellbeing whilst raising money for Tees’ chosen charity, Mind. This has been a hugely successful programme with the many members of staff together walking the equivalent of twice around the world.
Thirdly, Tees has promoted mental wellbeing during lockdown through virtual socials such as group cooking and virtual pub sessions. This was incredibly important in order for Tees to maintain its friendly and sociable atmosphere throughout the pandemic.
Top tips for maintaining a balanced wellbeing
- Keeping fit and active through regular exercise benefits physical as well as emotional wellbeing
- maintaining a balanced diet
- creating structure to your day by finding a routine that works for you
- staying organised
- Working in a tidy, well-lit room
- getting plenty of sleep
- managing your workload - breaking down tasks into small manageable chunks
- remaining in contact with colleagues and friends
- taking sufficient breaks
- seeking help and support if you are struggling.
- A charity specifically designed to provide information and support to anyone in the legal industry experiencing mental health and wellbeing problems.
- Website - www.lawcare.org.uk
- Helpline open Monday to Friday 9am to 5:30pm: 0800 279 6888
- LawCare’s live chat is available on-
- Tuesday and Wednesday from 1:15pm to 5:30pm
- Thursday from 9am to 1:15pm.
- A mental health charity which can provide a range of advice on mental health and wellbeing.
- Website – www.mind.org.uk
- Helpline - 0300 123 3393
- An online learning programme providing wellbeing resources to those in the workplace. This programme emphasises the importance of emotional and physical wellbeing to encourage those who are struggling to reach out to a colleague, friend or family member.
- This programme has been extremely successful: 93% of respondents found it has helped them to recognise emotional distress in others. Furthermore, 93% now recognise the importance of looking after their own wellbeing and 90% now feel more confident approaching others for emotional support.
Article written by Sophie Charles, who attended the Tees vacation scheme in 2020.