Sam Jardine: Why employers should offer staff mental health support

With Covid-19 (Coronavirus) restrictions easing, employees up and down the country are gearing up again for a return to the office.

However, after working from home for months on end and with underlying anxieties surrounding the pandemic understandably still present, our HR team has considered how we can better equip colleagues to manage workplace stresses and boost our collective resilience and wellbeing with a project led by our HR business partner Tom Freestone.

The legal profession, whether in private practice or in law firms, often involves long hours, tight deadlines and pressure from many angles. With a Junior Lawyers Division report finding that 93% of junior lawyers had experienced stress that had negatively affected their mental health, the profession is among the most challenging when it comes to stress-related illnesses, such as burnout.

Our HR team chose to roll out mental health service Thrive as a support tool within our business. We first started a trial for 250 employees and it received such positive levels of engagement, with nine in 10 rating the provision as good or excellent, that we have now rolled out the app trial permanently to all our 950 UK members of staff. This provides our employees with another tool in their resilience armoury and a trusted avenue of support, which is especially crucial as lockdown lifts and life returns to some semblance of normality.

We recognise that in an already demanding profession, protecting the mental health and resilience of our workforce and providing them with preventative support needs to be a priority. We have an extensive wellbeing programme already in place, which includes an employee assistance programme, private healthcare with comprehensive mental wellbeing coverage, an onsite counselling service, iPlus inclusiveness and diversity programmes, and mental health first aiders.

Employees are able to access a range of different tools designed to support mental health and wellbeing through clinical-grade evidence-based techniques including cognitive behavioural therapy, guided meditation, deep muscle relaxation exercises, as well as access to a chat service with trained therapists. It is important for our staff to be able to access preventative support such as this and we are pleased to see the positive benefits it is already having.

Sam Jardine is a partner at global law firm Fieldfisher