Promoting wellness initiatives in your office isn’t just a good idea – it’s a smart business strategy.
Consider these statistics: lost productivity due to employee health problems costs US businesses more than $225 billion per year. A similar amount is lost because of alcohol and substance abuse. And the stats get grimmer when you look only at law firms. The 2016 ABA/Hazelden study found rates of substance abuse, depression and job stress are far higher in the legal industry than in the general population.
This isn’t just a health problem. It’s a financial problem too. Every time a burned-out or unhappy employee walks out the door, the firm loses money. In fact, the estimated loss from law firm turnover is $9 billion annually.
Given those numbers, implementing a wellness program in your firm should be a no-brainer.
“While it is true that it makes sense to invest in well-being simply because it is the right thing to do—and some have argued it is an ethical and professional responsibility imperative—it never hurts to have the dollar signs on your side as well,” writes lawyer Jonathan Beitner, a co-writer of the ABA’s Well-Being Pledge. “The good news is that the link between a healthy workforce and a healthy bottom line is becoming clearer and clearer.”
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Here are five pointers Jonathan Beitner suggests for starting a wellness initiative in your firm:
- Base your program on evidence. “Attorneys like arguments backed by strong evidence, and a growing body of research demonstrates the benefits of embracing well-being and supporting programming around topics like resilience, optimism, emotional intelligence and mindfulness,” he writes in Law Practice Today. “For a wealth of resources, studies, articles, and research on these and additional well-being topics, check out the ABA’s Well-Being Toolkit, the Report and Recommendations of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (especially the heavily cited footnotes and appendices), or your local Lawyers’ Assistance Program.”
- Reduce the stigma. A majority of law students believe if they seek help for a substance abuse or mental health problem, it will negatively impact their law school standing and career options.“ The best way to erase this stigma is by through personal contact with someone who has experienced – and overcome – similar issues.
- Make wellness a part of your diversity and inclusion plan. “De-emphasizing the expectation of alcohol at events is not just one tenet of the ABA’s Well-Being Pledge—it is also necessary to ensure an inclusive work environment,” writes Beitner.
- Make wellness a part of your attorney recruiting and development program. “Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is a critical part of being an attorney,” writes Beitner. “Having strong social connections, in turn, is an important way to bolster resilience. But communication can be a physical-well-being issue as well. Researchers have found that cancer patients with strong communication skills had an easier time implementing coping strategies, lower levels of perceived stress, and higher quality of life.”
- Take the long view. When it comes to holistic health, there is no quick fix. Nor is there any one-size-fits-all strategy. Examine your workforce. Look at their needs. Listen to what they’re saying. Come up with strategies that will improve their physical, mental and emotional health. When you do, you’ll improve your bottom line as well.
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