Attorneys have a tough job, but employers can do a lot to make things better for the lawyers who work for them. By now, you’ve probably heard that attorneys are at risk for chronic stress, depression, and substance abuse because of the immense pressure of their jobs. But what you might not have heard is when you create a positive work environment can help alleviate some of this pressure. Employers can play a significant role in making sure their attorneys’ mental and physical health doesn’t suffer from their job. Here are some ideas that will help you create a positive work environment for lawyers.
How to Create a Positive Work Environment
1. Be Kind To Your Employees
First and foremost to create a positive work environment, be kind to the lawyers who work for you, and don’t lead through fear. In order to get the best results possible in the courtroom and on your cases, you need your attorneys to be operating at 100 percent. But that means they need to feel free to come to you when they’re feeling overwhelmed. They need to know that they won’t be reprimanded for having issues or making small mistakes. Simply being kind can make a huge difference in your work environment.
2. Establish or Join a Mentoring Program
Some big contributors to stress and anxiety are loneliness and feeling overwhelmed. The American Bar Association recommends mentoring programs to help. You can either have your more experienced lawyers serve as mentors, or you can partner with a formal mentoring program. You can find a list of mentoring programs here.
3. Encourage Staff to Exercise and Spend Time Outside
Exercise can be a great way to help manage stress, but attorneys may feel guilty or nervous about taking time away from work to stay healthy. That’s why you need to make sure they know that their health is a priority. Encourage your attorneys to go for short walks outside, even during work hours. Consider offering a free or reduced-price gym membership to everyone on your staff.
4. Create a Calming Break Room for Everyone
Create a calming break room with low lights, comfortable furniture, and a soothing atmosphere. Let your attorneys know that they’re welcome to take a break there any time they need a stress reliever or even a short 30-minute nap.
5. Make It Easy To Be Healthy
It may be difficult, but try not to put so much work on your attorneys that they can never get enough sleep. You might encourage them to take a day off after finishing a particularly difficult work load, so they can catch up on their rest. You’ll also want to make healthy snacks and drinks readily available, so they don’t rely on junk food during time crunches.
6. Encourage Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation involves clearing your mind and observing your thoughts and emotions objectively. Practicing mindfulness can help attorneys deal with the stress of their jobs, and it can help them concentrate better for increased productivity. A lawyer can practice mindfulness by just taking a six-minute break while sitting at a desk. As an employer, you can offer a suggestion of apps for mindfulness. Let your employees know that it’s OK if they’re found sitting at their desk, with their eyes closed, taking a small break.
7. Educate Attorneys About Assistance Programs
There’s no shame in asking for help. Provide easy access to resources that can help attorneys who are struggling. The American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs aims to help every lawyer, judge, and law student have access to support for alcoholism, substance use, or mental health issues. Encourage all of your employees to check out the directory of local Lawyer Assistance Programs to make them aware of the different options that are available. You might also want to meet personally with the director of your local Lawyer Assistance Program. They can provide ideas on confidential support groups, wellness days, and training for lawyers.
Just because attorneys are hard working, doesn’t mean they need to sacrifice their happiness and health. As an employer, your first step is to lead by example. If attorneys see that you’re taking steps to be healthier, and you’re verbally encouraging them to do the same, they’ll be more likely to follow your example and it will create a positive work environment.
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