Your law firm is only as healthy as your employees. If you find merit in this statement, you may also find merit in implementing a wellness plan within your firm. The legal profession is notorious for its prevalence of poor physical and mental health. In fact, lawyers are significantly more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than nonlawyers. A successful wellness plan establishes resources to help your attorneys and staff members maintain optimal physical, mental, and emotional wellness. But a successful program requires thoughtful development and execution. This post seeks to help you with that process by providing some tips on implementing a wellness program within your law office.
Why you need a wellness program
While the mental and physical health of your employees is cause for at least some general concern, a wellness plan can also directly impact the success of your legal practice in numerous ways, including:
- Employee satisfaction – It takes time to build an effective team of skilled attorneys and reliable support staff. You put in the effort to attract them to the firm – why not put in the effort to keep them there? Wellness programs help bolster employee satisfaction by providing tools that employees find useful in their professional and personal lives. Health screenings empower employees to stay on top of their physical wellness. Gym discounts and office exercise programs encourage physical activity. Flexible work schedules send the message that it’s okay for employees to take time for themselves. Each of these resources provide value that increases employee satisfaction.
- Culture of wellness – When you create a culture of wellness, it is not necessary to beat your employees over the head with demands for healthier living. A healthier lifestyle becomes engrained in the fabric of the law office, where attorneys and staff members are consistently exposed to healthier options and opportunities. As stated in the Harvard Business Review article How to Design a Corporate Wellness Plan that Actually Works, “It is first and foremost about creating a way of life in the workplace that integrates a total health model into every aspect of business practice, from company policies to everyday work activities.”
- Productivity – What happens when you combine a culture of wellness with satisfied employees? You get increased productivity. Happy and healthy employees work in a more efficient manner. They miss less days from work for illness. They are also able to think clearer and communicate better because they are not going through the day exhausted and feeling overwhelmed. An effectively implemented employee wellness program can result in more productive employees, which may even translate into higher profits for your firm.
How to make it work
Now that you know the “why”, let’s talk about the “how”. As I stated earlier, a successful wellness plan requires thoughtful preparation and implementation. It’s more than just starting a weight loss program or offering an incentive to quit smoking. You first need to recognize the needs of your employees, so you can tailor a plan that will adequately help them. You can do this with biometric health screenings, which may be offered free of charge by your insurance carrier. If not, consider bringing in a professional to host an on-site screening event. It’s a great way to launch your wellness initiative while gathering valuable information. Be sure to take one yourself, so your employees can see your commitment… and don’t forget to ensure the confidentiality of the results. These assessments are essential for determining where your staff’s challenges and concerns lie.
Once you’ve identified your employees’ needs, it’s time to create an effective wellness plan. Again, if you’re not sure where to start, enlist the help of an HR expert. But if you want to take a stab at it yourself, start with the data you collected. Identify common issues among your staff members and think about ways to address those challenges with a broad stroke. For example, if poor nutrition is a prevalent issue, why not cater a healthy lunch once or twice a week? It could even be done as a cooking class where employees are given tips about healthy food choices and preparation. Is anxiety a common concern? Maybe a weekly yoga class or guided meditations could help.
Other commonly used wellness plan offerings include:
- Employee assistance services for addiction
- Smoking cessation programs
- Fitness center discounts
- On-site exercise programs
- Healthy snacking options
- Short-term health challenges
The next step is communication. Your employees need to know that you have implanted a wellness program and what it entails. Make sure you clearly lay out the framework of the plan and don’t make the mistake of only doing it once. Remember, you want to create a culture of wellness, so think of ways to consistently keep the plan on their minds.
Incentives and milestones
Opinions are split on the issue, but you may want to consider offering incentives for employee participation in the wellness plan. According to the Harvard Review article, financial incentives have not been proven effective for long-term behavioral changes. In fact, they may even foster some resentment and ill-feelings among your employees. Instead, use team-based incentives to build camaraderie and encourage support among employees. There are several internet-based competitions where companies work as a team to meet specific health goals. These options are more effective for creating a community of support, which can lead to long-term changes.
Once you implement your law firm wellness plan, you want to ensure that it is actually working. Develop milestones to review the plan’s effectiveness. Yearly screenings demonstrate increased or decreased health. You may also want to provide your workers with periodic surveys, so you can evaluate their impressions of the plan and solicit suggestions for improvement. Never think of your plan as a static program. There is always room for change and enhancements.
Whether you are a mid-sized law firm or a small practice with only a few members, a wellness plan can be of great assistance to your employees and the firm as a whole. It takes a bit of effort, but the result is more than worth it.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a freelance writer with a passion for law. Through her business, The Legal Writing Studio, she helps legal professionals deliver effective written messages. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.