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Firms need to tackle the ‘overwhelming urge to endure’ to address burnout in law

Law firms can reduce the risk of employees feeling exhausted or burnt out by creating environments where employees feel psychologically safe and able to switch off from work.

This is according to Henry Majed, co-founder and CEO of mental health and wellbeing platform MyMynd, who said the current “reactive” approach to employee mental health challenges is not working, and will never work.

Organisations instead need to create an environment where staff can admit that they are too stretched without fear of judgment.

He said that the workforce currently has an “overwhelming urge to endure” – pressing through feelings of stress or exhaustion, rather than taking a break to recover.

“What we’re seeing in general is that there are poor social relationships, reduced connection, and lower trust. And how this plays out is that people don’t feel they can put their hand up and say they can’t meet that deadline, or finish that task,” Majed said.

“People have high personal standards – they really care, they want to do their best, but because they’re so critical they always feel they need to do more. There’s a fear of judgement or a perception that if you can’t endure then you can’t do your job.

“In mission-driven organisations, like law firms, people don’t want to take time off because they feel they’ll come back to double the work they had before. Also, people don’t want to just pass the burden onto someone else, so they just continue on and endure.”

Majed said this is fairly common in law firms, as lawyers have spent a long time training to get to their current position, and feel they should be able to cope with these challenges.

Loss of hope

The most common wellbeing issues seen across the organisations MyMynd works with include social isolation, reduced connection and reduced trust. Employees also don’t feel as hopeful about the future as they once did.

“People don’t think things will go as expected, so they lose motivation – that’s why people are ‘quiet quitting’. Coping strategies aren’t working,” he adds.

Many of the problems faced by employees originate outside the workplace, but can have an impact on their performance and motivation in work if they do not feel they can take time out of the working day to sort them, for example a higher than expected bill, or personal issues at home.

Shift to prevention

Majed said firms need to shift their approach from responding to a mental health crisis to preventing one from occurring. This involves creating an environment to prevent people’s wellbeing from deteriorating; promoting a space where people feel safe to raise concerns; and creating conditions that allow people to recover.

“If you don’t change the environment and the conditions they are working in, then it’s very likely that these problems will arise again,” he said.

MyMynd is a mental health and wellbeing platform that identifies mental health issues early and signposts employees to support, while providing employers with insight into how their workforce is coping and how they can help staff thrive.

Majed said many popular mental health apps are reactive and offer “too little, too late”, with low engagement rates.

“They’re not personalised – if it doesn’t relate to you, then you’re not going to use it,” he said.

Employees can complete an 8-10 minute assessment on MyMynd, which will give them a score out of 5 against different indicators. Priority concerns are flagged for a one-to-one follow-up call with a clinical specialist, and employees are directed to resources and support specific to their needs.

A People in Law webinar on 23 February will feature a discussion between Majed and Jan Holmes from Taylor Vinters, Part of the Mishcon de Reya Group, about the practical tools employers can encourage staff to use to help them thrive.

“My view is that we can come out of this situation stronger by protecting and enhancing the energy of our most vital asset, which is our people,” said Majed.

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