As a partner of Best Employers Eastern Region, Birketts believes in supporting staff with a strong focus on wellbeing and positive mental health. HR director Shaun Savory explains.

While it has been heartening to see evidence of a significant shift in attitudes towards mental health in recent years, there is undoubtedly more work to do to further improve understanding so that mental and physiological health are treated the same.

Businesses in particular have a critical role to play in both destigmatising mental health in the workplace and acting to help colleagues when they are struggling.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the issue is a particular concern in the legal profession. Long hours and high pressure in support of clients often define the day-to-day routine of legal practitioners, understandably contributing to, or causing, a decline in mental wellbeing over time.

It is not just a concern limited to solicitors either. Mental health issues can, and do, permeate all levels of an organisation, including those in junior business support positions and those at the very top.

At Birketts, we placed a significant focus on wellbeing and promoting positive mental health during the pandemic, and will continue investing in a more proactive approach as we move into 2022 and beyond.

The firm’s THRIVE health and wellbeing programme started in early autumn 2020, initially focusing on four key topic areas: mental health, diet and nutrition, physical health and sleep. Through a series of webinars, training events, expert talks and other supporting initiatives we have made significant steps toward becoming a more informed, supportive and open firm with regard to mental health.

Most recently, the firm invited Dr Sophie Bostock, aka ‘The Sleep Scientist’, to complete a two-part sleep improvement challenge for Birketts employees. Dr Bostock has worked with many large organisations including Google and the Premier League, as well as being a sleep expert for ITV This Morning.

The two sessions focused on the science behind sleep, developing healthy sleep habits and solving stubborn sleep problems. The aim of Dr Bostock’s sleep improvement challenge was to give individuals the resources they need to improve their sleep and, in turn, their mental and physical health, performance and overall wellbeing.

Throughout the THRIVE programme, one of the initiatives that has been particularly effective was a project called ‘My Story’. This involved senior staff members sharing their own personal experiences of mental health difficulties via videos which were available to view across the firm.

The personal nature of these stories allowed the videos to have a powerful resonance with viewers and the aim was that this would enable staff members to feel more comfortable in asking for help or discussing the topic of mental health. The feedback received from staff was overwhelmingly positive, with many suggesting they would feel more comfortable discussing such topics as a result of the project.

Our hope is that our mental health and wellbeing initiatives and resources work in tandem with wider societal changes to herald a new era where mental health and wellbeing is an important focus within organisations, where we have a greater awareness of others’ struggles and challenges and are better equipped to support ourselves and each other.

Positive mental health and wellbeing are fundamental to a healthy, happy and successful work and home life, and it is time that it is given the recognition that it so rightly deserves.

The Best Employers programme was founded by recruitment specialists Pure and psychometrics experts eras, and is supported by Archant and full-service law firm Birketts.