Law and finance are high stress working environments where 24/7 availability and high workloads can contribute to mental health issues. No one organisation can solve these industry-wide challenges. So Pinsent Masons worked with client Barclays and law firm Addleshaw Goddard to bring the 'buy' and 'supply' sides together to discuss a solution.
Anyone working in the financial services and legal sectors will tell you they are busy.
They experience high workloads, strict deadlines and are expected to meet exacting standards – often while working across multiple time zones. Technology's ability to connect them to colleagues and clients any time and anywhere can further-increase the pressure.
This can all contribute to wellbeing issues.
So, does the community shrug its shoulders? Or does it do something about it? That is the challenge the legal teams at Barclays, Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard have set about addressing.
While there are many programmes to raise awareness of wellbeing issues, or make support available, few of these focus on the root cause interactions and working methods that can cause unnecessary stress.
Working with a range of city institutions, we helped develop the Mindful Business Charter. This is a set of 22 principles aimed at changing the way signatory businesses work – often by identifying small changes in working practices that can be the root causes of unnecessary stress.
Through employee workshops; reviews of academic literature and staff surveys we identified the main drivers of stress and proposed 22 principles centred on improved communication, respect for rest periods and considerate delegation of tasks. Performance against these principles is monitored as part of relationship review meetings.
These small changes, often centred around improved communication, respect and cooperation, can make a big difference when applied at scale. Further, they can all be adopted by other organisations large or small.
Head of regulated and unregulated lending at Barclays UK Legal
The groundwork we have done with Addleshaws and Pinsents shows the power of collaboration to foster change. We are keen now to engage other financial institutions and professional advisers in collaborating on what is an important programme.
The success of the initiative can be seen in its wider adoption within the legal and financial services sectors. Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest and law firms Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright and Simmons & Simmons have all agreed to participate.
The Charter has also been developed in such a way that it is flexible enough to be deployed across a wide range of professional and financial services, not just commercial banks and legal advisers.
Our hope is that others, such as audit firms and investment banks, will also adopt the approach over time, leading to an altogether more healthy approach to working across the City and beyond.
But we recognise that improving mental health and lawyer wellbeing will not happen overnight – it is a programme that will take sustained effort over a number of years. However, this initiative has already helped teams to accept we can do things differently and, when we do, service quality and delivery will improve. It has also sent a clear message that there is no taboo on the issue, which is a huge first step.