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Ray Crudgington

Article written by Ray Crudgington, Managing Partner

On Saturday 10 October 2020, we celebrate World Mental Health Day and this year, the importance of mental health is even more paramount.

At Grant Saw, we are passionate about improving the mental health of our staff and this article outlines some of the measures we have put in place (before and during the pandemic) as well as the initiatives available should any of our staff struggle with their mental health. We have also partnered with Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich Mind (BLG Mind), our 2020/21 charity of the year, who work alongside people with mental health needs and dementia in the local community to improve their quality of life.

When considering methods to improve the mental health of our staff on a day-to-day basis, we have looked at several different aspects.

Collaboration

Our offices in Greenwich and Blackheath are open plan which allows for a collaborative atmosphere. This allows solicitors to outline day-to-day problems they may be facing and gain support and advice from their colleagues. We all appreciate the nature of the legal profession can be very stressful at times and we encourage a sense of openness which has the objective of reducing the number of employees that may feel isolated whilst decreasing the stigma of negativity surrounding mental health issues in the workplace. At present, we have more people working from home so Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings also serve this function.

Lighting and air quality

We have factored in light and both offices offer a great mix of natural light from floor to ceiling windows (in Greenwich) and updated lighting systems. Lighting can be a pain point in offices and the abundance of natural light can minimise headaches, eyestrain and drowsiness thus significantly improving the health and wellbeing of our staff. We have also factored in temperature control facilities to ensure the room temperature can be maintained at an optimum level which is best suited to promote productivity, though this is sometimes challenging in open plan offices. Whilst our staff have been working from home, we have encouraged them to consider their new working environment so it is as comfortable as possible.

Support

Laura Bailey has been our Mental Health First Aider and others have an outline knowledge of the first signs of mental distress.

We have subscribed to an Employee Assistance Programme, which provides a 24/7 helpline, providing support for stress, anxiety or health issues. This service is confidential and available via telephone or online and provides practical support and guidance on a range of work-related issues through to personal problems at home. There are discounts available on healthy lifestyle choices such as gym memberships.

We have also offered mindfulness sessions which have been made available to employees of all levels and departments which covered topics such as stress management and anxiety issues. These sessions provided practical support to assist our employees to manage their workload, learning to manage stress, improving their mental and physical wellbeing and providing support. Partners are also on hand to sit down with staff to discuss their issues over a cup of tea, though more recently by video conference.

Grant Saw also promote Law Care, an independent charity who provide emotional support, information and training within the legal community. Law Care support staff on all levels and their families through a confidential helpline, email, web chat and one-to-one peer support networks.

Throughout the current pandemic, staff have been reminded to speak to the Partners in the firm or to make use of the above support if they are finding things difficult.

Exercise

As a firm, we promote physical exercise as it is proven to improve mental wellbeing. In July, we organised a remote yoga session, which was hosted by Julia Anastasiou and last month, four members of staff took part in a 100km running challenge. As we progress into 2021, we are looking to organise a Grant Saw running club which will be available to all members of staff and take place during Spring/Summer evenings over in Greenwich Park.

As a firm, we are focused on continuously working towards improving the mental wellbeing of our staff and we are delighted to support the work of BLG Mind and the efforts of World Mental Health Day.

To discuss any of these initiatives, or if you have other suggestions on how we can take simple steps to improve what we do for our staff, please feel free to contact me via email.