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Fenners Chambers

This case study may be useful if you are looking for examples of increasing awareness of wellbeing and promoting wellbeing initiatives.

In the New Year, Fenners decided to raise awareness of Wellbeing at the Bar in Chambers.  They began several initiatives to improve their workspace. They offered education about wellbeing and information about where to seek help to manage it.  They also encouraged participation in physical events and discussion about taking holidays and sabbaticals.

Chambers has expanded and is very busy.   It is increasingly difficult to know everyone well and to appreciate how they are feeling about life and practice.  Wellbeing is such a sensitive topic for many people.  Many don’t find it easy to discuss their own well-being as they feel it is a sign of vulnerability.  By encouraging general, rather than personal, discussions about wellbeing and promoting healthy initiatives in Chambers, Fenners hope to get to know each other better and to create a mutually supportive environment for everyone.

 

Chambers’ practice covers a wide geographical area involving significant travelling this also raised concerns about members’ wellbeing.

What was the business (other case) for action?

Fenners have always been a very supportive set when people have found it difficult to work because they or their family are unwell.  When support is offered people feel they are valued and that others will support them to remain in Chambers during their difficulties.

They also wanted their clerking team to feel valued, supported and protected.

What did Chambers do?

Examples of activity and initiatives include:

  1. Recognising the required travel/demands of court-based practice means practitioners may become very tired, may neglect their diet and may not take enough exercise, chambers have…
  • Organised a fruit delivery twice a week
  • Provided a bean-to-cup coffee and green tea machine.
  • Encouraged cycling to local courts by providing bicycle racks
  • Submitted teams for walks and runs (e.g. the Legal Walk and the Chariots of Fire running race).
  1. Re-arranging the layout of their premises creating quiet (wellbeing) spaces and providing a table and chairs for lunch in the garden and on the balcony. They particularly recognised that their clerking team (who are in Chambers the most) need to have a proper break and to eat their lunch in peace so that they are not always required to deal with requests and telephone calls; also, general redecorating.
  2. Disseminating information in a neutral way through attractive and easily accessible posters (as a sensitive, indirect way of getting the message across to those who don’t wish to talk about wellbeing issues and who want any support to be provided on a confidential basis).  They have these in the kitchen and bathroom.
  3. Providing free tickets for well-being educational events
  4. Other initiatives include:
  • Providing training to staff on their policy about third party harassment
  • Arranging events around de-cluttering Chambers, such as a brunch BBQ.
  • Fund-raising sweepstakes for MIND and other mental health charities.
  • Allowing rent to be deferred (subject to agreeing a suitable payment plan).
  • A chronic illness scheme to provide financial support.
  • Being flexible about practising part-time and taking holidays; celebrating sabbaticals.

What were the results?

Feedback on initiatives has been as follows:

“Thank you for starting the well-being conversation and leading the way.”

“I love these ideas so much.  I love that I work with people who think this way.”

On fruit deliveries:

“I have been shocked that some are unable to eat because they are so stressed about court and work so that they feel faint and dizzy not having eaten all day.”

“I was so grateful for the fruit in the kitchen after a long day at court with no lunch and no time to stop.  I was light-headed when I got back to chambers and the fruit saved me.”

On reconfiguring premises:

” …We really appreciate having somewhere quiet and relaxing to go at lunchtime.”

On cycling:

” …It is wonderful to cycle through Cambridge to court.  What a privilege and an opportunity to clear my mind before court.”

On posters with wellbeing information:

“It has given me a blue-print about what to look out for and how to manage it.” It is concise, self-explanatory and not intrusive.”

On supporting flexible working/breaks:

” …I have felt burnt-out at times.  Flexible working is the key to my well-being which in turn improves my performance.”

“Fenners thoroughly deserve a certificate for the considered approach they have taken, through small gestures, to ensure members and staff feel supported. A great set of tips for others too!”

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

Tips

  1. Keep it simple to begin with and don’t begin too many initiatives all at once.
  2. Opening the conversation about well-being seemed to help people to talk about it.
  3. Don’t try to force it.  The educational talk was not very popular.  It seemed to be a bit too obvious.
  4. Posters are less intrusive and easier to read than policies.
  5. Beware of how much time and effort up-grading even a small room in your premises can take.
  6. De-cluttering chambers upset a lot of people although the new GDPR helped to push the initiative through.  Afterwards, people seemed quite relieved to have tidied up and sorted things out.
  7. Record all the ideas into a well-being strategy to be rolled-out continuously in the future.  We have plans to hold a summer family garden party, to build a bicycle shelter, to ensure the clear-desk policy is observed, to invite MIND to give educational talks, to have regular twice yearly de-cluttering days with a brunch BBQ to make it a sociable event.

The information and resource packs on this website are designed to help you and your colleagues to work as a community for better wellbeing and professional resilience. If you want to provide feedback on these resources, or to get involved in promoting wellbeing please get in touch.


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