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39 Essex Chambers

39 Essex Chambers recognises that healthy and well-motivated barristers and staff members can have an equally positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of Chambers.

What was the ‘business’ (other case) for action?

In 2019 Chambers reviewed its approach to wellbeing and introduced a new Wellbeing Policy.  Chambers recognised that healthy and well-motivated barristers and staff members can have an equally positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of Chambers. Fostering a working environment that protects the physical and mental wellbeing of its people is also good for Chambers’ business.

What did Chambers do?

Chambers’ policy provides a framework within which Chambers encourages and facilitates working practices and services that support wellbeing. It aims to draw upon good practice, recognising informal support arrangements particularly among barristers, and to be flexible rather than prescriptive. It also signposts where to find support, both internal and external.  It set outs clearly how the policy is to be implemented

Leadership and Governance

  • Chambers appointed a Wellbeing Officer who sits on the Management Board.
  • Chambers also created new roles – Wellbeing Champions and a Mental Health First Aider.
  • Other polices that support wellbeing have been introduced or substantially reviewed.
  • Regular reports are made on wellbeing at Management Board meetings.

 

Awareness

  • Mental health and wellbeing is now covered during the induction of staff, pupils and members.
  • The CEO regularly messages to members and staff on wellbeing, and it is also covered in staff meetings.
  • Chambers shared a wide range of information using resources such as MIND, as well as general wellbeing tips and videos and signposting to inhouse and external support.
  • All Managers were required to complete Mental Health Awareness Training. In house wellbeing seminars were run for both barristers and staff.

 People Management

  • Chambers introduced a Management Charter that sets out expectations for both employees and managers.
  • The annual appraisal programme for staff now provides increased support through the introduction of ‘quarterly conversations’.
  • Chambers extended its mentoring programme to all members and staff.
  • 39 Essex has also encouraged and supported a range of initiatives and events to support wellbeing and good mental health (photo competitions, WhatsApp social groups, quizzes, yoga, great bird watch, fun runs, cooking, social drinks and lunches). They also introduced a recreation hub in their building (table tennis, pool table, Wii) that is available for use during the day.

Support for those with a mental health problem

  • Chambers regularly promotes their Employee Assistance Programme which provides 24-hour confidential support and assistance; and
  • introduced new sickness absence policies for both barristers and staff; these provide for graduated returns to work.
  • Chambers has an income protection scheme for members where there is long term incapacity (including incapacity on mental health grounds).
  • Chambers’ mental health first aider and Wellbeing Officer have been trained to provide guidance on external help and support.

 Develop and maintain a positive attitude to mental health

  • The opportunity to discuss mental health and wellbeing has been integrated into the staff appraisal programme and practice management reviews. Wellbeing is also covered in pupillage feedback and exit interviews.

Chambers regularly survey both staff and members on happiness and wellbeing.  For staff, this is done through a quarterly ‘pulse’ survey.  During weekly staff meetings, staff are frequently encouraged to share happiness and wellbeing anecdotes and ideas.

What were the results?

The impact of actions is measured through online surveys of members and staff, feedback from the appraisal process, and informal feedback from staff and members.  Culturally, there is much more openness about wellbeing and mental health as well as awareness of its importance.  Early intervention has helped to ensure that problems don’t escalate.

‘39 Essex has in place an impressive range of initiatives, not only getting the basics right re policy, training and the provision of support; but also, clearly seeking to embed wellbeing into its management practices and the way chambers operates. They should be commended on such a well thought through and thorough approach’.

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

Tips

  • Online surveys (and in particular, ‘pulse’ surveys) are a great way to measure the impact of what you are doing and finding out what the issues are.
  • Changing culture requires leadership – make sure you have an influential group of people to champion wellbeing.
  • It also takes time.  We think ‘small and often’ works best – frequent conversations, activities, information and events

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.


Get in touch Policy & practice

It can be difficult to make a living from law and it can be pressurised and demanding. Competition and an adversarial approach to everything can make collegiate relationships difficult. This website aims to provide you with the knowledge to manage these stressors, make emotionally informed, wise professional decisions and thrive in your chosen profession.

A simple expression that sums up wellbeing is ‘travelling well’

Psychological wellbeing within the profession is rarely spoken about