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Guidance on how to introduce wellbeing policies and initiatives and on tackling a wellbeing issue in chambers.

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Examples of successful wellbeing initiatives adopted by chambers, Specialist Bar Associations and the Inns of Court.

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KCH Garden Square

As a set with a local reputation for being friendly and approachable, KCH Garden square saw a focus on wellbeing as central to their ethos. Chambers was going through a period of growth, so they wanted to encourage retention of both Counsel and staff through the expansion. It became apparent that there was an opportunity to incentivise remaining with the organisation by ensuring the workforce are all valued and their wellbeing is a focal point.

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

Chambers recognised the significant personal impact that burnout was having on both barristers and staff.

During the most onerous stages of the pandemic junior members were particularly impacted. They lacked social contact with members of chambers, which often provides informal opportunities to learn, discuss cases, and listen to more experienced Counsel around them.

 

Counsel did not often ask for help, discuss their mental health or wellbeing openly or acknowledge they needed a break. There had previously been a culture of not taking sufficient holidays and working past the time when one needs a break.

Members were especially concerned that those with chronic or unseen illnesses, childcare or caring commitments, and any other arrangements which impact on life at the Bar were able to manage their wellbeing proactively. They felt that a focus on wellbeing would help to keep membership as diverse as possible.

What did Chambers do?

Chambers took the following proactive steps to start a conversation around wellbeing and mental health, and to make these issues more visible in the organisation:

• Appointed a wellbeing officer and put in place a wellbeing policy

• Created a wellbeing garden in a small Courtyard in Chambers. The garden is a space for members to relax during the working day, to eat lunch, have some peace and quiet, and to facilitate social gatherings. The garden has a mixture of ever-green and other plants.

• Conducted wellbeing meetings with those needing support. The meetings are confidential between the member and the wellbeing officer. If any further assistance is required, the wellbeing officer reports in to Head of Chambers in order to identify how Chambers can provide the best support possible.

 

 

• Created a network of support in Chambers through which members have the option to discuss their wellbeing issues with any trusted colleague as an alternative to meeting with the wellbeing officer.

• Actively promoted the Bar Council wellbeing website by sending regular emails to both staff and members encouraging its use.

• Produced wellbeing articles in order to keep wellbeing on everyone’s agenda.

• Circulated wellbeing emails to membership to “check in” with members.

• Organised team wide social events remotely during the lock down. These included quiz nights and “pub” nights, which were well attended and allowed everyone to socialise safely.

• Organised a wellbeing day with a variety of speakers and “taster sessions”, including training around the wellbeing policy.

• Implemented a clerking buddy scheme whereby each new tenant is allocated a specific clerking member to ensure thatdiaries are manageable and that they do not become overwhelmed.

What were the results?

Through organising these initiatives chambers has seen a marked improvement in members recognising wellbeing issues.

  • The wellbeing officer has dealt with several wellbeing conversations resulting in members either taking “time out” or managing their diaries more carefully.
  • Chambers has ensured that those who needed a break from practice at the end of the pandemic worked closely with the clerks to plan a “phased” return to full time work.
  • On occasions, a reduced workload to 3 days per week over a short period of 2-3 weeks has greatly assisted some members.
  • Feedback from staff who have accessed wellbeing conversations or received support has been excellent. One staff member was prepared to speak openly to other members about their experiences to encourage others of the benefit of seeking support.

 

 

  • The wellbeing garden has created a quiet and pleasant environment to take a break or eat lunch which has been very positively received. The space has also provided an opportunity for us all to get together and foster a collegiate environment once a month after work.
  • Wellbeing is now referenced regularly especially with new very junior tenants and pupils.

The culture in Chambers of supporting and understanding wellbeing and mental health issues is improving. Wellbeing is placed on the agenda for each team meeting and up-dates are provided at the AGM.

By appointing a dedicated wellbeing officer KCH Garden Square have created an invaluable source of individual support for its members, whilst not losing sight of the importance of fun and social interaction in creating a positive workplace.   

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

Tips

Do

  • regularly promote wellbeing activities – keep it high on the agenda!
  • ensure that staff are aware wellbeing policies also all apply to them; not just something for Counsel
  • take advantage of as much training as possible, there are a lot of resources out there!

 

Don’t

  • assume a wellbeing policy will alter working practices unrecognisably; small steps eventually create overall change in culture and expectations.
  • take on the role of a counsellor or therapist – we are not qualified to do so and you could be impeding someone’s route to effective professional help. Wellbeing practices are also about ensuring members are prepared to take responsibility for their own practice management.
  • worry if the pandemic has left everyone extremely tired or even burnt out; careful management of wellbeing issues can restore members’ health and happiness at work.

 

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