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Case studies

Learn more about the wellbeing initiatives other chambers have been involved with
and how it has helped them.

Case study: Littleton Chambers

What was the business (other case) for action?

Chambers has grown significantly in recent years and expanded into additional premises as well as having a number of members who often work remotely.  This is obviously a positive sign of the commercial success of members, but we wanted to ensure that it did not come at the expense of health and personal wellbeing.

What did the Chambers do?

We formed a small group to co-ordinate wellbeing initiatives in Chambers working with the EDOs.  Ideas were presented to the management commitment and budget sought for a variety of activities.  Current activities and plans include:

  • EAP policy with Health Assured which is widely publicised within chambers on noticeboards, in kitchens, by email and by way of individual contact card
  • Regular charity teas sponsored by a member for a charity of their choice
  • Re-introducing Chambers’ tea on a weekly basis
  • Organising a family day for members to bring children and other family members together in the summer
  • Weekly newsletters about Chambers’ events
  • Termly drinks
  • Workplace assessments looking at desk set ups
  • Yoga
  • Dragon-boat racing
  • And more to come…

What were the results?

The initiatives have been warmly received in Chambers.  The results include:

  • Greater interaction between colleagues and staff on a social basis, making it easier for people to speak openly about their professional and personal lives;
  • Support for members and staff on a confidential basis with 24/7 counselling available and options for CBT and other assistance;
  • A general increase in awareness of the importance of protecting our health in order to perform our role to the best of our ability.

Tips

  • EAP is a cost effective way of supporting members and staff
  • Vary the activities so that they are as inclusive as possible
  • When a person proposes an idea encourage them to lead on it with support so that members and staff feel invested and empowered

Littleton Chambers has introduced a diverse wellbeing programme to encourage members and staff to feel supported and empowered both internally and externally. Chambers recognises that mental health and general wellbeing are important factors in individual success, both professional and otherwise.

By supporting mental health and general wellbeing, Chambers looks to create a positive and empowering environment in which to work.

Case study: Inner Temple

The Inner Temple launched a Staff Wellbeing Programme in 2016 to promote a mentally healthy workplace. A group of volunteers organised events, lectures and a newsletter and the Inn took part in Mind’s first “Workplace Wellbeing Index”.

The full report was received in April and is helping the Inn to focus its Wellbeing Programme on the main areas for improvement.

What was the business (other case) for action?

Following our Equality & Diversity training in Spring 2016, a member of staff suggested that the Inner Temple should work on fostering an open and supportive culture where people felt comfortable speaking about mental health issues.

After reading the Wellbeing at the Bar Report we recognised that several members of staff were under pressure at work which, if not dealt with, could turn into harmful stress. The Inner Temple already provided an Employee Assistance Programme and Health Insurance but we felt that we could improve our proactive support.

A proposal was put to the Executive Committee and it was decided that, as a good employer, we should set up a Staff Wellbeing Programme to support staff. It was felt that a mentally healthy workforce would perform better and take less unnecessary sickness absence.

What did the Chambers do?

Our first step was to ask for volunteers to join a focus group to help implement the wellbeing initiative. We then signed up to the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index in order to identify areas for improvement. We received the full report in April and are using their recommendations to improve our policies and procedures to support mental wellbeing.

In the meantime we have organised several wellbeing events for staff. These included short massage sessions to highlight National Stress Awareness Day, a Macmillan Cake Sale, seminars to promote our Employee Assistance Programme, and a Mindfulness Lecture. We have also started a quarterly staff wellbeing newsletter and have experimented with social media (sharepoint & yammer) to create a wellbeing hub and to set up staff groups – e.g. a lunchtime running club.

Mind will be delivering ‘Managing Mental Health at Work’ training to all managers and supervisors this year. Following this we are planning to make Wellness Action Plans available for staff to complete if they wish.

What were the results?

The Staff Wellbeing Programme has been well received so far. More than anything, staff have welcomed the opportunity to interact with others outside their immediate circle.

It is very early days so we are unable to say whether there has been an impact on performance or sickness levels.

The Inner Temple achieved a Bronze Award in  the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index – this recognises that we have started the journey to better mental health at work by developing and implementing initiatives that promote positive mental health for staff. We received several specific recommendations from Mind including updating (or creating) some policies, focusing on awareness raising and anti-stigma activities, encouraging lived experience leadership, ensuring managers are adequately trained, and continuing to develop preventative measures and initiatives. We are currently working on an action plan to implement these suggestions.

Tips

  • Look out for free resources such as City of London’s Business Healthy website.

Case study: Matrix Chambers

Background

Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index is designed to support people to have good mental health at work and enable employers to know how to create mentally healthy workplaces for their employees.

Participation in the Index enables organisations to:

  • gain public recognition of a commitment to workplace wellbeing
  • benchmark in comparison to peers and other organisations participating in the Index
  • share and access best practice learning from other employers participating in the Index
  • be part of Mind’s movement for change in workplace mental health and a trailblazer in a sector
  • find out what employees really feel about how you support their mental health

*Although the Index uses the language of employer/employee the principles can easily be adapted to allow for a chambers model with both employees and self-employed members

The Index survey enables any organisation to assess gaps between their policy and practice, and get useful hints and tips and marketing materials for use in developing and delivering any strategy.

What was the business (other case) for action?

Matrix wanted to promote good mental health because they recognised that chambers is a busy environment, and that this can have an adverse effect on staff and members’ mental health if they aren’t encouraged to look after themselves.

Matrix also saw an opportunity to bring together existing initiatives and to get involved in new activities.

They defined their overall goal as ‘creating a comfortable workplace where mental health issues are discussed openly’.

Matrix were also motivated by the creation by Mind of their ‘Workplace Wellbeing Index’. This is an assessment of an organisation’s wellbeing and mental health support. Through the Index, Mind provide advice and guidance on how to improve internal policies and activities. Matrix had previously used other indexes (e.g. the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index) to successfully achieve this aim. They were therefore keen to both support Mind and take advantage of this new Index.

What did the Chambers do?

Matrix:

  • Signed up to Mind ‘Workplace Wellbeing Index’. Participation required a staff survey and self-assessment of policies;
  • Organised a Mental Health Week with yoga, pilates, outdoor activities, colouring competitions and two workshops provided by Mind;
  • Organised ‘Managing Mental Health’ training for their Senior Management Team;
  • Signed up to the ‘Time to Change’ Employer pledge as a sign of commitment to raising awareness of mental health issues;
  • Circulated Mind resources on stress awareness;
  • Signed up to an Employee Assistance Programme, which provided counselling and support 24/7 for all staff and members;
  • Organised a wellbeing event for our clients.

What were the results?

Matrix’s programme has only just started but they have already seen that staff and members are more open when talking about mental health.

They signed up to the Index in September, and were required to complete their survey by December. They have already received the headlines results (the full results are still due) and they anticipate they will eventually be able to measure impact by assessing any reduction in sickness absence. They also intend to compare Index survey results year on year.

Tips

Matrix provide the following tips for others considering a wellbeing strategy:

  • Get advice from experts, such as Mind.
  • Invest in training your senior leaders to create buy-in to any programme.
  • Implement an EAP – it is good value for money and an easy way to provide support to people confidentially.
  • Use posters and leaflets rather than just emails to display your message.
  • Start with small activities and don’t do too much at once.

Matrix invest a great deal of energy in their equality projects and has already put in place lots of things to support the wellbeing of their staff and members, for example through an annual Health Week. However, they wanted to develop a greater focus on mental health specifically, encourage people to talk about their mental health in the workplace, and raise awareness of mental health issues.

They sought advice and support from Mind, the mental health charity, and in particular have made use of the Workplace Wellbeing Index as a framework for design and delivery of their Wellbeing strategy.

Case study: Doughty Street Chambers

Doughty Street Chambers has introduced a holistic wellbeing strategy under the leadership of its Equalities Team, now called its Equalities and Wellbeing Team. The strategy seeks to encourage greater awareness of one’s own wellbeing, and an increased awareness of the wellbeing of others.

We wanted to recognise that managing wellbeing is as much about prevention as it is about cure.  We therefore sought to make sure that while barristers or staff who needed professional support had proper access to it, we also introduced a range of other activities designed to support good mental health and improve resilience.

What was the business (other case) for action?

Looking out for one’s mental health and that of others is the right thing to do, but in business terms research tells us that barristers and staff who are more mindful, and more able to manage “good stress”, are more productive.

What did the Chambers do?

A central part of the strategy is mindfulness training which will be run in small groups, over 4 weeks.

In addition, Doughty Street has arranged on-site massage sessions for barristers and staff, and plans to introduce yoga classes and nutrition courses.

Doughty Street sees its existing mentoring programme as an important element in resilience, and mental health first aid, as well as generating benefits in professional development and equality terms.

Finally Doughty Street has partnered with a mental health clinic for those who may need professional help, and has signposted members and staff to the other resources available such as LawCare and Inn-sponsored activities.

What were the results?

As our programme is still being rolled out, it is too soon to see all the results of it.  But what we can see so far is that the fact that it is happening is sending a strong message to barristers and staff that wellbeing is important and should be talked about.  We have had incredibly positive feedback for the work we are doing.  We have also noticed already that people are coming to the Wellbeing team to express concerns about others in greater numbers than they did before, and so we think the message is getting through.

Tips

  • We conducted a survey to establish the likely take up for various initiatives before we started them and to ask people for their own ideas
  • We did a presentation about the strategy at our bi-annual all barristers’ evening which we filmed so that those not there, including staff, could watch it later.
  • We believe that these initiatives helped improve “buy in” for the strategy.  We also may in future seek a financial contribution from those who participate in the activities

Case study: 3 Pump Court Chambers

What was the business (other case) for action?

3 Pump Court wanted to ensure that all of its members practiced well and safely in their working lives whilst undertaking the role and demands of the job.  They knew that those demands on younger practitioners often varied, but in some cases were based around finances, time management and perfectionism.  In more experienced practitioners health issues and burn out were not uncommon.

What did the Chambers do?

They started to initiate work on this agenda by speaking to a variety of people in chambers at varying levels of Call to ‘sound out’ their support, and explain the business case for doing so.  There was overwhelming support.

They then looked at what other Chambers had done and found two other chambers’ CEOs who were prepared to share their Employment Assistance Program Information and a policy that they had used.  They redrafted the policy, reflecting their own Set and provided the details of the EAPs to their management committee seeking their approval to have the ‘wellbeing policy’ added to the Chambers’ Handbook and Guide.  They requested that reference to the new policy is made to new clerks, in the induction of new members and in Chambers’ ongoing commitment and training of all colleagues.

The proposal and policy was approved by Chambers’ ManCom and a financial amount committed to support the policy, associated training and activities. 3 Pump Court’s Company Secretary then took over investigating potential EAP companies, and found a policy with Health Assured which was very reasonable and provided everyone with cards and a policy number to allow confidential access, at no cost to the member.

A poster was then put up in chambers’ private workspaces in all locations (we are a Circuit Set) to advertise the new service. An email is now also sent out each month from the Company Secretary with information about the initiative. As the email comes from Chambers’ business manager it is received and read alongside other important business issues, which Chambers’ believe can aid perception of the information.

What were the results?

As a senior member of Chambers I feel that I have a safe place to go to if I am experiencing any difficulties, and I am also reminded by the emails that these wellbeing tips and hints can be easily adopted.  It connects me to health and issues outside of work and it makes me feel reassured that my Chambers does care about me and my wellbeing and optimizing my practice with this focus” – Rachel Spearing.

I joined Pump Court Chambers for pupillage and have been a tenant for almost a year. Pupillage was enjoyable but also extremely challenging, not least in terms of dealing with the pressures that come with a year-long interview, starting on your feet, developing a fledgling practice and hoping to obtain tenancy at the end.

Getting tenancy was fantastic, but I have found that the pressures undoubtedly remain, albeit they are slightly altered. There can be a sense of bravado at the bar, particularly around the culture of working long hours and taking on tasks that appear impossible in scale. It is difficult at times to know where to draw the line between working hard and building your practice, and looking after yourself and keeping a semblance of a work-life balance.

As collectives of self-employed people, barristers’ chambers do not tend to have the valuable Human Resources infrastructure commonly found in employment settings. To have a policy in Chambers specifically aimed at wellbeing is an extremely positive step forward. It is important that all barristers, and especially juniors, have access to help and support in what can be an isolated profession.

The bar thrives because each generation helps those that follow. As barristers are so willing to lend a hand to their colleagues, wellbeing policies are really part of this tradition. But by building a policy with structured options, named mentors, routes to confidential advice and other services such as the Employee Assistance Programme, this tradition becomes something altogether more tangible and accessible. It becomes officially ‘okay’ to recognise that people struggle at the bar, they may need help, and it should be available. This is particularly important for juniors, and for pupils who may not otherwise know where to turn during pupillage, when there is such focus on impressing and performing at your best.

I am very proud to be a member of a set which is actively striving to improve wellbeing, and to change the culture at the bar for the better.” – A Junior Tenant

“We have enthusiastically embraced this thoughtful initiative in chambers and embedded it in our standard policies and procedures. As barristers we spend so much time looking after the problems of others but too often neglect our own.  A Wellbeing Policy serves as a welcome reminder that it’s ok to seek help and support from time to time!” – Head of Chambers, 3 Pump Court

Tips

  • Treat the initiation and addition of a wellbeing policy as if it were any other equality and diversity good practice issue.
  • Look around for a comprehensive EAP which can simply signpost confidentially to support members.
  • Ensure that staff & barristers are aware of the policy, and leadership endorses its use.
  • Take up one of the suggested practices and get a few colleagues together to support it, e.g. dryathlon, or only taking stairs.
  • Don’t be deterred by negative feedback, examine why they express those views and cross examine the issues.

3 Pump Court is a mixed common law set, with teams of barristers operating in different areas of law, raising different forms of practice demands.  Chambers’ had experienced colleagues becoming unwell with chronic illness, sometimes involving mental impairment and had also experienced cases of sudden death.

There was also a personal interest in pursuing this agenda. The Chair of the Wellbeing at the Bar working group (Rachel Spearing) is a member of chambers and it was important to her that her own chambers took a lead with policies and practices to support the wellbeing initiative being undertaken by Bar Council and the SBAs.

Case study: St Johns Chambers

St John’s chambers in Bristol signed up to a local government wellbeing charter which they now use to provide a framework for wellbeing initiatives and as a quality mark for marketing purposes.

“The Wellbeing of chambers staff and members is central to our success and the initiative reflects this priority. It provides a concrete focus for wealth improvement via the noticeboard and associated activities, and sends a positive message about chambers’ commitment to both clients and the community. We hope other chambers will join the initiative” – Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers (July 2016)

Background

The Bristol Workplace Wellbeing Charter is an award that recognises positive local employers who manage and support their workforce. The Charter demonstrates the employer is working to a set of locally and nationally agreed standards. It involves:

  • Self-assessing against a set of nationally agreed standards
  • Devising an action plan to drive future change
  • Working with staff and other organisations to implement good practice
  • Reducing sickness absence and improving staff wellbeing

The Charter sets standards (and provides resources) for:

  • Leadership
  • Attendance Management
  • Health & Safety Requirements
  • Mental Health & Wellbeing
  • Smoking
  • Physical Activity
  • Healthy Eating
  • Alcohol and Substance Abuse

What was the business (other case) for action?

Aside from an existing commitment to the wellbeing of members and staff, as an added benefit, St John’s Chambers found adoption of the charter also helped differentiate their chambers in the local market (demonstrating social responsibility) and reflected the fact that five of their professional clients had also signed up to the initiative.

What did the Chambers do?

St John’s:

  • Signed up and got a ‘kit’ with lots of wellbeing resources
  • Used the Charter as a road map and adapted the materials to suit a chambers environment (mix of employees and self-employed members of chambers) and discussed/agreed adaptions with the local council team.
  • Used the Charter framework to audit chambers’ policy and practice and assess where they met criteria and where they didn’t. This helped them identify activity/priorities.

What were the results?

St John’s found one advantage of the Charter was that it provided a framework for chambers’ policies and initiatives.

They found there were some disadvantages with the Charter in that some of the language had to be adapted to suit a chambers environment (for the term employees in the Charter they needed to also accommodate self-employed barristers as ‘members’ of chambers). They were able to negotiate these adaptions with the local council.

In using the Charter, St John’s found:

  • There were gaps in communication with staff and members who were not all aware of policies and support available in chambers.
  • The free resources available through the Charter were extremely useful
  • The Charter could easily be adapted to a chambers’ context

Tips

St John’s Chambers suggest the following tips with respect to using a ‘Wellbeing Charter’

      • Use the fact that a number of professional clients/other clients use the framework to sell the concept of participation to your management board
      • Identify and cultivate ‘Wellbeing’ champions internally
      • Introduce initiatives (e.g. physical activity, smoking cessation etc.) periodically (the Charter recommends monthly but St John’s found this too frequent and instead introduced new initiatives a couple of times a year, based on the seasons)
      • Report progress annually to the management board
      • Develop a wellbeing noticeboard in a prominent place in chambers to showcase activity (include photo) and make a member of staff responsible for keeping it up to date
      • Use the Charter to access lots of free resources available through participation
      • Use the Charter as a quality mark in marketing promotion etc.

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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