Seventh Edition: Assist in Your Community

This edition of Assist in Your Community will focus on creating healthy legal workplaces, offer guidelines to improve the psychological health and wellbeing of legal professionals, and feature tips for by Nancy Sawler, who recently worked with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP in Toronto to address the biggest health-related problems in the workplace.  

What is Success?

According to Loretta M. Bouwmeester,
Partner with Mathews, Dinsdale, & Clark LLP, specializing in Employment & Labour Law:
It means different things to different people at different times.  To some it may include a posh office and a big book of business.  To others it may be being a value-add on a daily basis to their clients, their families,  and their communities. The two examples are not mutually exclusive.    

For me, during Heenan Blaikie’s rapid wind-down earlier this year, when I was also in a four week trial, the definition shifted. 
It became more immediate.  Success became about getting through each day as whole as possible while effectively meeting clients’ needs and ensuring that others could too.  However, it was not only about meeting immediate needs – it was also about maintaining hope for the future.  The following quote from Maya Angelou is a grounding, yet inspiring, one:  “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”  These are words to live by.  When the going gets tough, and it likely will at one or more points in your career, recognizing the value of the information below and applying it can be a means of achieving continued success both in the face of adversity and before it arises.  

What Makes Lawyers Happy?

According to a recent study examining data from approximately 6,200 lawyers across the USA, the fundamental needs for autonomy, including competence, and relatedness to others were the strongest predictors of lawyer happiness and satisfaction. To read the full study, see 'What Makes Lawyers Happy?'

13 Factors Crucial to Healthy Legal Workplaces

These guidelines were drawn from Canadian workplace standards and the Mental Health Commission of Canada, then adapted for the legal profession. 
1. Organizational Culture
A workplace characterized by trust, honesty, and fairness. Demonstrate sincere respect for others ideas and values by actively vocalizing your approval and commendation of your colleagues.
2. Psychological and Social Support
A workplace where colleagues and supervisors support employees’ mental health concerns, and respond appropriately as needed. Speak to your firm’s HR advisor regarding mental health services/benefits offered. If your firm does not offer mental health services, please contact Assist.
3. Clear Leadership and Expectations
Employees know what they are expected to do and how their work contributes. Request feedback from a supervisor regarding actual performance vs. their expectations to highlight areas of improvement.
4. Civility and Respect
A workplace that addresses inappropriate behaviour and handles conflicts effectively. Treat others with respect and consideration.
5. Psychological Competencies & Requirements
A workplace where employees’ interpersonal/emotional competencies and position requirements are balanced. Seek and provide supportive autonomy at work to fulfill a sense of authenticity and wellbeing.
6. Growth and Development
A workplace where employees receive encouragement and support in developing their interpersonal, emotional, and job skills. Seek new opportunities and challenges that are meaningful or effectuate your core values and engage with colleagues and clients.
7. Recognition and Reward
A workplace where there is appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation of employees’ efforts. Contribute to a healthy work culture by celebrating shared accomplishments and demonstrating appreciation of colleagues’ contributions.
8. Good Involvement and Influence by Staff
A workplace where employees are included in decision-making and discussions about how their work is done. Encourage input from colleagues and staff on important decisions related to their work.
9. Workload Management
A workplace where tasks can be accomplished successfully within the allotted time. Keep work environments free from unnecessary interruptions and disruptions, and ensure an appropriate level of control over prioritizing tasks when facing multiple demands.
10. Engagement
A workplace where employees feel connected to their work and are motivated to do their job well. Choose work based on internal motivations and develop connectedness with people.
11.  Balance
A workplace where the need for work-life balance is recognized. Take  all entitled breaks (e.g. lunchtime, sick leave, vacation time).  
12. Psychological Protection
A workplace where management protects employees’ psychological safety. Minimize unnecessary stress at work and speak out against workplace bullying and stigma.
13. Protection of Physical Safety
A workplace where management protects employees’ physical safety. Allow for reasonable rest periods in your daily schedule and take all health and safety concerns seriously.

To learn more, see '13 Steps of Workplace Wellness.'

Tips for a Healthy Workplace

Nancy Sawler, VP of Corporate Health for Cambridge Group of Clubs, recently worked with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP in Toronto to address the biggest health-related problems in the workplace. Below is an excerpt of the recent interview by a major Canadian magazine:

Q: You worked with Blakes, a Toronto-based law firm; can you explain what changes you implemented to make the work environment healthier?
A: We started with Blakes five years ago, and we started with wellness week with some lunch and learn sessions. We expanded to health fairs and a 12-week “taking it down a notch” challenge, with weight loss goals, a nutritional focus, boot-camp, and a cooking class for healthy meals. The feedback has been incredible.

Q: The benefits to employees are obvious, but what about the benefits for employers?
A: Attendance rates prove, morale improves, benefit costs go down when people are healthier. The productivity aspect is so important. These are preventative measures. Heart disease and high blood pressure is 70-80 percent preventable. The smart workplaces know they have to make an effort. Today, 99 percent of Canadian employers offer at least one form of wellness program, compared with 44 percent in 1997.

For more on the article, see 'How to be Healthier at Work with Five Easy Tips.'

What has Assist been up to?

September 24: 3rd Annual Walk For Wellness, Edmonton. Assist had over 50 attendees from various law firms, the University of Alberta Law School, and legal organizations. Attendees pledged to enjoy more time with family, being reflective, active, and having fun. 
September 26: 4th Annual Walk for Wellness, Calgary. Despite inclement weather, Assist had approximately 45 attendees from a number of legal organizations and firms. Attendees at this event similarly pledged to appreciate more physical and family activity.
October 7-10: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C.  and Dana Schindelka, Chair of the Assist Board and Chair of Legal Profession Assistance Conference  Board, attended the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
October 24: Assist attended the Canadian Mental Health Association conference in Calgary. The theme of this conference, "Strengthening Our Collective Voice," refers to collaboratively raising awareness of mental health and wellness across Canada and reducing stigma associated with related issues.

October 30: Law students learned about the importance of mindfulness and resilience, and how to apply them in their future as legal professionals from Assist Board members and volunteers at the CPLED Practice Fundamentals day in Calgary.


Upcoming Awareness Events

November 6: Assist Board members and volunteers will present wellness-related topics, such as resiliency and mindfulness and the law, to law students at the CPLED Practice Fundamentals day in Edmonton.
November 7 & 8: Assist will join delegates at the 2014 Law & Practice Update, organized by the Legal Education Society of Alberta, to encourage volunteer participation with Assist.
November 13: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C. and Chief Commissioner Robert Philp will be the guest lecturers to Professor Shannon Gullberg’s “Professional Responsibilities” course at the University of Alberta.
November 14: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C. will provide a lecture at the University of Alberta’s “Healthy Habits Lunch.”
If you found the content of this newsletter helpful, please consider donating to Assist. 
Copyright © 2014 Assist: Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society, All rights reserved.
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