Being A Team in a Socially
April 3, 2020
Most of us work as part of a team or part of several teams. Sometimes, in smaller operations, staff may be part-time or on casual hours, and sometimes, lawyers work alone, but there are still people, like clients, that we communicate with regularly.
Now we find ourselves working remotely, and our in-person contact with colleagues and others is curtailed. It is quite normal for us to feel lonely or isolated in these circumstances. Loneliness and isolation can be precursors of depression, so it is important for us to stay connected to our colleagues even though we are not together in our shared work environment.
COVID-19 breeds uncertainty and anxiety in its wake, and being physically separated from our support systems (which can include our colleagues and work structures) can exacerbate these feelings into full-blown mental health concerns.
Best practices for employers during the COVID-19 crisis are developing. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce is urging employers to check in with all staff to make sure that they are coping and suggests that this is an obligation akin to workplace safety.
Patrick Krill, an American lawyer well-being expert has written an article called “Law Firms Need to Say It’s Okay to Be Human Right now”. The article is excellent (and you can get free access to three free articles in the American Lawyer Daily Alert and this should be one of them!).
Gather your two-legged and four-legged family members and
JOIN US FOR VIRTUAL NOON YOGA
12:00 PM - 12:50 PM
Once we get your e-mail, we will send you a Zoom invitation to join the class
The Alberta Lawyers Assistance Society: Assist, Forbes Psychological Services and the CPA Assist
are excited to be presenting the following series of free webinars:
Please join us:
April 15 - Thamerai Moorthy
Mindfulness in Turbulent Times – 11a.m. – 12 p.m. (MDT)
April 22 - Matt Cairns
Working from Home: Fortify your Core – 11a.m. – 12 p.m. (MDT)
April 29 - Laurie Zalmonowitz
Resiliency in Times of Uncertainty – 11a.m. – 12 p.m. (MDT)
Registration details are found in the links for each seminar.
Mr. Krill urges law firms to understand and “directly, outwardly and unequivocally acknowledge the emotional toll that is being exacted now on many within their organizations. They need to let their people know that what they are experiencing is normal and that it is OK to be human, at least right now.”
As a profession, we lawyers have problems with showing vulnerability. We are paid to be gladiators in suits, to borrow a phrase from pop culture, and who would want a gladiator who unabashedly exposes their underbelly to the opposing side? Lawyer management is not used to being vulnerable or to talking to lawyers about whether they feel vulnerable.
In the long-term, we know that we need to shift away from avoiding vulnerability. Dr. Brene Brown, in one of her most viewed TED talks, says that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love and whole-hearted living. Who doesn’t want that and how do we reconcile that with practicing law? Post COVID-19, we will need to start talking about vulnerability and whole-hearted living for lawyers.
But for now, if you are in a leadership position, please ask your team members how they are doing. Group check-ins about work progress and online happy hours are important, but know that most people won’t say that they are struggling with anxiety or depression in a group setting. You may need to call each of your team members—every couple of days—to tell them that you need to have an honest but safe conversation about now they are feeling. And because you are telling them that you are providing a safe place to share, you need to honour that and only use the information provided to you to assist your team member (which also means not disclosing it to anyone who does not have a need-to-know!)
Many of us are team members rather than management. This means that we don’t have a duty to inquire into employees’ well-being during the current crisis.
However, Mr. Krill has great advice for co-workers, too:
"We all need to recognize the value and reciprocal nature of basic kindness and challenge ourselves to both offer and accept it. Whether through small gestures or large effort, now is the time to audition for the role of the person we’d all want others to say we are. For most of us that includes being decent, kind and caring."
Let’s dare to be the people we want to be and reach out to our more isolated colleagues. Let’s be the people who ask if we can help and then find a way to do so.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought out the worst in some people—profiteering with necessities that they stockpiled and ignoring social isolation instructions—but this is also a time when we can connect with the best parts of ourselves.
We can also bring well-being principles into our team meetings. We can ask that meetings end with participants stating something they are grateful for or a guided meditation moment. We can bring kind-spirited humour (or at least humour that isn’t mean-spirited) through memes and messages. We can recognize the humanity and challenges of our colleagues—your colleague with three pre-schoolers who is alternating childcare with his or her partner may not be available at the time that works best for you. Be open to what works for the person with the least flexibility if you can.
To borrow a phrase from Jack Shephard from the show Lost, and one of its key mantras: live together, die alone. With COVID-19 we aren’t living together physically, but we are in this together. If we pull together, we are more likely to come out of this crisis mentally well, but if we each pull ourselves back due to fears of vulnerability and weakness, we will suffer harm. So, my version of the Lost mantra during COVID-19 is Thrive Together, Struggle Alone.
Assist can help you Thrive Together:
Confidential and professional counselling is available through secure platforms and over the telephone. Call 1-877-498-6898 (crisis counselling is available 24/7 via this number as well.)
Peer support is available both via our matching program and group discussions. More information will be coming about the electronic versions of our Red Mug Coffee Circles.•
We also have free virtual yoga and three webinars during April—found to the right
Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring anxiety through the Anxie-tea motif and some of the teas that counteract it (Spirituali-Tea, Creativi-Tea, and Chari-tea, to name a few). There will be ways for us to connect and Thrive Together!
If you are a lawyer, articling or law student or a family member who needs assistance during the COVID-19 crisis, let us know what you need help with. We will try to match you with a volunteer in your community who can help (e.g., dropping off groceries while you are ill.) This service does not extend to law practice management or particular files—think of us and our volunteers as neighbours who want to lend a hand.
Please e-mail us if you need assistance or if you would like to volunteer to help others at email@example.com.