Achieving Better Wellbeing: Should Law Firms Take Better Care of Their Lawyers?

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The legal profession is often tagged along with stress, late nights and worrying, which easily impacts your performance at work. How can our lawyers take better care of themselves?

Without a doubt exercise is the often the first go-to cure. There are reaps of benefits which extend further out from being more fit and healthy; a short run or a quick swim can do wonders for your mindset, instantly getting you ready for your long day at work.

But don’t take my word for it. We speak with Patrick Sarch, Partner at one of the top international law firms: White & Case. White & Case have dedicated a proportion of their budgets to wellbeing, where they block book places at Psycle during lunch for their legal team to go and make use of their facilities.

Psycle offers high intensity, low impact, head to toe workouts and fitness classes; with 52 sessions a week across their Ride, Barre, Strength and Yoga concepts, Psycle has become a popular option for busy workers who need a quick intense workout to clear their mind.

White & Case wanted to sign up to try and see an improvement in wellbeing and productiveness of staff in the workplace, which they have seen; therefore, we ponder on the idea to whether law firms should be more proactive in looking after their hard-working lawyers.

We speak with Patrick on how dedicating time to improving health and wellbeing has impacted lawyers at their firm, and with Psycle’s CEO Rhian Stephenson on how you can work towards being a better version of you.

Speaking with Patrick Sarch, Partner at White & Case:

The legal profession has very high instances of people struggling with stress, fatigue and depression. Exercise is one of the very best means of tackling these issues and providing balance to lawyers’ working lives.

Why is tackling wellbeing important to White & Case?

We work in a high octane 24/7 environment where our clients expect immediate, top quality advice. To deliver that in the context of the most challenging circumstances, our lawyers need to be mentally and physically refreshed and resilient. It is also the right thing for an employer, which expects a great deal of its people, to do in order to provide a positive and healthy working environment

 

How has addressing wellbeing in lawyers affected their work and productiveness?

The legal profession has very high instances of people struggling with stress, fatigue and depression. Exercise is one of the very best means of tackling these issues and providing balance to lawyers’ working lives. It is hard to measure direct productivity gains resulting from wellbeing; wellbeing is increasingly recognised as an important tool in attracting and retaining talent, and in proactively managing issues rather than reacting when problems become apparent. “Attrition” statistics (i.e. lawyers leaving firms, and often the profession) have improved as law firms train their new graduate recruits in resilience. I think the gains that will come as a result of healthier and more engaged lawyers will be even greater, and everyone in the future will wonder why they didn’t do more on this beforehand.

One cannot perform at the top of one’s game for years at a time without being fit, well and happy.

Are there any other positive outcomes from signing up to Psycle that you have noticed?

There was a better team vibe for those who went to Ride or Barre together. The six-week challenge was a great means of binding people of all levels in a collective endeavour. Colleagues have certainly seen me in a different light once they know that I have spent many hours enduring the “barre burn” at the Shoreditch studio!

 

What are common reasons behind lawyers from avoiding addressing their fitness and lifestyle? Why would you advise them to not ignore their own wellbeing?

One of the key issues for lawyers is our focus on chargeable hours and timesheets, as well as a sedentary working environment and periods of extreme pressure. To get ahead often means being constantly available and putting in extra hours, including at weekends, and one of the first “optional” things to go is time spent exercising and on wellness – which is of course the last thing hard working, office-bound professionals should do. One cannot perform at the top of one’s game for years at a time without being fit, well and happy. That means exercising, having goals and focus on challenges beyond the next conference call or negotiating meetings, which Psycle has really helped us to achieve. Unless you keep these aspects as a part of daily life, you will likely only notice a problem when it is harder to fix it.

 

What would be your first piece of advice for lawyers looking to make a difference in their lifestyle for the betterment of their wellbeing and work?

I used to work for a partner who told me you have to “make time” to exercise. As a busy associate, I thought “it’s alright for you, you can leave me here doing the work while you swan off to the gym”. Now I am a partner, I have a bit more control (but not much!) over what I am doing hour by hour – but people at all levels should schedule time to exercise and treat it as an important engagement. I found personal training and classes help this, as there is a specific time slot at Psycle, for example, that one is committed to. Planning to find an hour to go to the gym is all too easy to drop when priorities stack up. Of course, you still have to cancel or miss a number of slots, but if you don’t have a plan you have no chance of achieving it.

Speaking with Rhian Stephenson, CEO at Psycle London:

Wellbeing encompasses everything regarding your physical and emotional health. When looking at health it’s important to consider a well-rounded picture and ask: what are your valued areas in life and how are you progressing towards this? Are you in balance?

How Can You Achieve Better Wellbeing?

People are often intimidated or scared of approaching exercise as a path to better wellbeing; what ways can they ease their way into it?

The most important thing to do is just start. It’s helpful to figure out what your perceived barriers are – often these just arise from irrational fear.  So many people think you need to take an all or nothing approach to fitness; the perception is that the only way to be fit is by exercising obsessively and following a diet of deprivation. This often prevents people from starting as it often acts as an easy excuse, but it’s just not true. If it’s confidence that’s holding you back, it’s important to remember that the majority of people will be feeling the same way as you. Give yourself a month or so of testing the waters – try different classes, figure out what your goals are and then make a plan to get there. Some people who train with us jump straight into a 6-week transformation programme and some people start by coming once a week – it’s important to decide what you think you’ll respond best to and then just go for it.

 

How does wellbeing stretch further than fitness?

Wellbeing encompasses everything regarding your physical and emotional health. When looking at health it’s important to consider a well-rounded picture and ask: what are your valued areas in life and how are you progressing towards this? Are you in balance? How does your health and wellbeing contribute to this? Once you can hone in on all of the positive motivators you’ll find sticking to a plan – whether it be nutrition, exercise, mindfulness – far easier than if you’re doing it solely to lose weight. If you start exercising as a means of stress release, you’ll be far more likely to stick to that, than if you’re telling yourself you need to lose six pounds.

Sometimes making the smallest changes can have a profound effect on your emotional wellbeing, which in turn will benefit your physical self. For example, after a year of being CEO I was so physically and emotionally exhausted that I couldn’t even think straight – I honestly felt like I was going mad! I desperately wanted to train but I couldn’t find the energy, so I committed to doing 10 minutes of yoga every morning for one month to see how I felt. By the end of week two I was shocked at how much better I felt – from just 10 minutes. By week three I was sleeping well for the first time in over a year and by week four, I had found the energy to get back into the gym. Stress, pressure, lack of sleep – these things are all so exhausting and have a profound impact on your physical health. Likewise, poor physical health has a negative biochemical effect on your emotional health – so it’s essential to see them as two parts of a whole rather than keeping them separated.

Being fit and satisfied with your wellbeing will improve your mood and overall perceived happiness and satisfaction with life. In the workplace this translates to being more motivated and productive.

Moreover, how does this have a positive impact on corporate professionals?

The benefits of wellbeing in the workplace are well studied and hard to ignore. Healthier people make better choices, form better relationships and are less stressed. When you’re stressed you make decisions from a fight or flight response, which decreases the ability to use the rational problem-solving part of the brain, so it can actually become a significant performance risk if you’re chronically overstressed and overtired. Exercise also boosts creativity, problem solving ability and memory consolidation.  Being fit and satisfied with your wellbeing will improve your mood and overall perceived happiness and satisfaction with life. So, in the workplace this translates to being more motivated and productive; energetic people are also able to form good relationships with others, so in essence, you can’t really separate your fitness and emotional health from your work life. It will absolutely have an influence.

 

What was your main aim for Psycle? How have you seen the progression and impact it has on clients?

For me, Psycle is about the transformative power of movement. Once you get into exercise you realise that it’s one of the most important and impactful tools you have at your disposal that can help you change your state. It gives you headspace, floods your body with beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters that boost your mood. It can be whatever you need – fun, energetic, relaxing, powerful, challenging. I’m passionate about helping people fall in love with movement and really value their health – and it’s been an incredible thing to witness with our clients. Whether people have transformed physically or made it through emotionally challenging events by coming to Psycle, there’s something incredible to be said about how much you can really take charge of your mind and body just through exercise. It’s quite inspiring.

 

Do you have a ‘go-to’ activity which you would recommend lawyers, or busy workers to try out once a week?

I always recommend a Ride class at Psycle – for me, it’s hands down the most effective way to workout AND get an incredible mental release. But the most important thing is to find a workout that you enjoy and commit to it.  If you like all types of workouts – then you can have some fun and play around with what you need. If you’re run down and stressed, hit the mat for yoga. If you want an amazing sweat and endorphin rush Ride is great. Strength classes are great if you want to feel more confident and powerful, so it’s really about focusing on how you want to feel, rather than what you think you ‘should’ do. The only pre-requisite I would have is that you get something that can help you properly switch your mind off…that means no phones in the workout! It’s as important for your mind as it is for your body.

Once you get into exercise you realise that it’s one of the most important and impactful tools you have at your disposal that can help you change your state.

How is this different to joining gym?

Joining the gym is a completely different experience to boutique fitness. Gym sessions are self-led, so you automatically need to have a level of confidence and knowledge to be able to plan an efficient workout. Boutique fitness is fantastic for busy professionals because you’re led through a class and don’t need to think about what to do – you remain more focused, immersed, and will be able to actually switch your mind off, which is one of the most important parts of exercise in the first place.

Booking a session at a set time and making the commitment in advance is also more motivating. Workouts are easily the first thing you cancel when you have a busy schedule, so knowing that you have a set time slot which you’ve already paid for will give you more drive to make the time rather than backing out.

Lastly, group energy is so much more motivating and energising than working out solo – it’s been proven that people work harder in groups, and there’s an instant camaraderie established when you exercise with other people.

 

 

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