Newly merged Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co wants to do more for its employees

Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co is following Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith and Hogan Lovells in developing an initiative focused on employees’ mental health and well-being.

“Mental health is a bottom line issue for business,” said Lorna Gavin, head of corporate responsibility at the recently merged firm. “It costs huge amounts in absenteeism, presenteeism and reduced performance levels. There’s also an impact on co-workers. So even above and beyond the fact that helping colleagues with mental health issues is simply the right, humane thing to do, it makes clear business sense.”

She continued: “We have to recognise that mental health problems can arise in so many different ways and with a 1,001 different causes. Some are triggered by the stresses of working life – there’s no getting away from that – but other times the cause might be bereavement or a marital break-up or something else happening at home.”

Gavin suggested that there is perhaps a British reticence in discussing mental health but it’s an important business matter.

“Is doing nothing as an employer going to make things worse? Quite possibly. Is talking to that person and exploring what the firm can do to help them get through their mental health problems going to help? Very probably. And when they do get back to better times, that employee will in all likelihood remember the support they had when they needed it and be a loyal and hardworking employee.”

“It’s fairly early days for us, but we have set up a disability network, which has really appealed to people,” she said. “We had no shortage of volunteers to join the network and take on roles as we got ready for launch. Even in those early network meetings, it has become clear that mental health is the biggest single concern.”

The firm’s intranet offers guides about ‘how to be mentally healthy at work’, ‘understanding mental health problems’ and ‘how to manage stress’.

“We’ve also put on a line managers’ guide on mental health at work, as it is managers who can play a crucial role in creating that safe environment where employees can feel it is okay to ask for support,” said Gavin.

The firm is planning a ‘well-being week’ later this year to provide information such as healthy-eating advice and access to activities such as yoga classes and health checks, and emotional resilience workshops. It has also joined the City Mental Health Alliance.

This article was first published in the Solicitors Journal on 16 May 2014 and is reproduced with kind permission.