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December 13, 2017 Articles

Tips on Building a Healthy Culture Within Your Firm

Some simple tips and options for incorporating healthy habits and promoting a team-oriented atmosphere in your workplace.

By Cheryl Sept

Fostering engaged lawyers and staff—those who want to work hard, treat clients and coworkers respectfully, promote your firm, and give back to the community—is arguably the most important component of running a successful team. One way to do this is to focus on employee well-being.

By offering methods for your coworkers and staff to improve their mental and physical wellness, you will not only increase the personal happiness and work satisfaction of your colleagues, but you will also improve the client experience. Happy, healthy, engaged lawyers will provide infinitely better service to clients than those who are not provided with the tools to manage their stress and physical health.

Given that we practice in a profession especially susceptible to stress and addiction, it is particularly important to focus on the health and well-being of attorneys and support staff.

If you are considering making changes at your firm to promote wellness, here are some ideas to consider in creating a globally healthy culture.

Start small and simple. Supply a healthy selection of foods in your kitchen, such as free fruit, granola bars, nuts, vegetables, and iced tea (check into local grocery delivery companies). Depending on the size of your firm, you may consider consulting a company to install and maintain a fresh food mart; employees appreciate having healthy snacks readily available, helping to avoid temptation.

Provide a complimentary gym membership. Encourage employees to take periodic breaks to get out of their chairs and away from their desks. Post motivational signs around the office. Support recreational sports leagues. Create a collection of fitness DVDs and/or healthy recipes. Offer a lending library of books regarding leadership, communication skills, and self-improvement.

Encourage employees to complete online heart-health assessments (the American Heart Association website contains various resources). Offer in-office flu shots, and encourage your employees to get mammogram screenings and prostate exams, along with yearly physicals. Bring in massage therapists for 15-minute chair massages.

Small and simple benefits such as these are a great place to start in transforming your office.

Provide opportunities for stress management and relaxation. Offer a comfortable atmosphere in the work space. Flexible arrival, lunch, and departure times will allow staff to enjoy a better work-life balance, which plays a big part in job satisfaction. If feasible in your practice, permitting support staff to work remotely can cut down on stressful commutes to and from the office. Changing your office attire from professional/business to a more relaxed casual dress code can lead to more comfortable and therefore more productive employees.

Create a space where lawyers and staff alike can step away from the daily triggers of stress. A quiet, dark room with a massage chair, calming music, and aromatherapy can serve as a relaxing escape from the daily grind. The space can be used before, during, and after work hours, becoming a staple of relief for many employees.

Consider establishing a break room with a relaxing atmosphere, encouraging employees to chat with coworkers about topics outside of office life. Card games, board games, Wii, ping pong, billiards, conversation-starter cards, and adult coloring books are just a few ideas to include in this space. The importance of laughter and play is often underestimated in professional settings.

Encourage learning, growth, and team-building experiences away from the office. Get involved in the community. Support local charities by sending employees to volunteer at events such as walks, 5Ks, city cleanup projects, food banks, and shelters. A culture of giving back to the community will give your employees the opportunity to feel more fulfilled by being helpful to others around them.

Host monthly lunch-and-learn seminars, focusing on nutritious dietary changes as well as life skills such as self-defense, budgeting, retirement investing, estate planning, and stress management. Opening up a range of topics for discussion about books or television shows will allow employees to step away from work for a moment and bond with coworkers. You may be surprised at the positive impact such a simple program can bring to your workplace.

Facilitating department “fun days” out of the office is another option. Excursions can range from team-building events that are organized by an outside company to scavenger hunts, paintball games, art or cooking classes, escape-room activities, or rock climbing. Get creative and invite your employees to supply ideas as well. Providing such opportunities will grow the strength of your team and promote an active lifestyle.

Go big. Team with a vendor to create a branded wellness program that covers all aspects of employee well-being. Programs such as these can be personalized to fit your firm and employees’ needs and goals. Most offer biometric/health screenings, which measure cholesterol, glucose, triglycerides, body measurements, and blood pressure. Some vendors will have a nurse available to review results immediately with each employee, highlighting potential health risks that may require quick attention. Most programs also offer a personalized web portal for each employee to track individual progress in the program, starting with an assessment/questionnaire regarding health habits and emotional well-being. Webinars, workshops, and articles are provided for the employee to gain knowledge about potential health risks and methods for improvement. Offering a smoking-cessation course for those who would like to kick the smoking habit is another worthwhile benefit.

Host health challenges throughout the year. Challenges can focus on physical activities (such as walking / step counting), water intake, sleep habits, and fruit and vegetable consumption.

To garner interest and excitement in the program, host a kickoff event that not only explains the program but also focuses on the benefits of being an active participant. To help motivate attorneys and staff to participate in the challenges and the program as a whole, offer incentives via a point and/or raffle system. Incentives can include things such as monetary prizes, gift cards, a reduction in health insurance premiums, gym bags, massages, running/walking shoes, a day off work, fitness trackers, or sit/stand desks. The possibilities and methods to incentivize are endless.

Think about what will work for you. Not every wellness program is a fit for every place of business. Consider the size of your firm, what motivates your staff, your budget, and your goals for the program.

Identify a handful of passionate attorneys and staff members to act as a wellness leadership team. This team will organize and implement your ideas, ignite excitement in your employees, and secure buy-in via the partners and upper management.

If you recognize that your firm’s health values could use an upgrade and you wish to enhance employee benefits beyond what is considered standard practice, you’re already on your way to elevating your culture from one of stress and unhealthy habits to one of mindful eating, exercise, fun, and enjoyment.

Committing to these kind of changes will not only benefit your business and your clients but also is a sincere step toward improving the lives of your attorneys and staff. Invest in your employees; the success of your firm, your client experience, and the profession in general hinges on their happiness and life satisfaction.


Cheryl Sept is with Brown & Crouppen P.C. in Saint Louis, Missouri.