BREAK­ING | ANZ Mer­i­tas Well­ness Sur­vey 2019

Man­ag­ing part­ner of Swaab and the Chair of the Mer­i­tas ANZ Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee, Mary Digiglio in an inter­view with Lawyers Weekly 


Aus­tralian & New Zealand Mer­i­tas Well­ness Sur­vey 2019

The well­be­ing of every­one work­ing in the legal sec­tor is a sub­ject being exam­ined world­wide. This includes the pio­neer­ing work done in 2009 by the Brain and Mind Insti­tute in Aus­tralia for the Tris­tan Jep­son Memo­r­i­al Foun­da­tion (now called The Minds Count Foun­da­tion) and the first nation­al study in the US in 2016 which led to the Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion devel­op­ing the Well-being Toolk­it for Lawyers and Legal Employers.

Each of the Mer­i­tas firms in the ANZ region has pro­grams or ini­tia­tives with­in their busi­ness which assists with the well­be­ing of their employ­ees. The pur­pose of this sur­vey was to assess the cur­rent aware­ness of, and inter­est in, the well­be­ing of peo­ple across the Mer­i­tas mem­ber firms in ANZ.

In an inter­view with Lawyers Week­ly Swaab’s man­ag­ing part­ner and the Chair of the Mer­i­tas ANZ Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee, Mary Digiglio, said the most per­ti­nent find­ings of the research were those that showed evi­dence of the ben­e­fits of pro­mot­ing per­mis­sion for con­ver­sa­tion, edu­ca­tion regard­ing well­be­ing, men­tal health con­di­tions and build­ing resilience. Most of the Mer­i­tas firms sur­veyed have been active­ly com­mit­ted to well­be­ing for a num­ber of years and I believe that this com­mit­ment is start­ing to evi­dence a change in atti­tude, aware­ness and behav­iour for the bet­ter, for example:

  • 76% of sur­vey respon­dents are more are like­ly or very like­ly to use resources, train­ing and be involved if dia­logue around well-being in the law, if it was offered by their firm.
  • 45% of sur­vey respon­dents feel there is an open door’ pol­i­cy or some­one they can talk to in the work­place about per­son­al or pro­fes­sion­al issues that might affect their performance 
  • 96% of respon­dents felt their work­load was gen­er­al­ly manageable.

In my view, all staff (not just lawyers) in law firms can tell the dif­fer­ence between gen­uine work­place mea­sures to address well­ness issues and pay­ing lip ser­vice to the issue. That is why a strong firm cul­ture is so impor­tant. If a firm does not have a cul­ture that per­mits and pro­motes a con­tin­ued con­ver­sa­tion about men­tal health con­di­tions and per­mits behav­iour from its peo­ple which is not con­sis­tent with a healthy work­place, then that fir­m’s com­mit­ment to well­ness issues is short of genuine.

Lead­ers who dis­cuss open­ly how they have dealt with real peo­ple with issues or how they would deal with peo­ple with issues (whilst main­tain­ing anonymi­ty and con­fi­den­tial­i­ty) is a pow­er­ful mes­sage for all involved. The best way to alle­vi­ate con­cerns is real evi­dence’ that those who have revealed their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and uti­lized the open-door pol­i­cy have found it ben­e­fi­cial to their career, per­son­al devel­op­ment and to their career prospects. 

Mary Digiglio – Man­ag­ing Part­ner Swaab

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