Today’s guest post was written for us by Luke Heydenrych, Chief of Staff at CJCH Solicitors. Luke tells us about his firm’s Graduate Development Programme that helps new starters to develop a wide range of business and legal skills. Importantly, with mental health becoming such a big issue for employers throughout the legal sector, he shares his thoughts about helping these new starters to cope with the pressures of work, and about how to recognise when someone is struggling.
The advice is especially thought-provoking as we approach Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019). Check out the activities we’ve organised to mark the event, including a webinar on the character traits that make legal professionals particularly vulnerable to mental health problems.
The legal profession can be a challenging and demanding environment for the most experienced of attorneys. But what if it’s your first job out of university? That could be quite intense! The deadlines, extensive caseloads, pressure to get results, and in-depth cases could all be quite daunting for someone taking the first steps into their legal career.
Here at CJCH Solicitors, this is an issue we are actively aware of as we welcome many new starters through our Graduate Development Programme. This 12-month initiative is a stepping stone for recent graduates, aiming to expose them to essential commercial and business skills at an early stage in their career. It offers the opportunity to develop a wide-range of business and legal skills, including social entrepreneurship, innovation principles and practice, communication strategy, crisis management, leadership, and customer relationship management.
The scheme allows us to develop well-rounded and innovative team members who will work throughout the firm’s legal, and non-legal, departments with the aim of undertaking leadership roles in the future. But alongside supporting participants professionally, we realised that it was crucial to be mindful of their mental and emotional wellbeing too.
Those in the legal sector recognise how demanding it can be, so it’s crucial that these newer solicitors are given vital support to achieve without crumbling under the constant pressure.
Often stress and anxiety can present themselves in different ways for different people, but they can be particularly overwhelming for someone trying to make a good impression who is new to the company. It’s for this reason that when it comes to new starters we need to be especially vigilant, as they are the least likely to speak up. Here we’ve put together some common signs that might demonstrate stress in graduates and new starters.
Suddenly less communicative
With workloads piling up quickly, and the new starter trying to learn on the job and remain efficient, it could very quickly become overwhelming. As they attempt to juggle more and more, without asking too many questions, they could suddenly become less communicative and start panicking in silence. If you notice this it’s essential that you approach them sensitively and discuss what is affecting them and how this might be solved at work.
You might notice that the new staff member who was initially flourishing has quickly dipped in performance in recent weeks. Are they slower at completing tasks, taking more frequent breaks, or making more mistakes all of a sudden? Recognising whether it’s out of character could be harder to identify in new staff as you are unfamiliar with their normal behaviour. But if this pattern emerges it’s important that you work with a direct line manager to assess the best way forward.
If a new starter suddenly takes more time off, despite only having been in the role for a number of weeks, this may seem odd. Are they suddenly phoning in sick, or making excuses to leave early frequently? All of this, if relatively frequent, could point to an inability to cope with the demands of work, if coupled with other concerning behaviour. Before this escalates further, it’s important to approach the new starter and sensitively discuss any issues they may be experiencing which could be resolved.