Psst… Hey, Lawyers! A Word from your Staff about Wellness

Originally appeared in the St. Petersburg Bar Association March/April 2021 issue of Paraclete

The terms “self-care” and “wellness” have become such buzzwords in recent years that they’ve almost lost some of their intended meaning. In advertisements, social media influencing, and pop culture, they have become more about ‘treating yourself’ than setting goals, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. Still, in the pandemic world we are living and working in, these things are arguably more important than ever.  When you consider your work-wellness, your first thought may not be of your staff, but they should be on your list somewhere. An assistant, after all, can have the power to overcome great challenges for you or create them with just a few clicks of their mouse. It makes sense (from both a business and humanitarian standpoint) to be an advocate for your staff’s wellness, in addition to yours. How do you know what they need? Ask them! Many of us are helpers by nature, though, and it’s not always easy to ask for help ourselves. So I’ll let you in on some ‘secrets’ that have helped me over the past fifteen years.

Promote physical activity. Offer to cover a part of the cost of their gym membership (or streaming service). Most of these are not very expensive, but given the added motivation and accountability, they may be more likely to actually use it! Walk with them to pick up lunch or a mid-afternoon treat. Everyone wins here!

Recognize weaknesses and engage their strengths as individuals. Assign things they’re naturally not good at or don’t like to other staff who may revel in it. Personally, I hate making phone calls, but one of my coworkers loves to talk to people. This is an easy and effective adjustment to make. Encourage them to carve out their own job description. Do they have a particular interest in an area of practice you may not do a lot of business in? Have them take a CLE. Are they good at social media interaction? Maybe they can help you with marketing. Are they great at making the office a fun place to work? Appoint them to the chair of the office fun committee. Do they enjoy writing? Have them draft an article for the Paraclete!

Establish comfortable boundaries (for both sides). When is it ok for you to contact your staff (or vice versa) outside business hours or their normal working hours? Dedicated unplugged time is necessary for everyone to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Encourage using vacation time. Don’t roll over vacation time from year to year, your staff likely won’t use it. (I may get in trouble for this suggestion, but I know I’m guilty of not taking all my vacation time). While your staff is on vacation, have someone cover their duties so they don’t come back to a full mailbox and unnecessary stress.

Provide healthy meals and or snacks in the office. Instead of bringing in doughnuts, get some fresh seasonal fruit to share in the office. Provide some healthy snacking options (nuts, dried fruit, etc.), instead of stocking junk food in the kitchen. If you can provide filtered or bottled water service, I find it helps me drink more water and less leftover coffee from the morning. Of course, every office has a different working environment and must find what works for them as a team. Making office wellness a priority at the staff and attorney level will benefit everyone’s work-life balance.

Erin Schoos has been a Paralegal (to Shannon Zetrouer) since 2005. She is a seventh-generation native of Florida, mom to daughter, Nola, and wife to Rob. When she’s not in the office, you can find her baking, practicing yoga, or spending time at the beach with her family.

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