HARRISBURG (May 2, 2022) – Today marks the start of Well-Being Week in Law, and May is also Mental Health Awareness Month.
Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) President Kathleen D. Wilkinson has made wellness and work/life balance a primary message to her professional colleagues during her 2021-22 year of association leadership.
Starting today, Wilkinson said that the PBA will use its social media accounts as well as its website to post important reminders about wellness and links to additional resources when wellness guidance is needed.
“Participation throughout the legal profession in making Well-Being Week a priority is essential. The pandemic has been an especially stressful period as we adjusted to the changing workplace,” said Wilkinson.
“As Well-Being Week begins, we are focusing on staying strong and “Physical Well-Being.” All of us should be walking, making sure we get exercise, even as little as 16 minutes a day, eating healthy foods; avoiding alcohol and getting a good night’s sleep. On Tuesday, we will focus on alignment and “Spiritual Well-Being.” On Wednesday, we will emphasize engagement and how to grow and “Career and Intellectual Well-Being.” On Thursday, we will focus on connections and “Social Well-Being.” As we close the week out on Friday, we will look at how to feel well and our “Emotional Well-Being.”
“In my travels across the state and during virtual sessions with members, the most frequent and growing wellness concern I’m hearing lately is that lawyers are struggling to turn off the workday. This is proving of greater challenge because working from home and our hyperconnected world with laptops and cellphones offers fewer of the routine business boundaries that had been in place pre-pandemic. Whether attorneys are working in their offices or from home, we all need to be able to have personal time to relax and refresh ourselves. We need to be able to step away from our work, go outside, take a walk and appreciate the nature around us.
“Meanwhile employers need to consider common sense solutions that support and maintain wellness. For example, some firms give guidance on whether it is appropriate to send emails or texts with work assignments outside of regular business hours. Some supervisors may say in the body of the email that no response is needed until the next workday.
“We all need to think what actions, even those that have become routine in recent years, may interfere with employees’ off-the-clock time,” said Wilkinson. “While we may not be able to control what clients and other counsel may demand or send outside of normal business hours, we can put out-of-office notices on our emails, and state whether we are in a position to review email. If we are the type of person who will review our emails or texts, we can respond that we will get back to them as soon as we are able to do so.”
Wilkinson encourages more employers to sign the “Wellness Pledge,” a seven-point framework developed by the ABA and adopted last November as a policy of the PBA.
“I look at this as a team effort. The organized bar can do its part by offering educational programs and networking opportunities for lawyers about protecting mental health and reducing substance abuse disorders, as well as by encouraging employers to put in place a wellness framework for their employees.
“Employers can do their part by signing the wellness pledge and take the steps outlined in the pledge to build a better future for legal professionals. And there is no better time than now for employers to have open discussions with employees about what they need to maintain their sense of wellbeing,” Wilkinson said.
The Wellness Pledge adopted by the PBA can be found here: https://www.pabar.org/members/hod/2021/nov/final/QualityofLifeCommitteeRecommendation-WellnessPledge-final.pdf
Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state’s largest organized bar association.