10 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – INDIA E-MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2023 Forum A CULTURE OF CARE Recent studies have shown that legal professionals continue to struggle with mental health and well-being challenges and often do not seek help, typically because of the stigma surrounding mental health in the legal profession. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn have shed light on this state of mental health in the legal industry, often exacerbated by stress, high-pressure work environments, unrealistic workloads, isolation, and a lack of connection, among other reasons. BY NIMITT DIXIT What steps has your law firm taken to create a stress-free work environment and identify and combat mental health issues among its lawyers? Shwetasree Majumder, managing partner, Fidus Law Chambers We are proud of our continued committed focus on mental health along with the “no-retrenchment” assurance that we gave all members of the team irrespective of the market situation during the pandemic. We built a gym at the time on our premises, which remains a highlight of the office. We provide full medical coverage to all our staff members. We have also empanelled a therapist and comp up to four sessions with her for any colleague who feels the need to reach out to her. Further, our senior leadership is being constantly trained to handle mental health concerns with empathy. We include mental health as a ground to apply for leave and have, in several instances, also provided extended periods of leave or work from home to help our colleagues feel better. During the pandemic, we started a buddy system to serve as a check on each colleague to ensure that they were doing well. Sachit Mathur, managing partner, Emerald Law Offices Our approach begins with nurturing a culture of empathy and respect not only with clients but within the firm as a team. The firm acknowledges that everyone has different backgrounds and upbringings and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to stress management. However, we try to embrace a holistic approach that encompasses a range of elements, such as recreational activities, sports participation, and team bonding events. The firm also encourages its younger lawyers to discuss the challenges they face openly and provides them with support and guidance. ELO’s motto is “If you enjoy what you do and the people you collaborate with, then it will never feel like work.” The firm strives to ensure this environment by fostering strong interpersonal relationships and providing its professionals with a safe and supportive space to thrive. Tania Ahlawat, co-managing partner, Ahlawat & Associates At our firm, we prioritise the well-being of our team members by implementing a multi-faceted approach to create a stress-free work environment and address mental health issues. We encourage a healthy work-life balance and open lines of communication between team members and management to identify and address issues promptly. We ensure realistic expectations and workloads, and regularly monitor the distribution of tasks. Regular team-building activities and social events encourage camaraderie among employees, reducing workplace stress. We maintain a zerotolerance policy for discrimination and harassment, ensuring an inclusive and respectful atmosphere. Sanika Mehra, co-managing partner, Saga Legal We prioritise the wellbeing of our team members by implementing several key initiatives to create a stress-free work environment and address mental health concerns. Firstly, we have adopted a flexible work schedule, providing team members with a fiveday workweek. This approach allows our team members to strike a better work-life balance, reducing stress levels and promoting overall mental health. Additionally, we have embraced the concept of remote work. By offering the option to work from home, we empower our team to work in a setting that suits their needs, reducing the stress associated with long commutes and providing a more comfortable environment. Image: The Studio/