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How to deliver better wellbeing support for public sector legal roles

by Sara Robinson | 13 June 2022

Today’s public sector legal professionals are more likely than ever to prioritise wellbeing support when choosing a role. Employers need to be aware of this and improve their offering in this area to attract the best candidates.

Public sector organisations traditionally do this by focusing on a number of key metrics, such as salary, career progression and other professional perks. However, in the current marketplace, it is important that they do not underestimate the importance of wellbeing initiatives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant shift in career priorities for many professionals. After an extended period of furlough or remote working, it has become increasingly important for legal professionals to feel they are being supported in their roles, and that they are being given the opportunities they need to focus on their wellbeing.

As such, public sector organisations need to be doing all they can to ensure that they are providing the right environment and wellbeing measures to properly support their existing workforce and to provide a strong offer for prospective candidates.

What are today’s professionals looking for?

The growing demand for proactive wellbeing support in the workplace has been demonstrated by Sellick Partnership’s recent survey of 172 legal professionals, which polled them on what to look for when considering a new job. The results highlighted the following trends:

●     When asked to choose which perks and benefits would appeal to them the most when looking for a new role, 76% selected enhanced flexi-time to give them more control over their working hours making this the single most popular option.

●     Only 5% were looking for a role that involves working in the office five days a week, compared to 67% who wanted to work from home at least three days a week, including 20% who wanted to work entirely remotely.

●     52% wanted their next role to offer more annual leave, while 36% were looking for private healthcare options, and 22% sought wellbeing benefits, such as gym memberships. 

Looking at the specific responses regarding what people are anticipating from a new role also revealed a consistent demand for better wellbeing standards: 

●     “A supportive team environment, training opportunities, focus on stress management and wellbeing.”

●     “Manageable workload — the ability to actually take the leave (including flexi leave) accrued, which the workload doesn't easily allow for.”

●     “The potential for a better work/life balance.”

●     “My current role is very convenient and provides a lot of flexibility. A new role would need to at least match benefits and improve on salary to justify forgoing any of the current convenience.”

●     “I think home working is the new normal and I would not consider any role that did not have at least some element of that.”

●     “Friendly and fair staff/bosses are important.”

 We spoke to one of our clients, Magda Dyson, Senior Solicitor at The Borough Council of Calderdale, who outlined the plans in place to support staff.

Magda said: “We have weekly team meetings where we allocate work to individuals. This keeps everything transparent and balanced so no one is taking on more work than anyone else. It also gives everyone a chance to talk about any specific matters relating their workload, so it feels much more like a team caseload rather than an individual’s.

“We organise social events outside of work and also share funny anecdotes we have seen; I think this really shows the human side to everyone.

“We have a plan in place for continuing our working from home arrangements. We will maintain working from home on a permanent basis but each team will have one day per week where they may go into the office if they want to. The decision to attend the office will be left up to each individual. This means everyone will have flexibility of choice, whilst maintaining stability and transparency.”

When analysing these responses, a number of recurring themes emerge:

A renewed focus on working culture and team spirit

Although remote working is in high demand, not every aspect of working from home has been seen as positive. During the pandemic, many legal professionals have felt isolated and cut off from the broader organisation, without being able to spend time getting to know their colleagues.

As such, candidates for public sector legal roles are keen to hear about an organisation’s working culture and team ethos, and will consider these factors. Employers need to clearly communicate their values and team ethos, particularly in terms of social events and the steps taken to ensure that people working remotely can feel fully involved in the organisation’s culture.

Employees need to feel supported when they are struggling

Many legal professionals experienced significant stress during the pandemic, becoming overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn for support, due to a lack of physical proximity to their colleagues and managers. Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, staff are keen to ensure that they are not put in this position again.

As such, applicants for new roles are likely to have questions about average workloads and the likelihood of having to work extended hours, and will be looking for an employer that prioritises the mental health and wellbeing of the team, including putting clear systems in place for workers to get help if they are experiencing a lot of strain.

What kind of wellbeing improvements can employers provide?

In order to ensure they are delivering a competitive employment package that can attract the top legal talent, public sector organisations need to make sure they are considering wellbeing and work culture as a top priority. This means: 

●     Be proactive about wellbeing and culture - since these factors are seen as important to candidates, your recruitment efforts should reflect this. Provide a clear picture of what support is available, what your working environment is like, and what benefits you offer, rather than making applicants have to ask you about it.

●     Treat remote working as an opportunity to cast your net wider - by treating remote and flexible working options as the norm, you can unlock a number of advantages for the organisation. Many employers are taking this opportunity to expand their hiring policy, allowing them to recruit staff who are not local to the office, on the basis that they will only need to visit occasionally. By doing so, you can gain access to a wider pool of talent.

●     Take an individualised approach - every individual applicant will have different wellbeing needs and cultural priorities, so your recruitment approach should reflect this. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all concept to your wellbeing package, being flexible will make it clearer that you are serious about accommodating people’s personal needs.

●     Provide clarity and certainty - at a time when many employers are reconsidering their flexible working arrangements, your organisation can stand out by providing candidates with certainty about long-term benefits and wellbeing support, thereby addressing a key pain point for many professionals.

●     Make sure staff can realistically take advantage of these benefits - the value of flexi-time options and other workplace perks will be undermined if staff are habitually too busy or overworked to ever take advantage. By providing realistic workload estimates and schedules, you can make sure that the benefits you provide can actually be realistically utilised most of the time.

By taking these steps and emphasising them to prospective candidates, public sector organisations can deliver a powerful selling point for new legal recruits — while also ensuring they are better equipped to improve retention among current staff members, who might otherwise be tempted by higher salaries offered within the private sector.

Find out more

To find out more insights about the wellbeing benefits that public sector legal candidates are looking for, take a look at the complete findings of our recent survey of solicitors, lawyers and legal executives.

If you want to learn more about how Sellick Partnership can help public sector employers to access the very best legal talent, visit our legal recruitment hub, or call us on 0161 834 1642.