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Mental health and wellbeing initiatives in our U.S. offices

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Lee Jean
Jean Lee

Partner

Washington, D.C.

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Davies Andrew Rhys
Andrew Rhys Davies

Partner

New York

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10 February 2021

Wellbeing has always been a priority at A&O, and in 2019, the board established a network of Mental Health Advocates in every major office across the network. These partners and senior support professionals were appointed to promote positive mental health and foster a culture of support at A&O.

Mental health advocacy is about promoting practices within our teams that allow all of our people to perform to their maximum potential, without the distractions caused by avoidable negative stress.

Mental Health Advocate, Andrew Rhys Davies, a partner in New York

In the U.S., a carefully curated employee assistance program has been in place for many years and includes comprehensive health benefits for the treatment of mental health and the promotion of wellness.  In addition to the medical benefit plan, the program also has onsite counsellors, guided meditation, parenting seminars, and a 24/7 anonymous counselling service for all employees and their families. 

At the onset of Covid, U.S. employees received a weekly email to signpost resources for practical help with childcare, mental wellbeing, medical needs and emergency services. The employee assistance program was also expanded to offer free, live-hosted webinars and trainings, specifically addressing the unique issues of the time.

The conversations that I’ve had about our mental health initiatives have been very positive. It’s been great to see people across all levels of our organisation making the effort to stay connected and check in with each other, whether through regularly scheduled team meetings or impromptu one-to-one catch-ups.

Mental Health Advocate, Jean Lee, a partner in Washington

The Mindful Business Charter is also gaining momentum within the U.S. firm, as we are committed to driving positive changes in the way we work. As part of this initiative, in the fall of 2019, mental health champions were appointed within each U.S. practice group. These champions, the U.S. management team, and senior staff have also taken the Mindful Leader Program to help further embed the charter within their teams.

As part of the charter in action, Andrew is more mindful about the way he works with his immediate team: “I’m working on being intentional about the way I delegate to my team and offer feedback. As an example, I’m making sure we work through edits together, even if that means jumping on a Webex now that we can’t do it in person.” 

Since the pandemic, Jean has made a conscious effort to be more open with colleagues: “I have found that letting my guard down in terms of how I’m feeling and coping with the challenges of work and personal life have led to better and more meaningful conversations and connections with people.”

Wellbeing initiatives are extremely important as we live in these times of change and uncertainty. Arguably, what is even more effective is having role models in the business to initiate conversations that encourage people at all levels to stop and consider small positive behavior changes, for the good of themselves and those around them.
 

 

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