At Laurence Simons Search, we understand the value and importance of helping our clients and candidates promote mental health and well-being across the wider legal community. In light of this, Clare Beresford, CEO of Laurence Simons Search sat down with Rubya Ramjahn, Legal Director, EMEA Transportation and Delivery Experience at eBay, after their recent win of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Award (In-House) at the UK Diversity legal awards…
Clare Beresford (CB): Congratulations on your recent win at the UK Diversity legal awards with Mental Health and Wellbeing Award (In-House) going to your team at eBay. Can you tell me a little bit about the nomination and the work you are doing?
Rubya Ramjahn (RR): Thank you.
At eBay, being diverse and inclusive is one of our core corporate values. We have been actively driving inclusion on many different aspects through our corporate and people strategy or through employees’ own initiatives.
eBay puts the wellbeing of our staff at the front of our people strategy. Our Diversity & Inclusion Committee, of which I am part of, works closely with eBay’s Workplace Resources team to continue to provide support in this area. We incorporate wellbeing considerations in all aspects of our work life – physical, social or mental health.
Support provided includes consultation and equipment on ergonomics, ensuring air and light quality in the office, regular and special activities around physical and mental wellbeing; steps taken to address work-life balance; health counselling and schemes that encourage a green approach in life. One example this year was an initiative we piloted with Paws in Work in which we brought puppies into the office and encourage our employees to pause for 15-20 minutes in their busy workday to interact and play with puppies hence taking their minds off their stressful work.
The Mental Health & Wellbeing Award is a new category at the UK Diversity Legal Awards 2019. It was an excellent idea of the Awards organiser to introduce this category and to raise awareness of the topic. We are honoured and proud to be the first company winning this award and being recognised for the work that we do.
CB: How has this work helped support your team?
RR: We believe that happy staff make for a happy work environment which in turn drives an effective team. Our key motivation is to take care of our staff so they can focus on what is important to them at work and in their personal lives. eBay provides support on different facets of life for staff inside and outside of the office and offers services that help balance the demands of home and work life. By addressing stress and mental health conditions, we hope our staff can stay productive and improve their quality of life.
We also continue to listen to our staff, through regular surveys, to determine what is most important to them. For example, in 2019, we launched an additional wellness programme survey asking staff what kind of wellness activities they would like the company to provide. We then designed a programme based on the feedback we got from that survey and this incorporates a rotation of various activities to cater to different staff’s needs and interests.
CB: Do you think lawyers respond differently to stress?
RR: Lawyers work in a high-stress environment. We constantly manage clients, matters, counter-parties and the sheer volume of work and expectations on us from billing to turnaround time to quality of work to getting things right is high. Hence, it is important for lawyers and their employers to treat the issue of mental wellbeing seriously. Steps should be taken to encourage everyone to take care of themselves. However, I believe lawyers ultimately respond to stress not too differently from other staff handling different types of jobs. That is why at eBay, our mental wellbeing initiatives are open to all and do not differentiate one team from the other. This also, to us, aligns with our principle of being inclusive.
CB: When our generation trained no-one spoke or thought about mental health or well-being – why is it different today?
RR: It is a very different world now. For our generation, we grew up where communications were limited to phones, faxes or at most email. This generation grows up with a whole suite of social media and instant messaging at their fingertips. Millennials share about what they do, what they think regularly online. The world has become so much more open to sharing, information exchange and discussions. On the flip side, there has been research which says that as a result of social media, and hence peer pressure or the stress of having enough likes and friends in social media profile brings about more stress, and hence wellbeing issues, to young people.
In addition, companies are now realising that diversity, equality and inclusion is key to the success of a business. More and more businesses now understand the benefits of putting employees first and are working on building a culture which incorporates diversity and inclusion in all of the things they do. Staff are also more well informed and want companies to put more effort into these aspects.
CB: For those of our readers/viewers who are wanting to put something in place, what would you suggest they start with?
RR: I recommend starting with people and culture. We should encourage conversations around this. The more you talk about it the more people would feel comfortable in sharing their issues.
At eBay, we have an internal speaker series at which we invite 2 colleagues each time to talk about their personal life story. Our speakers are authentic and are very open to sharing their vulnerabilities. It is one of the most popular and inspiring activities we are running. You will be surprised by the issues our colleagues bring up during the sharing – depression, mental health issues, ethnicity, culture, social status stigma to name a few.
CB: If budgets are limited and/or teams are smaller, what would be your top tip?
RR: One simple way of making a start is to make it alright for people to take time out during office hours for a short break whether to go to the gym or fitness classes or simply for a walk etc. You can also look at setting aside quiet corners or pods for colleagues to rest or breakout. It is also not difficult to spread the message that the company encourages staff to take a break from work so that the staff would not feel guilty and stressed about walking away from the office.
CB: How do you see this evolving and growing?
RR: I see more and more companies would try to do the right thing. I believe a good employer will want to do more to strike the balance for their employees and hence attract and retain more talents. Of course, what suits a company will depend on many things like the nature of work, the profile of employees etc but these are not reasons to not start trying!
CB: What are your priorities within this space in the upcoming years?
RR: We continuously look at what we can do for the wellbeing of our staff. We already provide a wide range of support ranging from exercise classes, massages, meditation, wellness programme video on demand, private consultation, coaching and counselling services. On top of these, we are now looking at ways to streamline the technology we use within the office to make work more efficient for our people and achieve a better work-life balance.
CB: Thank you for your time and for sharing your thoughts and learnings.
RR: Thank you. It was a pleasure speaking to Laurence Simons Search and team.