At Reed Smith, we believe you should get more from work than it takes from you. As a result, we have adopted a preventive approach to mental health and focus on building a supportive workplace culture. For example, our firm is rooted in the core belief that being authentic is the key to building a supportive mental health culture. In this blog post, I’ll discuss our Wellness Works Program and share how we built a supportive culture for mental health at Reed Smith.
Founded in 1877, Reed Smith is one of the top 20 law firms in the United States. We have a global workforce with 3,300+ employees in four regions and serve six key industries: energy and natural resources, financial services, media and entertainment, life science, healthcare, and transportation. Our focus is on leveraging innovation and technology to bring game-changing solutions every single day.
Mental health is a top priority for us
That same mindset is carried through in how we approach workplace mental health challenges. The pandemic accelerated the emphasis on mental health at Reed Smith. The legal profession is heavily time-based—people can be under a lot of pressure with imminent deadlines and work billed on a minute-by-minute basis. The pandemic also significantly changed ways of working. We began to hear new challenges from our remote workforce, such as stress, burnout, sleep deprivation, heightened anxiety, loneliness, disconnection, competing demands, and an imbalance between work and personal life.
In response to all of these challenges, we increased our mental health benefits and resources at Reed Smith. We started providing practical mental health tools such as Calm Business to help employees deal with stress and anxiety, and support our employees before conditions become serious. Since then, our workforce has moved into a hybrid work model, but all the mental health stressors haven’t dissipated, and mental health remains a top priority for us.
Reed Smith’s Wellness Works Program
We created the Wellness Works program back in January 2018 around the four pillars of well-being: physical, mental, financial, and social. The goal of the program is to help our workforce better manage their stress, achieve work-life balance, develop healthy habits, and attain positive mindfulness.
We offer programs and benefits under each of the four pillars to help support our employees.
- Mental well-being: For mental health, we offered a range of benefits including Calm Business and we focused on building a supportive mental health culture. I’ll share more detail about our programs in the next section.
- Physical well-being: When our employees went back to a hybrid office model, we continued our popular remote fitness classes and offered Calm Business as well to encourage stretching and movement at their desks throughout the work day.
- Financial well-being: The cost of living has been going up tremendously, and it’s causing a lot of stress and anxiety, so we’ve created financial literacy training programs and offered tools to help support our employees’ financial security.
- Community and social well-being: With the breakdown of social connection in the remote workplace, we supported our employees’ emotional well-being through a virtual buddy and mentor system. Typically, our junior lawyers are paired with senior lawyers whom they shadow all day and whose offices they often sit in. This informal mentorship and these opportunities for learning had to be recreated in a remote workplace. For example, during remote work, we created virtual check-ins throughout the week and fun one-on-one get-togethers in person. As we moved into a hybrid world, we’ve coordinated the same in-person days in the office for mentors and mentees. We also implemented virtual social meetings that are intended to replicate those water cooler chats people miss while working from home. Now that we’ve adopted a hybrid work model, we’re integrating quality face-to-face meetings and team-bonding off-site.
4 ways to build a supportive mental health culture
When it comes to our mental health pillar, here are four ways we build a supportive culture for our employees’ mental health:
- A mental health task force
We created a mental health task force in 2020 as a response to the pandemic. It comprises in-house advocates who help break down the mental health stigma and mental health first aiders who are trained to recognize early warning signs and when to introduce appropriate resources. The task force focuses on encouraging mental health conversations, providing information about current best policies and practices, developing educational programming and resources, and suggesting enhancements to our current mental health offerings.
- Manager training on mental health support
Managers are critical in our prevention strategy—they are the ones who see and talk to employees on a day-to-day basis. They need to be able to recognize early warning signs of potential mental health struggles. Our training program includes resources on how to have difficult conversations; question templates managers can use to ask about mental health challenges, how managers can act as the first line of prevention; and a list of resources they can suggest to their employees. The program reinforces the message that mental health matters across our workforce. Some of the key warning signs we train our managers to pay attention to include being quiet during meetings, producing lower-quality work, not meeting deadlines, or having cameras always off.
- Virtual mental health summit 2022
In 2021, our mental health task force launched a mental health summit, a one-day event open to all our employees and clients. Our task force created this platform for employees and clients to discuss mental health best practices and ask what we’re doing and what we could be doing. Other topics have included how to develop mental strength and flexibility to thrive at work, corporate responsibility for employee health and well-being, and the lasting mental health impacts of the pandemic.
- Preventive tools for mental health
Finally, we also introduced an on-demand preventive tool to support our employees’ mental health. Before Calm Business, we’d never had anything like it. We had an EAP and offered seminars, but nothing beyond that. In the past, we often reached employees when they were already in a crisis. That’s when we realized we needed a preventive tool to help our employees earlier in the process to better manage their stress, anxiety, and sleep issues. Calm Business was a no-brainer for us when it came to selecting a partner for our mental health benefits. It plays a critical preventive role by providing a practical tool for our employees to address stress, lack of sleep, and anxiety.
For example, our employees’ sleep quality was top of mind, as they’re often working late at night. Calm helps us effectively address employee sleep issues. In fact, Calm is so much more than meditation. For example, there are sleep stories, music, stretching, breathing, and master classes. The reality is that our workforce is always going to be busy, but Calm makes it easy for them to reach for it anytime, anywhere. And Calm is personalized and relevant to our global workforce, with instructors from various cultures who speak different languages. Finally, Calm supports both our employees and their families, including their children.
How Reed Smith integrates Calm into mental health programming
As part of our overall Wellness Works program, we integrate Calm into everything we do at Reed Smith. Calm Business is a key part of how we build a more supportive culture for mental health. For example, in our themed months, such as our Get Moving Challenge, we encouraged people to do the Walking Meditation and/or the Daily Move on Calm. We all know we should move away from the screen and stretch, but we never make time. Calm offers a practical tool that enables people to actually do it. We also integrate Calm meditations into our Mindful Mondays. We make it easy for people to use it right away. As soon as new hires join, they get the QR code to scan and download the Calm mobile app. Finally, we’ve integrated Calm into our internal benefits communication channels.
High engagement in Calm and positive employee outcomes
Our employees and their families who sign up for Calm and use it continue to do so on a regular basis. It’s one thing to add a benefit, but when you see such high engagement—around 73% with Calm—you know you’re having an impact and helping support your employees’ mental health. Our employees openly express how much they love Calm and its positive impact on their stress level and overall mental health.
Here are some of the great feedback we’ve gotten from our employees:
“It helps me relax and get to sleep more easily after a rough day. The music content is also great for concentration and stress reduction whilst working. The meditations have been very helpful in dealing with work stress and anxiety during the pandemic.”
“It means having a comforting voice when needed whatever time of the day, sights for sore eyes, and music to my ears. Something to reach for.”
“It’s good to know that Reed Smith cares about my well-being.”
“The sleep function also helped me get to sleep during work travel. I hadn’t been away from home in so long, and I felt very out of place. The app helped me get to sleep.”
In the end, it’s the comments from our employees that show how we’re living our core values as an authentic and supportive firm for mental health.