With most of the world having had to adapt to remote working under some form of government-imposed lockdown, the stress of being isolated has taken its toll on us all. Humans by their nature are social beings. Isolation is difficult under normal circumstances, but even more so when we are counting the daily, devastating human and economic cost of this pandemic. The stress of coping with pandemic impacts can bubble to the surface, leaving us wondering if life as we know will ever be the same. This means that for business and team leaders, managing this stress has become a business imperative.
To combat the detrimental effects of the stress caused by COVID-19 on our employees’ health and wellbeing, we first utilised our existing health and wellbeing programme developed by an internationally recognised health and performance educator, Richard Sutton. Even before COVID-19 began its global journey of destruction, we recognised the importance of implementing workplace health and wellbeing initiatives and committed to creating a culture that supported and encouraged employees to build resilience to the harmful effects of modern workplace stress. This resilience programme was in place when COVID-19 began to impact our working lives, and it proved invaluable during the lockdown.
Sutton, who has advised top athletes and Olympic teams, created a tailor-made programme that aimed to enhance overall employee wellbeing, help in the management of a variety of mental health and general wellbeing issues, and build employee resistance to the adverse effects of stress. The programme included, among other things, a Stress Code app, designed to promote and maintain positive lifestyle changes and facilitate successful stress management. Information on rebuilding and repairing the brain and body, as well as a section entitled "health hacks" were included in the app. Further, regular health and wellness podcasts, specifically recorded for Baker McKenzie, alongside virtual events, offered guidance and advice on dealing with key COVID-19 stressors.
On completion of this extensive resilience programme, we launched our Mindfulness Business Charter, which sets out in detail, the need for mindful balance and regard for others in the current intense and relentless business environment. To entrench the principles outlined in our Mindfulness Charter, we implemented a nine-month Mindfulness Programme, which launched on World Mental Health Day, on 10 October this year.
As employers, our aim is to ensure that our employees have access to the necessary programmes and systems that help to create an environment that promotes and supports mental health and overall mindfulness. This project builds on our previous initiative, but whereas the resilience programme focused on our overall health, resilience and our ability to manage stress, the Mindfulness Project focuses solely on mental health.
The project is run by Dr Jonathan Moch, a practising psychiatrist who studies the human condition from diverse angles. The Theme of Dr Moch’s programme is - Mindfulness: a call to adventure. It comprises 10 modules that incorporate an overview of mindfulness, meeting etiquette, how to live a purpose-driven life, expanding awareness behaviours, mindfulness meditation, ten positive attitudes, e-mail etiquette, a focus on clients, respecting rest periods, mindfulness delegation, and the importance of nature on mental health, openness and respect. The programme is offered to employees via virtual and in-person events, through video-clips and WhatsApp messages, and in optional outdoor activities.
The world is changing but we are adaptable. With the right tools and a focus on mental health and wellbeing, we have been able to continue at full speed through challenging times. Thanks to these initiatives, our employees are mindful, cohesive and able to operate seamlessly in future-driven, innovative teams that are wholly focused on helping clients to navigate and simplify the new normal.
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