Culture can have an insidious effect, either for better or worse, according to the chief justice of the South Australian Supreme Court, The Hon. Chris Kourakis. It is therefore imperative to ensure wellness initiatives cater to idiosyncratic needs, rather than simply tick boxes.


This past week, the sixth National Wellness for Law Forum – an annual conference for like-minded legal academics, practitioners, judges, practice managers and students –focused its attention on how best the law profession can engender greater levels of self-perception, diversity, inclusion, respect and empowerment, on individual and institutional levels.


In other words, efforts to ensure a more personalised, human feel to wellbeing issues in law are paramount moving forward.


Such matters are, of course, not confined to law. The workplace productivity of approximately one in three Australian workers is compromised by reduced levels of wellbeing, which – aside from the obvious health and wellness concerns – impacts upon national industry and economy.


Addressing such fiscal and commercial concerns cannot be done, however, without adequate consideration for the personal and emotional. Rehumanising wellbeing issues, and the people within whom such issues can arise, is fundamentally important.


Knowing how best to ensure a more humanised approach to wellbeing is, without doubt, a complex question required nuanced and idiosyncratic approaches. There are a number of places we could start, however, as I learned from voracious consumption of the wisdom imparted at last week’s Forum:


1.     Learning how to listen better


A problem shared is a problem halved. It people feel as though they can truly be heard when discussing issues (whether they be work-related or intrinsic) they are much more likely to feel appreciated and connected. Taking the time to really listen to people – and not just speak at them from our perspective, or project our own issues – when told of their struggles can make a tangible difference to workplace culture, civility and collegiality.


2.     Catering wellbeing efforts to all staff, including management


Those in senior positions have a professional duty of care to employees to ensure a safe workspace, but that duty can and should also be extended on a personal level, whereby a manager is seen to be exemplar of balanced wellness. How leaders manage their own quantum of stress or workplace anxiety may lead to effective, specific strategies through which those in employ can be helped and also help themselves. As such, all institutions should ensure wellbeing activities cater to staff across the board, in order to engender wellness wherever it is needed. 


3.     Effective integration of the personal and professional


Many people associate stress with the workplace, and wellbeing with home life. While this is, in many cases, both reasonable and understandable, there can and should be a better nexus between the two existences, so work becomes an avenue through which people are inspired and uplifted, rather than simply tolerating hours spent in the office.


Initiatives aimed at increasing resilience and wellbeing should not simply be tantamount to putting a gas mask on the canary in the coalmine; compliance is only half the battle. A caring workplace culture, which caters to the personal and emotional needs of all individuals, gives rise to much more than mere compliance requirements. It makes people feel engaged which, by virtue, increases productivity and success.



Jerome Doraisamy is a published author and is committed to providing positive wellbeing across corporate Australia.


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