This summer Kristin Heryford and I facilitated a group discussion at the 2019 PDC Summer Conference that gave members a forum to share ideas, tips, and lessons learned. There was no deck or panel, and the agenda was set by the audience with a polling app we used at the start of the session.
Part 1 of this post summarized the legal and professional skills training ideas. Here, I share some of the programs and approaches attendees suggested for promoting wellness and supporting working parents.
Kristin talked about how Cooley offers a recharge corner in its academy classroom spaces, equipped with tables to stand, a yoga ball as a seating alternative, stretching bands and wellness pamphlets. The idea is to bring healthy habits into the classroom, giving people space to move, stretch, and breathe while remaining engaged in the content.
Other ideas from the room:
- Teach mindfulness exercises that can be performed at each person’s desk or at the beginning of trainings
- Encourage people to move their bodies in trainings, designing in opportunities to stand, talk, and move tables
- Provide wellness materials like pamphlets and recommendations for podcasts on different wellness topics
- Provide concierge services like picking up dry cleaning, handling store returns, and even having doctors do on-site routine exams to relieve some pressure from scheduling day-to-day tasks
- Host wellness speakers. Here are some recommendations from the audience:
- Dan Harris, television journalist and author of Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book
- Justin Whitman Earley, a biglaw attorney and author of The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction
- Terry Bentley Hill, criminal defense attorney and mental health speaker recently profiled by the ABA for her advocacy
- Scott Rogers, University of Miami law professor and advocate for mindfulness in the law
- Host alcohol-free social events and always offer a “mocktail” alternative when alcohol is served.
Employers are adapting to new expectations from employees with children. Law firms are no exception, and attendees shared policies and programs that make it easier for working parents to balance family and work obligations.
Many firms are making these programs gender-neutral so mothers and fathers both feel supported, and firms are offering in-home childcare and even letting employees take part of their leave when the children are born (or first brought into the house) and part later.
In addition to formal leave policies, attendees offered the following programming suggestions:
- Introduce a Family Leave Liaison Program. One firm matches new or soon-to-be parents with another person at the firm who has recently navigated becoming a new parent. The program has led to many new ideas, like sending firm-branded onesies to new parents upon their return and reimbursing breastmilk shipment when a nursing mother travels.
- Make it easy for parents to find the information they need. One firm offers a one-stop intranet page for resources like employee assistance programs, health care, and podcasts so employees don’t have to search them out. Another firm filters communication to employees on leave so they see only the emails they need to act on when they get back.
- Offer a working parent affinity group to create community. One firm offers such a group, with partner panels, candid conversations, and one-on-one lunches. Another pairs expectant parents with flex-work mentors to help them build a new work routine that works for their families.
Thank you to everyone who shared ideas and stories at this event. It was so inspiring to hear how PDC members and their firms are responding to the call for more balance and wellness in the workplace.