The third in a series of CMHA member case studies published this year, we learn about an innovative approach that Clifford Chance, the international law firm, is adopting to addressing mental health issues in the workplace.
In 2014 it launched a unique graduate development programme in conjunction with The Positive Group to raise awareness of good mental health among its new recruits. The Performance Optimisation Programme (POP) is designed to build the kind of resilience that will help individuals cope with the periods of pressure and challenge that are a feature of most jobs today. The combination of a supportive environment and evidence-based tools and techniques from cognitive, behavioural and positive psychology help young people enhance their performance, health and quality of life from the very start of their careers.
The POP, which has won an award from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, has helped to normalise people’s response to stress and encouraged some individuals to seek earlier support. The firm is continuing to develop and refine the POP as part of its goal of building psychological resilience. Its latest initiative to this end is a series of quarterly mindfulness sessions delivered by Gelong Thubten, a Buddhist monk who teaches meditation and specialises in providing non-religious workshops for businesses and organisations (www.mindfulness.samye.org).
Diversity and Inclusion Manager Sarah Twite explains: “We’d looked at introducing mindfulness before, but we found that, in practice, people struggled to put aside even ten minutes to sit and be mindful during their working day. We used that behavioural knowledge to think about how we could introduce mindfulness in a way that made more sense for people and, together with Gelong Thubten, we came up with the idea of ‘moments of mindfulness’. Being mindful for just very short periods of time – a minute while you’re washing your hands, for example – can help initiate your practice. Thubten ran an initial session for us last year, and it was very well received.”
The new quarterly sessions, which are designed to be very practical, will focus on different aspects of mindfulness: relaxation and confidence; honing our focus, learning flexibility; concentration and interaction; and transforming mind states. Individuals may also book short (15-20 minute) one-to-one sessions with Gelong Thubten to talk about aspects of mindfulness, or broader personal issues.
The mindfulness sessions, which are designed to complement the firm’s resilience training, are part of a Resilience and Wellbeing Speaker Series. Speakers have included a sports psychologist talking about how to perform under pressure, a neuroscientist on the importance of sleep, and a nutritionist on the detrimental effects of sugar highs.