Gretchen Harders, Member of the Firm in the Employee Benefits practice, in the firm’s New York office, discusses how wellness and employee benefits can support workforces in The American Lawyer, as mental health challenges exacerbated by the pandemic could linger for a while.

Following is an excerpt:

Most new Big Law partners say their firms have made a bigger commitment to mental health during the pandemic …

Gretchen Harders, a member at Epstein Becker & Green who advises companies on employee health benefits and equitable compensation, said that while the chorus on mental health had gotten louder before the pandemic, law firms and companies in other industries have gotten better at making it a priority and locking in on a more holistic sense of wellness by looking at physical and mental issues, as well as workplace and family issues.

But there’s still a ways to go, she said.

“I don’t think the legal industry is really at the forefront of wellness. I think it’s behind other industries,” Harders said. “But there’s certainly more of a focus on providing a discussion of what kind of benefits can help support our workforce. And there’s definitely been more of a focus at our law firm on what the business can do. What can [human resources] do? And what kinds of additional products or offerings can we provide to our employees?”

Those issues aren’t going to go away even after COVID-19 is sufficiently in the rearview mirror, Harders added.

“There will still be a lot of attrition, and there will still be a tremendous amount of burnout. I don’t think any of that’s going to change, because it’s the nature of the work and the demand clients will have,” she said.

As firms focus on returning to some kind of normalcy, the focus on wellness will be an important part of the equation.

“If law firms are going to address burnout and attrition, this has to be a critical piece of that,” Harders said.

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