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Beyond the law: Getting creative with workplace connection

Beyond the law: Getting creative with workplace connection

By Karin Derkley

Health Interviews Wellbeing 

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Commercial lawyer Lauren Kelindeman has put into practice techniques she’d picked up from research on wellbeing.

It was late in March as she was sitting on her balcony contemplating the new working from home regime under COVID-19, that Legalite commercial and franchising lawyer Lauren Kelindeman realised others similarly isolated might appreciate the 15-minute online wellbeing sessions she had been hosting since late last year for her colleagues.

Ms Kelindeman had started the sessions as a way of putting into practice some of the techniques she’d picked up from her research into ways she could manage her own wellbeing as a lawyer. 

“I suffered from pretty severe anxiety in the early stages of my legal career and after doing a lot of reading and studying the science of wellbeing via an online course at Yale, I started thinking about the kinds of activities I could incorporate into my day to help with anxiety.”

Recognising that many of her fellow lawyers were also dealing with similar mental health challenges, Ms Kelindeman introduced a weekly online session for the firm called Wellness Wednesday. “My principal Marianne Marchesi is really empathetic and committed to innovation, so she was supportive of the idea. 

“We knew the sessions had to be online because part of our team is remote. I came up with a mix of activities that put a twist on some I’d read about. I got really good feedback from our team that it was the highlight of their week and we were having so much fun together.”

When the firm, along with most of the legal profession, went into working from home mode, Ms Kelindeman, now officially the wellbeing champion at Legalite, suggested her colleagues might benefit from making the sessions daily rather than just once a week. 

“My principal's response was ‘10,000 per cent yes’. 

“And then we thought, why don’t we open up the sessions to the public? We’re enjoying them so much, even if just a few people come on, maybe we can brighten their day.”

With what she had called the Love Your Life wellness sessions already accessible to her colleagues via Zoom, it was an easy step to open them up to a wider group simply by posting an invite to her wider network on LinkedIn. Participants now encompass lawyers (and some non-lawyers) across Melbourne and beyond.

The sessions run via Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/5944356497) for just 15 minutes weekdays at 2pm. Ms Kelindeman says the time slot is a good opportunity for people to refocus their attention after their lunch break. "That’s the time I normally start getting sleepy and unproductive, and doing these activities gives people a joyful brain booster before they get back into their afternoon of work.”

The sessions involve simple activities like drawing, desk yoga, a 10-minute meditation or music or goal setting or writing a gratitude list. “They are very tangible activities that people can implement in their daily life and help them to reduce anxiety and bring some new good habits,” Ms Kelindeman says.

“I think lawyers have found it helpful because they realise that as a lawyer I understand what they’re going through and what we need right now. 

“If your wellbeing is low, you’re not going to be your most productive or efficient self because you’re not emotionally at your best. To be productive, especially during this time, you’ve really got to focus on your mental health and wellbeing because your mood will dictate how you go at work.” 

Participants can join whichever sessions fit in with their schedule and their interests. The theme for Monday is Let’s Get Creative, Tuesday is Personal Development, Wednesday is Mindfulness, Thursday is Drawing Class, and Friday is Desk Yoga.

Among the feedback she has been getting from participants is that it’s their happiest point of the day, she says. Others have said the sessions have left them feeling rejuvenated and connected and recharged them for the rest of the day. 

The emphasis with the sessions is to keep them light-hearted, she says. “It’s about having a play around and not being too serious. Imagine if all the lawyers in Melbourne are laughing all the way back to their desk. Imagine how much more productive and happier they would be for the rest of the work day.” ■


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