Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, lawyers have experienced a seismic shift of working in offices to working remotely. Whilst COVID-19 has been the catalyst to many problems, it could be argued that these are long standing issues within the legal industry that have been brought to the surface by the ‘new normal’.
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease across the UK, people are starting to go back to the office or follow a hybrid remote and office working model. With commutes and travelling back on the horizon, it's important that you do all you can to maintain a healthy work life balance as your office reopens.
This balancing act has become a glaring issue that has been brought to the forefront. It’s no secret that associates, lawyers and partners are notorious for working overtime - in fact, this was highlighted in the Clio’s 2018 Legal Trends Report. The legal software service revealed that “75% of lawyers frequently or always work outside of business hours, and 39% of lawyers say that those extended hours have taken a toll on their personal lives.”
Additionally, The Law Society has revealed that the average number of ‘lockup’ days for firms, whether they’re big or small, is 155 days, but they should expect these days to increase by a further 15 to 25 days, which means cash isn’t as readily available to firms. Because of this, and the disruption of the pandemic, a number of Top UK firms placed their staff on furlough or made redundancies in order to preserve their cash flow. As a result, some employees have found themselves picking up the extra workload in order to meet deadlines and maintain client satisfaction.
Embrace the power hour
One way you can stay on top of your workloads whether you’re working in the office or at home is by booking “power hours” into your calendar. A “power hour” is where you block out one or two hours every morning or afternoon so that there are strictly no internal meetings or calls. This means you can effectively plan your week and set time aside to do those tasks you never get round to, answer your backlog of emails or get ahead of your admin.
Reduce contact to work hours only
Partners, associates and clients have become used to communicating over email, instant messaging and video calls, which has reduced travel time and has many benefits. However, it’s very easy to quickly check your email or work phone in the evening and respond after work hours.
Where possible, send emails and communicate with both clients and employees during office hours. This manages expectations and if they contact you outside of these hours, they shouldn’t expect a response until the next working day and will be clear on your office hours. This also gives you time to clear your head and enjoy your downtime without the pressure to constantly check your phone or emails.
Integrate mindfulness and breaks into your work day
Partners and associates are often faced with high workloads and challenges - all of which can increase anxiety and can have an overall negative impact on your health. When the to do list gets too long, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. This is where taking breaks and practicing mindfulness comes in.
According toClio, studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation can reduce anxiety and rewire your brain’s “fight or flight” responses, which can help you remain calm during stressful situations. When you integrate regular breaks and mindfulness into your daily routine, you will be able to approach high stress situations with a positive attitude and work in a more balanced frame of mind.
From listing out your to do list, exercising, taking your full lunch break or finding a quiet space in the office or at home and following guided meditation apps such as Headspace, there are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.
Learn to confidently say 'no' (within reason)
When your boss or employee comes to you with extra work, saying no can be really difficult. However when you say no because you have a stretched workload, you’re able to prioritise your own work and create a daily schedule that’s productive and efficient.
At IDEX Consulting, we’ve got over 40 years of experience in helping partners attract and retain legal professionals across the globe. Our dedicated team have earned the respect of their legal clients from a range of industry sectors including banking and finance, insurance, construction, property, consumer and oil & gas. Speak to one of our experts today.