A big challenge experts in the legal industry face today is striking a healthy balance between work and their personal lives. Exaggerated by the rise of tech-enabled remote work, lawyers tend to put in long hours—both in the office and at home—to achieve their business goals and take care of their clients. As a result, they experience burnout and can sometimes struggle with mental health issues.
ALM Intelligence’s 2020 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Survey of 3,800 lawyers and law firm staff showed that more than 30% of respondents feel depressed and 64% struggle with anxiety.
In this article, we cover what a healthy work-life balance looks like and tips for achieving it in order to avoid burnout and improve mental health.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is the healthy coordination of work and life activities in a person’s life. Due to the rising number of tools (i.e. mobile tech, cloud-based software and high-speed internet) that make remote work possible, more and more legal professionals are losing this balance, because it’s easy to be “always on,” doing things like:
- Checking email messages on a smartphone the moment you wake up, before you go to bed at night—and basically any time in between
- Drafting documents from a personal computer at home, even after a long day at the office
- Holding lawyer-client meetings via videoconferencing, any time of the day, including during lunch or after you are “clocked out”
As a result, legal professionals today spend more time working than when work was limited to offices and courtrooms. The shift toward more lawyers working from home permanently, instead of in a traditional office setting, has made it harder to “turn off” when you don’t physically leave the office for the day.
Working long hours and neglecting one’s personal life—which includes self-care activities like getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals and exercising—increases vulnerability to mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. One study shows that a disrupted work-life balance can lead to other health issues, including:
- Cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases
- Diabetes mellitus
Over time, as these problems become more and more apparent, productivity ultimately suffers.
Let’s take a look at five means of improving work-life balance to avoid burnout and help you find the perfect balance, so you can continue growing your business and better serving your clientele while also taking care of yourself.
1. Consider Your Goals: Personal and Professional
Many lawyers put their professional goals ahead of their personal goals. As a result, they can sometimes put personal activities off.
Legal experts don’t usually have problems setting professional goals and achieving them before deadlines—so the same should be done with personal goals.
To achieve both, it’s imperative to create a feasible work schedule. If you are working from home, you could try stopping all work related activities at a certain time of day.
For example, if you used to leave the office at 5 p.m., you should get up from your desk at 5 p.m. at home, as well. This way, there is still time to focus on your personal life and any goals you might have, such as going to bed at a certain time, getting 30 minutes of exercise, eating a well-balanced dinner, or spending time with family—whatever is important to you.
2. Personalize Your Schedule
For each person, productivity varies depending on the time of the day. Some people are more productive in the mornings, while others work better later in the afternoon. Understanding which time of day you are more productive can help you create a better, more personalized schedule.
Since remote work makes it easy to set your own pace, try to plan your day so that your toughest tasks are scheduled during your most productive time. Even if it’s not possible to achieve this every day, adjusting your work schedule to your chronotype (defined as the phase preference of an individual according to the light-dark cycle) at least every other day can boost productivity tremendously.
For example, if your highest productivity hours are between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., you are likely to achieve twice as much during this time as you would between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
3. Practice Self-Care
Self-care involves taking care of yourself to stay physically and mentally healthy (and happy). It includes everything from personal hygiene and nutrition to seeking medical care when necessary, exercising regularly and taking time off for vacation, or even a mental health day here and there.
Self-care aims to promote your health and well-being, which in turn allows you to be more productive when you are actually working, improves your immune system and increases quality of life.
Practicing self-care isn’t synonymous with being selfish—it’s an integral part of a healthy and productive lifestyle.
4. Automate When Possible
Automation isn’t just a way to increase efficiency and reduce human error. Automation tools are designed to help reduce tedious manual work, thus creating more time for you to focus on both professional and personal goals and making your life easier.
By taking advantage of the available legal tech, you take a step toward maintaining an ideal work-life balance without hindering productivity.
Think about automation technology as a way to free up some time for your personal life, rather than an opportunity to put in more work hours.
5. Legal Process Outsourcing
Practicing law involves a series of highly complex tasks coupled with generic paperwork. Because of this, even a well-optimized work distribution can keep you bogged down. This is where legal process outsourcing (LPO) comes in handy—and it’s gaining momentum among law firms.
In fact, 48% of law firms take advantage of LPO, which involves delegating certain tasks to external firms. These assignments may include anything from research and document review to intake and court appearances.
By outsourcing intake and other tasks, you save time, cut costs and prevent leads from slipping through the cracks. Intake experts with legal and sales experience can take down potential client’s information, qualify them and help them e-sign retainers in the same phone call—saving you precious time for other tasks and giving you back more of your personal time.
Take Control of Your Work-Life Balance
Outsourcing intake to a legal call center reduces the burden on you and your team. Not only does it boost productivity by saving you time, but it also cuts down on costs and increases conversion rates—all while contributing to a healthier work-life balance. Learn how you can take control of your work-life balance with the right legal call center.