For many people, feeling stuck in a job that they don't enjoy can take a toll on their mental and physical health. People thrive when they are engaging in meaningful activities, this can look different for everyone. However, it is important that you find a job and career that you enjoy given that we spend nearly 30 plus hours of our week at work!
You might not find the perfect job for you straight away, but this doesn't mean you can't enjoy spending time planning for a future and figuring out what you need to do to achieve your career aspirations. Another important thing to remember is that even if you land your dream job it's still key to find time to spend doing activities you love and find the right work life balance.
As a lawyer you will have responsibilities and maybe a few long days at the office, in this article we're going to explore some of the ways you can add to your mental health toolbox and make you sure you maintain a healthy work balance so you can feel fulfilled both at work and at home.
A Healthy Work Life Balance
As the world becomes ever more bustling, connected and busy you've most likely come across the phrase "work life balance" before, either online or among colleagues or friends. For the Millennial and Gen Z generations in particular a work life balance has been a recurring point of discussion in terms of how technology has enabled more flexible working hours at the expense of personal time and work time boundaries becoming increasingly blurred.
The phrase and concept of a "work life balance" has been around for years and years, since the Industrial Revolution through to many workers rights movements throughout the 21st century. The idea that we feel better when we have time to spend outside of work to do activities and hobbies which make us happy has been shown to have many different benefits.
Understanding that we need to find a way to spend quality time with friends, children and family is important and the first step working towards a better and healthy work life balance. Finding the right balance is key to taking care of your mental and physical health and avoiding some of the stress that can come with working full time.
Millennials and Gen Z as we mentioned before are generations which due to the ever-changing landscape of employment and economy have lived through the effects of workplace stress, exhaustion and burnout as employees.
Employees maintaining healthy routines and lives also tends to benefit both the employer as well due to having higher morale and productivity at work and less time off due to stress or other mental health issues.
Do Many Lawyers Keep a Healthy Work Life Balance?
Realistically many people find it hard to fully separate their professional and personal lives, not just within the field of law but in many different professions. Being unable to leave work and fully relax is a problem which plagues a lot of workers across the world.
Thankfully, more awareness is being raised about this issue and its impact on peoples' mental and physical health in their lives, promising a brighter future where people can strike a happy balance in their work life and don't feel the need to essentially be on call at all hours of the day.
Unfortunately, this is still the case for many lawyers in Australia, but the fact is this comes down to two parties; The law firm, and the lawyer themselves.
What this means is that each law firm holds different standards and has varying expectations of its solicitors in the workplace. An old fashioned law firm working on high profile cases may expect their lawyers to work hours of overtime without question, but nowadays a lot of firms are more open-minded and are flexible to their workers' needs in order to look after their mental and physical health.
At the same time, some lawyers may feel like they need to do those extra hours at work, or quickly send email replies to people even late at night. Sometimes you just need to say no!
People might feel guilty about not putting in the extra hours when they are earning a handsome salary, but just because you are being rewarded well for your hard work doesn't mean you need to do even more to the point of burning yourself out and creating stress.
A good way to maintain a balance is to set out boundaries at the start of your job or career and aim to maintain them throughout. Make it known to your boss how far you are willing to go, if you work overtime too often it will eventually become expected of you.
Unhealthy Habits to Avoid as a Lawyer
We've spoken about how important it is for both your mental and physical health to keep a positive work life balance, now let's take a look at some of the habits and routines that may contribute to either side of the work life spectrum.
Firstly, it's important to know what an unhealthy work life balance looks like so that you know where you stand and how you can make positive steps. Here are some examples of how a lawyer might be affected in this way:
- Sending and replying to emails after work hours
- Having to attend video conference meetings when on holiday or personal leave
- Working long hours due to international time differences
- Being expected to work overtime on important cases
- Having little time between work to spend time with their family, friends, and partake in hobbies or leisure activities
Working long hours and not having time for personal enjoyment or your family and friends can be very detrimental to your mental and physical health in both the short and long term. Even just being distracted from this personal time by emails and calls from work can have as big an effect on your health.
Spending too much time working, and being distracted by work during your time at home can also add stress to your relationships in your family. Missing commitments by working overtime, or taking a call during dinner with your partner can all have negative impacts which can eventually turn into bigger issues.
Now we know a few key things to look out for, let's discuss some positive actions you can take to help you maintain a healthy work life balance and live your best life!
Steps to Take to Improve Your Work Life Balance
It can indeed be difficult to take the first steps towards a healthy work life balance, but the mental and physical health benefits you gain from your efforts will be all the motivation you need to maintain positive habits.
Whilst it may be a long shot that high profile lawyers will never work overtime or answer an out of hours email, any reduction is better than nothing. A few good places to start are the following:
- Learn to Say No: It is always okay to say no to extra work or activities that are outside of your responsibility. Don't feel like you will be disappointing the people you work with, just remember that sometimes you need to focus on yourself and your own mental and physical health to avoid burn out and stress. There is no point taking on more work if you haven't the time to fit it in, otherwise you will always be fighting for time to reach deadlines and make appointments.
- Keep Distractions Away: If you use your phone a lot for your job, it's a good idea to have a dedicated work phone. This way when you get home you can simply put it on silent and in your bag. No emails, no texts, no calls to remind you about work and keep your mind racing, just time to relax, do some hobbies, and enjoy being around your family!
- Consider a Flexible Schedule: The time has nearly passed where a 9-5 job is the norm. Nowadays employees of a business have plenty of opportunities to take on flexible working schedules. This is excellent news for the work life balance of all people as it means that you can make your job fit into your schedule, not your schedule fit around your job. Flexible working hours mean you can attend that family event or go on a trip with your partner and not stress about missing out on hours, pick them up next week or not at all, the choice is yours!
If you are a newly qualified barrister or solicitor it's a good idea to put these habits into practice early in your career or job so that minor issues don't start snowballing and having a bigger effect on your mental and physical health and general wellbeing.
Overall, though it may be hard to strike that perfect balance of work and life it has never been more obvious how important it really is to workers not only in the field of law but in all professions in the world.
Hopefully, you can find a rhythm and routine that works for you, your family, and your friends, allowing you to enjoy your professional time at work as well as your personal time doing the things you love like hobbies and leisure activities.
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