Fighting stress and improving mental health in your legal practice. ...


Heavy workloads, tight deadlines, and certain character traits prevalent among lawyers and paralegals - such as perfectionism, can cause offices to be extremely stressful. But this stress may be having a greater affect on your staff than you may think.
Category:
Workplace Wellness

 

What is the Impact?

Stress in the office can have a number of impacts. Here are some of the more obvious concerns:

  • Stress can lead to negative interactions and relationships between employees. When people are stressed, they start to get snippy with each other.The issue is that when these negative interactions aren't resolved, relationships will fester and work will be seen as a more negative place.
  • For those with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, these can be exasperated by continued exposure to high stress.
  • Stress can lead to a decrease in performance and an increase in mistakes. This also tends to increase absenteeism and tardiness.
  • Retention also drops, meaning that a skilled paralegal may vanish as soon as they find a job elsewhere. This mean that you'll be spending more time training new employees than you should, meaning someone else will have to pick up the slack.

What can Law Offices Do?

Because of this, it's important that law offices do what they can to foster a more positive work environment. A key issue is that lawyers are rarely trained to cope with stress in a healthy way, the personality traits mentioned above, and the fast-paced environment. To counter this, think about implementing some of these into your practice:

  • Make sure that taking time off isn't seen as taboo. Lawyers have historically had poor work-life balance, and this often extends to the other members of legal teams. Offering flexible work options can help people keep a good balance. Particularly encourage a bit of time off right after a hugely stressful case.
  • Encourage small acts of kindness around the office. Whether that be buying someone else a coffee or a few public words to someone who has been going above and beyond. The smallest things can sometimes be what someone needs to get back on track.
  • Have a system for annual reviews that helps everyone stay aligned with the firm's goals, rather than coming over as 'judgment' on their performance.
  • Set clear goals for the firm so you all know what you are aiming for.
  • Promote a good physical environment. Make sure the office is clean, as free of clutter as possible, and if you redecorate consider how to use color theory to optimise your staff's mood. Use natural light wherever you can . Set up workstations in a way that is ergonomically correct or even consider investing in some standing desks. Improve natural light as much as possible.
  • Encourage healthy practices among employees including sufficient sleep, healthy diet, exercise, and mindfulness.
  • Encourage people to take their breaks.
  • Consider, when privacy concerns allow, taking meetings outside the office and having them on the move.
  • Allow people to bring their pets to work, as long as they are well-behaved. An 'office mascot' can do wonders on everyone's stress levels.

Creating a more positive environment allows everyone to achieve their best work, improves productivity and results, and keeps people healthy. You should consider how to improve the work environment in your office, even if you think it is already pretty good.

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