Get a Life: Why Better Work-Life Balance Leads to Better Work Performance
The traditional law firm model is challenging for many practicing attorneys who are burning the candle at both ends. Spending hours tied to an office worried about that billable hour quota, has left attorneys feeling worn-out and stressed. We hear from these attorneys every day that they wish they could have more balance and are searching for various wellness and mindfulness strategies, but don’t think it’s possible in order to achieve their career goals. The punchline is that having better work-life balance actually makes you a better attorney, and yes, you can still hit all of your desired professional achievements.
Higher Stress = Lower Productivity
A Global Benefits Attitude survey of more than 20K employees across 12 countries found that “levels of workplace disengagement significantly increase when employees experience high levels of stress.” The study looked at stress and disengagement and found a stark correlation between high stress and low productivity.
There are no shortage of studies like these, and most organizations know by now that stress takes up a lot of space in an employee’s mind, leaving little room for creative thinking, problem solving, and motivation. In one study, it was found that people who feel extreme stress at work feel almost incapable of getting their work done at times. The more work that piles up, the more stress they feel, and it’s a terrible cycle. This is an extremely prevalent problem in the legal field. The hours attorneys spend, competitive nature of legal work, pressure, and internal demands often equate to extremely high levels of stress. A 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review chronicles the story of a 35-year old attorney who suffered a stroke due to the level of stress at her job.
And it isn’t just the attorneys who suffer from low productivity due to work stress. Clients who are paying hundreds of dollars an hour expect quality work, sound advisement, and expert problem solving from their legal advisor. And they want it in a reasonable amount of time. The more stressed an attorney feels, the harder it is for them to deliver any and all of those things. This can cause tension with clients and internal stakeholders, not to mention making the attorney feel worse.
Stress Makes Us Sick
According to a Harvard Medical Research Study on Women, Work, Stress, and Heart Disease, stress has a significant impact on our overall health. Women whose work is highly stressful have a 40% increased risk of heart disease (including heart attacks and the need for coronary artery surgery) compared with their less-stressed colleagues. In addition to heart disease, stress can cause insomnia, anxiety, depressed appetite, and compromises the immune system. All of this leads to being “off your A-game” more than you’d prefer.
It raises the same challenge of not being able to deliver quality work, on time, to clients. When you’re sick, tired, or just not feeling like your best self, you can’t show up for your legal clients in the way they need and expect.
We all know what it’s like to drag ourselves through the day when we haven’t slept well the night before. No amount of coffee can overcome the exhaustion. As much as we try to fake it, our exhaustion shows up in the form of silly mistakes, poor decisions, and sometimes unprofessional communication. When you’re healthy and feeling energetic, you can produce better quality work, and more of it. You have the strength to think through problems more clearly and communicate effectively.
A Joyful Life Gives Our Legal Work Meaning
Why are we working so hard? That’s a question we hear a lot from our outsourced GCs who’ve left the mythical safety net of their traditional law firm. For most of our attorneys, having meaningful time with family and friends, hobbies, travel, and other personal enjoyment, is part of the reason we work so hard. Even the most staunch workaholics have a soft spot for something outside of work that they use as an escape. When we experience joy or “play” (doing something without worrying about the results), it combats all of the things we mentioned — stress, poor health, insomnia, anxiety, etc. It boosts our immune system and gives us energy. If you want to bring your best to your work, you need to experience downtime that makes you genuinely happy.
(PS – We love this concept and read about it all the time. Contact us for some great book recommendations!)
Most importantly, the mindfulness you cultivate will carry with you when you engage with business clients, which makes you someone they want to keep working with and refer others too. That means your reputation and legal practice grows by word of mouth. When you’re the attorney that shows up with 100% every time, delivers high-quality work, provides exceptional problem solving and advisement — you’re the attorney everyone wants to do business with.
The most productive attorneys are those who are able to strike a balance between work and life. They manage their stress, find meaning outside of the office, and stay healthy so their business can stay healthy.
If you’re on a professional track that’s holding you back, see how Auxana can help you strike a work-life balance while growing the kind of legal practice you want.
This topic matters to us – In fact, our first members-only webinar is focused on conscious leadership. Become an Auxana member to gain access, and register for our webinar today.