In the last newsletter we suggested that embracing innovation such as new technology, or outsourcing high-volume, low complexity work, was one practical way of releasing the pressure and increasing productivity in your team. Now for the second strategy.
Strategy Two: Clearly Communicate Acceptable Work Practices
Many in-house lawyers are reluctant to use their company’s work-life balance policies due to a perception that it will adversely affect their careers. Part of this can be attributed to the company’s culture and leadership. Speaking at the ACC Australia’s 25th In-House Legal National Conference in a panel session on ‘How to stop your lawyers burning out, tuning out and dropping out’, Canon’s Chief Legal Counsel David Field referenced two types of leadership: self-leadership, and organisational leadership. He described ‘self-leadership’ as:
- being responsible for yourself;
- having good hygiene; and
- having discipline around how you treat yourself as a resource.
In other words, you share responsibility - along with the business’ leaders - for ensuring your own wellbeing. If you need to seek help, do so - whether it be from friends, mentors or even your law society.
At an organisational leadership level, a company has “responsibilities to the environment it creates, the culture it creates, workloads and resources,” Field said. If you are a people manager, you share accountability for creating a positive wellbeing environment.
Start by ‘walking the talk’. “Your team doesn’t just listen to what you say, they watch how you behave,” Field said. “You won’t have a lot of credibility preaching to be balanced if you’re not being balanced ...it’s important to be quite present and conscious in relation to the signals you’re sending.”
What Does Work-Life Balance Mean to Your Team?
If you haven’t already done so, talk to each of your team about what work-life balance looks like for them. For many, it’s not about working reduced hours, but rather it’s about having the flexibility to balance their work and personal lives. For some, this means leaving work at 3pm to attend to their family then going back online later in the evening. For others, it may be the flexibility to attend medical appointments when required.
For those in global roles, it’s also worth discussing viable work practices. Naturally, it’s not sustainable for someone to work a full day in the local office and then continue working through the night supporting an overseas office - certainly not long-term. But has anyone explicitly told them that it is acceptable to work any other way, and discussed what that might look like? It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often assumptions are made. For instance, they could work four hours in the morning, take the afternoon off to attend to their personal life, and work four hours in the evening.
Laini Bennett is Head of Content at LegalVision. She is responsible for LegalVision’s freely available database of articles and publications. LegalVision is a market disruptor in the commercial legal services industry and provides a range of legal solutions specifically directed at large corporates, fast-growing businesses and enterprise clients that have a higher volume of legal needs. The firm was named the 'Fastest Growing Law Firm in the Asia-Pacific' by the Financial Times.