Stress is part of our modern lifestyle. Even people who have left the workforce will say they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Every day there are time crunches and little annoyances. There are unexpected errands like running back to the store to pick up that one essential item you left off the grocery list.
While the general population experiences some level of stress, those who work in the legal field often deal with higher stress levels. The expectations of a law firm can make the work-life balance difficult. The lawyer’s lifestyle is filled with constant expectations that lead to stress and burnout.
What Is Stress?
What you experience as stress is the body’s natural way of dealing with a threat. Most animals, from human beings to tree frogs, have a preprogrammed stress response. When you sense a threat coming toward you, your body prepares you for explosive action, commonly known as the fight or flight response. Your heart rate and breath rate increase. Your blood pressure rises. The body releases some of the energy stored in fat so that it can be used by the muscles.
While this makes sense when you are facing a wild animal, it is not helpful when you are facing a looming deadline or a difficult judge. Your body gets revved up but has no place to go. This can lead to serious health problems such as weight gain, chronic high blood pressure, and heart attack.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is what happens when the stress response is triggered frequently over a period of time. In a normal stress response cycle, the body prepares for action, you act or the threat passes and the body goes back to normal. When you are constantly turning on the stress response because you are overwhelmed with work, you start to become numb, unable to function and unable to make decisions. You may feel paralyzed, desperate or discouraged.
Lawyer burnout is especially troubling for law firms that depend on their employees. A lawyer under stress may be off his or her game. A lawyer who is burned out may be unable to play the game at all.
Consequences of Stress in the Legal World
The clients of a law firm depend on their lawyers to help them solve problems and receive justice. When lawyers are stressed or burned out, receiving adequate representation is almost impossible. If work-life balance is the issue, the lawyer may be thinking about errands that must be run or children’s events that will be missed rather than the case at hand.
Stress and burnout have serious consequences for legal professionals.
- Increased absence: A stressed employee may call out sick because he or she simply cannot bear to come in.
- Increased illness: Stress lowers the ability of the immune system to fight off infections. People under stress have higher levels of sickness
- Chronic health problems: One of the most common consequences of chronic stress is weight gain from overeating. This can lead to high cholesterol, diabetes, and other long-term health issues.
- Poor decisions: People under stress tend to have a narrow focus. It is difficult for them to make rational decisions. This is a great concern when it comes to someone planning a legal strategy.
- Poor preparation: Legal cases require a great deal of research, planning, and organization. Someone under stress will put these tasks at a lower priority, which can result in an unprepared and flustered day in court.
- Substance abuse: Sadly, stress is one of the most common reasons that people turn to drug and alcohol abuse. They feel it is easier to self-medicate than deal with the stress itself. Alcohol is often used because it tends to slow the body down.
Ways to Prevent Stress and Burnout
To reduce stress in the legal world it will require some changes to the lawyer’s lifestyle. A law firm can play an important part in this work, helping its employees deal with stress. There are several law firm benefits that can make a difference.
Stress Management Training
Teaching your employees to deal with stress is a win-win strategy. You will have fewer hours lost to illness and absence and fewer clients lost to poor planning and performance. Your legal staff will have more energy and focus to do their jobs well.
Stress management can include several areas of education.
- Mindfulness training: Teaching techniques to calm and focus the mind.
- Time management: Learning how to structure the workday for efficiency.
- Legal organization: Reminding lawyers of the best practices of the legal trade.
- Self-care strategies: Teaching the importance of physical fitness, healthy diet and adequate sleep in dealing with stress.
Retreats and Sabbaticals
An important way to reduce burnout is to change the routine once in a while. This includes such law firm perks as a group retreat, bonus vacation days or individual sabbaticals. For example, if the firm is working on a large case, it might choose to go offsite for a planning retreat, working in a less stressful location. Another possible benefit would be extra vacation time at the completion of a case.
The MyShoperoo Stress Solution
One of the greatest law firm perks is the ability to give your legal staff more time in their day. Instead of your employees worrying about the errands they are not doing as they work into the evening, they can enjoy the fact that many of their daily tasks are being handled by their own concierge service.
MyShoperoo shoppers do the legwork for your employees. They can handle the grocery lists and dry cleaning runs. They will tackle the big box stores as well as specialty shops. Just text your shopping needs and MyShoperoo will handle the rest.
When a concierge service handles the little errands, there is more time in the day. In fact, we estimate that each employee that uses our service gets back 35 minutes of their day. That is 35 minutes to unwind, to connect with family or stream another episode.
If you want to reduce stress and prevent lawyer burnout at your law firm, contact MyShoperoo and discover how a personal concierge service is a perk that makes a difference.