Over the last year and a half, many industries have felt the impact of the global pandemic when it came to their team’s wellness and mental health. In fact, in the last year alone, organizations of all sizes and verticals have experienced a mass exodus as the workforce looks for more flexibility in balancing their work-life with how they want to spend their personal time.
And it is impacting legal teams too.
In October of this year, Gartner released a survey focused on the wellness of In-house legal teams, and the results were incredibly alarming. Of those surveyed who stated they were feeling exhausted in their roles, more than two-thirds said they were looking to leave their company.
While the pandemic has contributed to burnout, the truth is that legal teams have long experienced high levels of burnout, with some saying that burnout culture is seen as part of the profession.
What Exactly is Burnout?
Burnout is a form of exhaustion that is experienced mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Burnout can be caused by work stress, family, personal finances, world events, and more. For legal teams, it can be heavy caseloads, client and organizational demands, concerns over the quality of work delivered, and more.
Working remotely, being isolated from loved ones, and balancing workload with the demands of your family has led to an increased level of burnout for many legal professionals.
Burnout Impacts All Levels
While it may be easy to assume burnout is only impacting corporate counsel, the truth is that all levels of a legal team have been impacted. Each role, whether it’s trainees, associates, or corporate counsel, is working harder than ever to accomplish tasks for the organization while living amid a global pandemic. As members of the team leave unexpectedly, those left behind will feel their workloads increased.
What Causes Burnout & How To Tell If Your Team Is Experiencing It?
Working hard and pushing yourself to the limit is still seen as a status symbol within the legal industry. Legal professionals have long been in a race to clock the most billable hours possible to not only receive a bigger paycheck but also to get into the good graces of their leaders.
Burnout goes beyond feeling overwhelmed at the end of a busy workday. Burnout happens from chromic workplace stress that goes unmanaged. Identifying burnout in legal teams can be challenging, but here are a few signs that should raise concerns:
- Disconnected to the work being done. The best way to avoid being burnout with the work you do is to be proud of the work you do. Legal teams have a huge impact on the success of their organization or firm. If you notice that members of your team are disengaged and aren’t feeling pride in their work, it could mean that they are burnt out.
- Increased cynicism. Complaining about a project or task is normal in the workplace, but there comes a point when light complaining turns into cynicism.
- Decreased productivity. When someone is feeling burnout, they will often pull away from their work. Look for signs of tasks taking longer than expected or a lack of engagement from your team members.
How to Solve Workplace Burnout On Your Legal Team
If you or someone on your team is experiencing legal burnout, here are a few things you can do to address it:
- Acknowledgment. It’s often difficult for legal professionals to acknowledge that they are experiencing burnout. In a fast-paced, high-demand role, it is easy to confuse burnout with stress from a heavy workload. Acknowledging that burnout is being experienced is the first step to addressing the issue.
- Encourage time off. Time away from work can be a huge refresher for anyone experiencing burnout.
- Connect with your team. Burnout often happens because members of your team feel like they are working beyond what is expected of them. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with your team to understand what their to-do list looks like and how that aligns with what they were hired to do.
Burnout can affect anyone in any industry or role, including those that work in legal. When burnout goes unchecked, it can lead to team members quitting their jobs, which can have an impact on the entire team. Addressing burnout early can create a stronger team, more engaged legal professionals, and a healthier work environment.