Reduce Stress for Yourself and Your Team

Question:

My legal team is wrapping a large-scale litigation project and we’re already getting requests to handle more matters? What can I do as a legal manager to reduce the stress that my team members are experiencing, as well as my own? 

Answer:

Stress isn’t always harmful nor does it always contribute to job dissatisfaction. In moderation, stress can be a positive factor that helps motivate an individual, inspires action or provides impetus to complete a project, overcome a challenge or achieve goals.

However, too much stress, or chronic stress, can negatively impact work performance and professional relationships, and it can lead to other problems such as lack of motivation and reduced productivity as well as physical ailments or emotional issues.

One of the most significant stressors that lawyers, paralegals and others in the legal field face relates to the imbalance between their professional and personal lives. Here are some ways companies can help their workers alleviate stress, enhance job satisfaction and stem attrition:

  • Become more flexible: Many employers in the legal field are implementing programs that include offering more flexible working hours, remote work options and additional vacation days.
  • Support balance and wellness: Firms are helping employees better balance work and personal demands by providing subsidized gym memberships, back-up childcare, parking benefits and cafeteria meal plans.
  • Go more casual: In research our company conducted, nearly six in 10 lawyers said they prefer a more casual and relaxed workplace, which not only encourages team collaboration and creativity but can also reduce workers’ stress.
  • Hire for fit: Employees who mesh well with the workplace culture are likely to feel a greater sense of engagement and loyalty.
  • Empower staff: Let employees make decisions about their work on their own, or with minimal direction.
  • Show appreciation: Be quick to thank legal team members for a job well done.
  • Provide meaningful work: Share how your team’s contributions support the organization’s goals.
  • Foster a culture of collaboration: Staff cohesion fuels not only job satisfaction but also innovation.

There are also a number of strategies legal professionals can use to reduce stress in their jobs as well as effectively manage workplace pressures: 

  • Take a break: Exercise, even if it’s just a short walk, is of the most positive ways to take your mind off work pressures and reduce stress. Taking regular breaks during the workday is also essential.
  • Build time into the start of your day: Manage your morning in a calm manner by allowing plenty of time to have breakfast, commute to work and organize and prioritize your work schedule.
  • Work smarter: Fully leverage technologies that can help you work more efficiently and effectively.
  • Address problems promptly: Deal with any issues or conflicts that arise swiftly and effectively so they don’t linger and create additional issues.
  • Set boundaries: For example, set limits for checking email or phone messages once you leave the office; and if you work from home, literally shut the door to your office at a designated time and switch off for the evening.
  • Ask for help: Talk with your supervisor, mentor, a friend, colleague or family member and seek their objective advice on changes you can make to manage your stress.
  • Don’t put off your vacation: Take regularly scheduled, planned absences from the office. Many legal professionals find it difficult to take time off, believing that time out of the office will just compound stress levels when they return. However, studies show the opposite is true – people are typically happier and more productive when they are back at work following a vacation. So, take extended breaks and truly unplug from email and work-related activities so you can relax, focus on yourself and recharge.