Achieving a Work Life Balance
Written by Thomas Eckardt on 3rd October, 2017
The Work/Life Balance Myth
Lawyers, as a general rule, put in long hours. Whether it is studying for a Masters degree while also holding down a full time job, or being smashed on a large deal that wont close while also having to contribute to firm knowledge and BD efforts. As a legal recruitment firm, one of the most common ‘desires’ we hear from people looking for a change is a better work/life balance.
In this post I want to talk about options for getting a better work/life balance, things you can do NOW to improve your daily struggle, and what it ultimately means to achieve a balance.
Options for a better Work Life balance from a career in Law
If you are currently working at a top tier law firm or large company then, the chances are, you put in long hours and have fairly poor work/life balance. However, you are also working on great deals and earning decent money (hopefully).
- Go In-House – In-house is not the magic bullet. Since there are so many different companies and options to think about, you need to do your research (call us and ask). However, generally speaking, you do get a more manageable work/life balance if you go in-house.
- Go to a smaller law firm – Smaller firms generally have lower billable hours targets and place more emphasis on balanced working conditions. However, this is usually because they are not working on as many large matters at one time (consider the pros and cons).
- Ask internally – Something that most lawyers don’t do is speak with their boss about their struggles with the hours. It can surprise you what firms will do to try to make things better. Ask. Don’t just struggle on.
How can you improve your Work Life balance NOW, without moving jobs
There are things that you can do now to improve your work/life balance in your current environment:
- TAKE A HOLIDAY – If you enjoy your job for the most part, then it could be that you are burnt out and need a refresh. Book something in and escape for a bit. You will come back with a new love and determination (after the first week holiday blues).
- If you can’t take a holiday – We know what it’s like if you are trapped on a deal and can’t take the time off. What you can do to feel refreshed is:
- Work from home – Ask if you can work from home for a day. The change in scenery in a relaxed space will make you feel a million times better.
- Change your routine – Always gym in the morning? Try going at lunch. Always get in late and work late? Try getting in early and leave early (DO LEAVE EARLY).
- Put your phone away – Are you the type of person who checks your phone every 5 minutes to see if another email has come in? Put it away for an hour. An hour without a response won’t be fatal and it could help you immeasurably.
- Meditation – We were not sure about this. However, it is a new trend and it is worth trying to see if it helps you get back into your balance zone. There are many free apps out there which offer guided meditations. ‘Headspace’ is a popular one with a few free sessions. ‘Insight Timer’ is a chart-topping app with an endless catagolue of mediation sessions to suit your mood and time availability (whether you have 5 minutes on the bus or an hour before bed).
“Do What You Love and You’ll Never have to Work a Day in Your Life”
What a great quote. And complete rubbish. No matter if you love your job, you will always have days that are stressful. Even the person who you look at as inspiration for the ideal work/life balance has stresses in their job. The trick is that they manage it better. Rather than finding the perfect job, aim for balance with work and life.
Money is often a limiting factor. While I would love to get paid huge amounts to sit on a beach all day, I don’t think anyone would pay me to do that (anyone??? Please???). A lot of the jobs that pay the best also require long hours and a poor work/life balance. However, that’s ok. If you want to buy a house, travel the world and stay in exotic hotels, then you have achieved your balance. You work hard while at work, but have the financial security to do what you love outside the office.
Don’t confuse work/life balance with work culture
Work/life balance is finding the balance that you are happy with on a daily basis. If you are happy to work hard, but get paid well for it and enjoy life outside the office, then that is balance. If you get to work shorter hours and have to save for a while to go on that skiing holiday, but that makes you happy, then you have achieved balance.
Work culture is about enjoying your time in the office. Work culture varies hugely and is largely dependent on the team that you work in. If you get on well with your colleagues, there are good learning, development and social activities in the workplace, and you generally enjoy your day (even when putting in long hours), then you have a good work culture.
Hopefully you found this of interest. If you wanted any additional information about anything in this article or legal careers generally, please get in contact with me at Tom@EGConsulting.com.au