Family & Work

Returning to the office after a relaxing and recharging break (or just some time away from the daily grind) doesn’t have to mean you return automatically to how you were working previously. With some consideration and thought, here are some practical tips to keep the holiday vibe alive back at the office.

#1 Re-evaluate or change your routine

On holiday one of the things we often appreciate most is the change in routine. Try to avoid falling back into your old routines by being intentional – schedule walking meetings where appropriate, get up and talk to colleagues if you can rather than firing off one sentence emails, and look into techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to keep focus when carrying out mundane tasks.

Experts say that the “best way to modify habits is to replace them with a new habit”. If you regularly drink your morning coffee whilst reading emails, try instead to invite a colleague to drink your coffee together to discuss the day’s tasks.

#2 Look over your reading or podcast list for the autumn / listen to a summer playlist

Summer is full of articles about the best beach reads, or the best podcasts (read ours here) but don’t forget these recommendations will still be applicable once you’re back from your holiday. If you only ever find the time to read or listen to podcasts when you’re away from work, try changing up your commute by reading – or listening to – a novel rather than scrolling through LinkedIn or a newspaper.

Not everyone works well listening to music, but if you do, consider compiling songs (like this Spotify list of songs for lawyers) that remind you of your holiday on Spotify and listening to it when doing more admin-related tasks to lift your mood.

#3 Take your full lunch-break (and use it to be a tourist)

According to research carried out by Mastercard and Ipsos MORI in 2016, only 17% of British workers take an hour for lunch, with the average lunch-break lasting only 28 minutes.

Yet on holiday, we spend a great deal of time lingering over meals and exploring new places. Keep this vibe going by stopping work when you can to take a proper break, and use it to really explore the places surrounding your work. 

If you work in a city and enjoy culture, there are galleries, churches and public spaces which you can spend half an hour exploring and learning about the history of the areas or being inspired. There are often lunchtime concerts and talks.

If you work more remotely or from home, try finding new footpaths and exploring your immediate surrounds on foot.

#4 Get outside

On holiday, we often spend a huge amount more time outside and consequently we feel much better for it. The effects of Vitamin D on our mood as well as our health is well documented. A lack of Vitamin D can cause fatigue, tiredness and depression as well as making us more susceptible to colds and other illnesses commonly making the rounds in offices and public transport.

Keep this wellness feeling going on your return and fortify your immune system for the winter months by getting outside to absorb Vitamin D. NHS advice is to spend short periods outside between 11am and 3pm without sun-cream and with forearms, hands and lower legs exposed between March and the end of September.

#5 Practice optimism/gratitude

“When we take time to notice the things we are grateful for we raise our energy levels and become more happy and optimistic,” says Laura Walker, a mental health nurse and happiness coach. 

Take inspiration from Walker’s ‘gratitude stone’ (hers is a stone she painted with Mandela but it doesn’t need to be something so monumental) by keeping a stone or shell that you found on your holiday in your pocket or bag. 

“Whenever I see the stone I stop and consciously think of something I feel grateful for. I love this because it takes me by surprise as it often turns up on top of the washing machine or other random places”.

She is a firm believer in a daily gratitude practice; it doesn’t need to be a stone or shell, it could be a daily journal, or just taking time to notice and reflect upon the things you’re thankful for experiencing or that bring you pleasure, such as looking up and noticing the sunlight on your walk to the station or enjoying the smell of your hot coffee.

#6 Set boundaries for tech use

Our brains are not designed to be constantly in use. We need to spend time idling in order to let our brains re-charge and work more efficiently but an ever-present screen with a never-ending list of tasks to complete prevents this from happening. 

On holiday we naturally spend more time doing things away from a screen or technology, such as reading, playing sports, or sight-seeing, which gives us an added benefit that our brains have had more time to switch off more fully.

Try continuing this back in the office by actively setting realistic boundaries with technology. Try setting yourself screen time limits, reading or listening to podcasts on your commute and stepping away from your screen during breaks (see #1 above).

#7 Be more present

Experts advise that the key to a balanced life is one in accordance with your values. If you are very clear on your values and work to your strengths, you will feel more fulfilled, more engaged, more consciously in control, less stressed and more present. Presence really is the key to keeping the ‘holiday vibe’ alive. 

Try consciously reducing multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time.

#8 Consider your holiday epiphanies and schedule your diary accordingly

Ellen Price, Founder and Coach at Think Feel Do says we make the best decisions about what needs to change or be given priority once we’ve had a holiday break. “The best gift you can give yourself to carry forward the benefits of the holiday is to schedule your diary in accordance with your values,” she says. 

“If being home for your kids bath time 3 times a week is important to you, block the time, make it non-negotiable and then make sure you turn your phone off and stay present with it”. 

“If getting promoted this year is important to you, work out what you need to do to achieve that and prioritise your diary for those things and be really present with them.”

#9 Replicate the scent of your holiday

“There is lots of buzz at the moment around the idea of ‘functional fragrances’, which are scents explicitly designed to lift or shift your mood – think aromatherapy with added neuroscience,” says Lizzie Ostrom, founder of Odette Toilette, who create experiences that invite feeling, thinking and exploring through scent. 

“But actually, any perfume or smell can do this, and it’s within our power to build that association. One easy way to do this is to choose a particular or new perfume to wear on holiday. You can then wear it when you’re back if you want to snap out of a stressful situation and feel emotionally reconnected with that languorous feeling of being on holiday.” 

You could also do the same thing by using up your holiday sun-cream once you return to the office, or by using a shower gel after you cycle or run to work which has a similar scent.

Using a new scent on holiday does come with a warning though. Lizzie says that “I once used this technique on a trip to the US and felt so grim the first two days, my perfume made me feel a bit queasy thereafter. So hold-off spraying on your travels until you feel a bit more settled and in a restful mood!”

#10 Swap your mid-afternoon fizzy drink for an ice-cream

If all of the above seems too much, this one is super easy. Instead of reaching for a can of something cold and fizzy during the mid-afternoon slump, combine getting outside with a change in routine and walk to the nearest shop to pick up your ice-cream of choice.

Making Work, Work

As schools in the UK get ready to break up, thoughts turn to summer holidays and some well earned R&R. Or at least, they should be turning to those things. As Bloomberg law reported in 2018, lawyers are notoriously bad at taking holidays. Despite the comparatively generous allowances provided by many big law firms, less than a third of lawyers use up all of their holiday allocation, according to a study by career research company Vault. Just 31% of associates working at American law firms took all of their holiday allowance, a picture that is similar to lawyers in many other countries too. And of course, among those that do take all their holiday entitlement are those who took the work with them, both physically and psychologically, with all too many employers only happy to encourage them.

It is vital for lawyers to properly step away from work on a regular basis. A summer holiday means a chance to spend days outdoors, cut out screen time and get stuck into that book that has been on your to-read list for far too long. It is a time to focus on loved ones, and reconnect with everything that makes you ‘you’, outside of work. Taking the opportunity to spend a few days, a week or more completely out of office should be a priority, helping you to reset and return to work refreshed and motivated.

Whether you have already booked an extended stay abroad, or are thinking about some long weekends exploring what your own country has to offer, we want you to make the most of it! Here is some advice on how to enjoy stress-free summer travel in 2019.

#1 Create An Itinerary

It may seem counterintuitive – a summer holiday is meant to be a time for spontaneity and to switch off from planning and scheduling, but a properly thought out itinerary is a must. If you are heading to an unfamiliar area without an itinerary, you will end up spending too much time trying to figure out transport, location whereabouts, other details such as payment options/booking fees, before realising you haven’t brought vital items such as suitable shoes/swim gear etc with you… Knowing in advance what you want to do and what you will need to do to get there will help you to avoid typical stress points of travelling.

An itinerary also helps you to get a better sense of the needs and preferences of your travel partner, or members of the family/group you are travelling with. Working out what you want to do together ensures you have everyone’s interests covered, and brings everyone together in the excitement of what’s ahead.

For the tech lovers amongst you, there are apps that can help you create a list of activities, travel routes and packing lists. For Gmail users, Google Trips is an ideal one-stop shop to organise your travel documents and information, as well as providing customised maps showing all the landmarks, restaurants, bars and points of interest near where you are staying. Check out this list for 5 other popular trip-planning apps.

#2 …But Don’t Try to Plan the ‘Perfect’ Holiday!

It’s only natural that we make summer holiday plans with a picture painted by many idealistic travel agency adverts in our minds. However, with all the planning and organising in the world, things will always happen outside of expectations and there are effective ways to manage your mental health in the dog days of summer.

Holidays are not about trying to recreate an ideal; they are highly personal, and are inevitably affected by natural occurrences out of our own control – illness, changes in weather, even changes in mood can alter the image you had in mind. So while an itinerary is important, don’t get caught up with trying to tick off every essential you’ve read in Lonely Planet. Be realistic, go with the flow, and be prepared for things to not quite go to plan, and you won’t be needlessly disappointed.

#3 Write a Holiday Journal or Read Books

Spend a few minutes at the beginning and end of each day of your holiday writing down the agenda for the day, what you did, what you learned, what you felt etc. This will help you remember the smaller moments and capture the complete experience of the holiday beyond the photos. It will also help you appreciate the time after you return, and reading over each day will provide the inspiration you need to plan your next trip.

If writing’s not your thing, read books you don’t have time to read the rest of the time. From Oprah’s Best Beach Reads to the FT’s selection of summer books, there’s a whole world of wonderful books to escape your work life if not in person, at least in spirit.

#4 Disconnect Your Work Devices

Have we made this point (more than once) before!? It’s advice that bears repeating: to avoid slipping into being ‘on’, make sure all notifications and synced inboxes/document drives are disconnected from mobile devices before you set off. Dads Net has a helpful list of tips to take a digital detox.

If you feel it might make you more anxious to be completely switched off from work, bring a separate work device/laptop that you can lock up and leave in your apartment or hotel room, to be accessed only when you have some down time and are in the right mental place to check in and, most importantly, check out again.

#5 Set Boundaries With Your Out-of-Office 

When setting your out-of-office answer phone and email auto-reply, don’t be ambiguous: Make it clear you are on holiday and will not be checking communications. Yes you are a lawyer, so the likelihood is this won’t be strictly true, but it is better not to give the impression that you are on call in your absence. Try not to use phrases such as ‘if urgent I will…’ ‘or I will have limited access…’. This is a good guide to draft an effective out of office message.

If applicable, provide the details of the colleague who will be covering, and give the date of your return. As long as you have giving your clients prior warning of your absence and have ensured that pressing matters and impending deadlines have been dealt with/will be dealt with before you head off, there should be no need to be reachable at any time during your holiday.

Wishing you a safe, relaxing and fun summer holiday!

Making Work, Work

Do lawyers need a purpose to drive them in their career? There is, in our view, more driving lawyers to battle against the burnout, the long hours, the sexism, to stay and thrive within the law. The career choice is about more than money, and goes further than prestige. For many lawyers there is strong purpose and real impact to be made through the work they do.

But how many are fulfilling their purpose? What is the reason, for example, that such high percentages of Gen X and Millennials are feeling dissatisfied in the law, according to this Nimble Services LLC 2018 Lawyer Happiness Survey? It found more than 66% of Generation X lawyers plan to leave their current organisation, and only 40% are satisfied with the culture of their organisation.

Many respondents cited remuneration, workplace culture and resistance to change as reasons behind their lack of engagement, but does it go deeper? In a groundbreaking 2015 in-depth study of lawyer’s happiness, it was determined that a sense of autonomy and self-determined job motivation are vital components in career satisfaction and wellbeing – they want to be in control of their development and set value-aligned goals. Lawyers, just like so many other professionals, want to make a difference in their chosen area, and have something to prove – even if some haven’t quite figured out what that is yet.

Chances are as a legal student you went in with a particular idea of your career goals and purpose, but that, along with the perception of the reality of the work, changed along the way. Changing outlooks and goals is not unusual or indeed a bad thing, but if you are feeling a sense of loss of purpose or drive it might be time to reconnect with your sense of self and why you went into law in the first place. Here are some ways you can do that and become a lawyer with purpose once more.

Define What You Want Your Legacy To Be

It’s time to get specific about how you want to be remembered. Leaving a legacy is something we have covered in detail previously on The Attic, so take some time to read if you missed it. It’s never too soon, or indeed too late to consider what mark you want to leave behind on the world. The biggest part of your legacy is the impact you have on others, so when it comes to considering what that is, think about the impression that memorable people have left with you. What feeling do you think you leave behind after you have left a room? Ask a trusted confidante their honest opinion of their initial and current opinion of you. And without being maudlin ask yourself, how would you like your eulogy to read? How is it exactly that you want to be remembered in your life and work? This will help you to drill down to what achievements matter most.

Examine Why You Excel At What You Excel At

Professionally, knowing what skills we have and what we can contribute in our job role is part and parcel of our development. But how often do we really ask ourselves why we are good at these things and have honed those particular skills? Go right back to the root: what is it about your personality and character that has led you here? What are the values and principles you hold that have influenced your skills and where could that, combined with the experience you have gathered so far, take you in future? For example, We can look for inspiration amongst our lawyers who are changing the world for the better, such as Victoria Anderson whose early passion for education and diversity led to a student volunteering project at law school, which became a fully fledged charity.

Remember Purpose Is Not Happiness

Well, not exactly. Purpose is essential to overall happiness, but we should remind ourselves that feeling happy is not a constant state of being, it is a moment. We can’t be happy all the time, and worse – we lose sight of what we are trying to achieve with too much focus on trying to be happy constantly. Happiness shouldn’t be the goal when it comes to finding your purpose – view it as a wonderful by product and a reward for the more mundane and difficult times.

Ask What You Can Change

In an industry that can be resistant to change, this can seem an insurmountable task. But having purpose means you see something that needs your unique input – it doesn’t have to be world-changing (see below) but the intention must be to have an impact on the little corner of the world you are working in currently. Is it something in work culture, local community, that you and/or your organisation can play a bigger role in? Or is it something more personal? To work out what to focus on, decide what is within your reach, what it could be in the future, and what is probably unrealistic.

Purpose Doesn’t Have to Be Big, Or One Single Thing

Purpose isn’t always about following one road, there are multiple purposes to be served in work and life, and those purposes will change as life goes on. So there is nothing stopping you identifying lots of different, small drivers that you want to work towards.

It doesn’t always have to be something big, either. When we talk of purpose, it can often appear to mean something lofty and idealistic. But purpose can be large or small.  Real purpose is grounded in what is within our grasp and what we believe can become reality with our input.

Even when it comes to the bigger picture, being purpose driven requires small daily actions. And yes, you’ll be pleased to know there is an app to help you take those small, daily steps – the On Purpose app is a simple tool for crafting a powerful and personally meaningful purpose statement and then keeping track of how aligned your daily life is in relation to that purpose. The app is based on the graphic novel by Professor and Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Vic Strecher.

Purpose Should Be Shared

Finally, finding and following a purpose shouldn’t be a solitary activity. Shared purpose is in fact vital for motivation and engagement in work – so engage colleagues, verbalise what what want to achieve and how you see that fitting within the organisation. If your purpose falls outside of the organisation you currently work for, seek out relevant like-minded groups. Thankfully, there are many local and national membership organisations and community groups of all kinds within the law, which can be a valuable source of inspiration and help you regain your sense of self and give you renewed purpose in work.

 

 

Making Work, Work

In an increasingly connected world, why are we hearing that people feel increasingly more alone? Whether in the office, at home with the baby, or working remotely, more people are experiencing feelings of loneliness. As the majority of our lawyers at Obelisk work flexibly, many remotely, we look at some of the data and causes, and how we can tackle this creeping sense of isolation.

Working Life and Loneliness

Our modern working culture has changed the way we socialise – spending the majority of our time in the office, often commuting far from our local area, means our social life often revolves around colleagues and peers who have a similar working day to socialise around. We move to where the work and schools are, rather than stay within the communities our families once grew up through generations in, so we are less likely to form a bond with our neighbours.

So, once our lives change and we suddenly find ourselves outside of the work circle, through maternity leave, a career break or a change to remote flexible working, we can start to feel isolated.

New parents are understandably one of the most susceptible groups to feelings of loneliness – 80% of mothers surveyed by Mush admitted as much.  Much like retirees, the sudden displacement from work routine and social life can leave them feeling they are removed from their usual support circle.

It’s not just those who choose to stop working for an extended period. Both office and remote workers are experiencing similar level of loneliness. Buffer’s 2018 State of Remote Work found 21% of remote workers see loneliness as their biggest struggle.

Office workers also struggle. Though they might meet and speak with dozens of people a day through their profession, time pressures and work culture may mean they aren’t able to form a personal bond with many people they work with. A long-hours culture – working through break times, skipping the after work socialising due to having to catch a train to make it home for the kid’s bedtime – reduces the opportunities to connect with colleagues and associates.

A Growing Concern

This all shows that loneliness is not confined to certain groups; both workplace and general loneliness are a growing condition of our existence.

Life is increasingly busy both at work and at home – a recent report found that the amount of unpaid household tasks we are doing in the UK has increased by 80% since 2005. We get so bogged down with things we must do, we lose appreciation of the simple pleasure of having nothing in our schedule, and using that time to reconnect with others.

Loneliness is having a profoundly negative effect on our wellbeing and how we work. A Gallup study, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, found 30% of respondents with a ‘best friend’ at work were 7 times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. Loneliness can affect our ability to self-regulate, and impact on physical aspects of our wellbeing including blood pressure, the immune system and cognitive ability.

The Paradox of Social Technology

Social media and communication apps that are meant to bring people closer are perhaps encouraging complacency. We have all the ways and means in the world to send a quick message and see people’s public updates, but this means we don’t think to stop and check in properly on how someone’s life is going behind the scenes. We see others sharing photos of group holidays and work events, and it seems like we are even more alone with our lonely feelings.

Of course, we should know deep down what we see isn’t the whole truth.  In a world of keeping up appearances, no one wants to admit they are feeling lonely, for fear of coming across vulnerable – we are fine; we are living the dream of doing what we want when we want! Thanks to pluralistic ignorance, no one wants to admit they are struggling because they believe they are the only ones feeling that way, and so the cycle continues.

How to Combat Feelings of Loneliness

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others

As hard as it may be, try to resist comparing yourself to the outside view of other people. Choose to follow more warts-and-all social media accounts that aren’t afraid to show vulnerability and the other side of the picture. This will help when sharing feelings of your own to others, as it serves to prove that there are many people out there in the same boat.

  1. Do some good in your community

Positive action, even if you’re starting out alone, will soon attract other likeminded people. Find a local community club, cause or online group for something you are passionate about. Not only will you be contributing something worthwhile, it will boost your own confidence and help you get outside of your own head for a while.

  1. Take time to say ‘hello’

Not every conversation has to be deep and personal to give you a little boost for the day. Slow down and take the time to talk to people you may see regularly but never interact with for more than a couple of seconds. Be it in a park, at the shop, or on public transport, the longer you sit or stay somewhere, you’ll be surprised at how many friendly conversations can take place – yes, even in London!

Advice for New Parents

Join local online communities – It’s hard to get out and about with a new baby, and there’s very little time or energy to put into much else, so you may need to find other ways to combat loneliness. Local online support groups and parenting forums can go a long way to help.

Be neighbourly – If you live near other houses, try to get to know some neighbours. Stay at home mothers, retirees, self-employed people who may be home in the daytime can be a huge help and provide a range of different insights and experiences.

Advice for Remote Workers

Make more phone calls – It’s all too easy to send a message when time poor, and especially so when you’re finding it hard to pick up the phone due to feeling vulnerable. Taking that first deep breath and talking to people on a regular basis really does work wonders. A message about one thing starts and ends on that subject alone, whereas with a conversation, you never know where it might lead, making the interaction altogether more stimulating and valuable.

Schedule the time – If you are not good at keeping in touch, put contacting and meeting people into your diary as you would with work deadlines and conference calls.

Choose clients carefully as a freelancer – If you can, try to choose to work with teams who value communication and human connection, and understand the challenges of remote working and the need to be connected to the organisation on a deeper level.

Advice for Office Workers

Ask others how they are feeling – The chances are that you are not the only one feeling this way, so look out for other people too. Ask them how they are doing, how they are getting on with their current caseload or particular clients. We all need an opportunity to vent at work from time to time and (as long as it’s kept professional!) can help us bond with colleagues.

Address the office culture – Feelings of isolation are likely to be due to something wrong with the organisational culture. There may be a lack of investment in social events and team cohesion, so focus on addressing the problem by suggesting events and activities that encourage better collaboration and interaction with colleagues.

At Obelisk Support we all have had experience of feeling isolated in our working lives. With a flexible core team and network of remote consultants we work tirelessly to keep in touch, organise events and create a culture that helps individuals feel continually supported and cared for. If you have any thoughts on tackling loneliness as a consultant or lawyer on a career break, we want to hear from you.

Making Work, Work

Guest post by Elizabeth Rimmer, Chief Executive of LawCare

We all have mental health, just as we have physical health. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, and affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. 

Mental health issues range from the worries we all experience as part of everyday life, to serious long-term conditions. It can be easy to dismiss mental health problems as something that happen to other people, but research shows that 1 in 4 of us will experience them each year. And yes, the legal community is no exception.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.

This definition places wellbeing at its heart.

So…

What Do We Mean by Wellbeing?

It means different things to different people but, it’s about how we feel, how we think, our relationships, and how we find meaning and purpose in our lives.

About 50% of our wellbeing is influenced by our genes, 10% is about our upbringing and external circumstances such as our health, work or financial situation, but crucially about 40% is influenced by our choices and attitudes – how we approach relationships, our values and our sense of purpose.

This means we can take positive steps to influence our wellbeing.  There has been considerable research into the science of wellbeing and this gives us an opportunity to use this evidence to make better choices to increase wellbeing in our personal lives, homes, schools, workplaces and communities.

How to Improve Your Wellbeing

There are five simple steps we can take to improve our wellbeing:

  • Connect –  with the people around us, our  family, friends, colleagues
  • Be active – finding time for exercise or enjoyable hobbies
  • Keep learning – new skills can boost confidence
  • Give to others – just a simple kind word to someone or volunteering your time  can improve your wellbeing
  • Be mindful – be more aware of the present moment, including your feelings and thoughts, your body and the world around you

In a professional context, wellbeing matters because it brings a number of benefits: greater self-esteem, optimism, resilience, vitality, self-determination, positive relationships with colleagues, better physical and mental health, greater motivation, greater creativity, and more productive work.

Wellbeing & Lawyers

It is known from research in the USA that lawyers have higher rates of anxiety, depression and stress compared to other professions. Why is this? It’s not that lawyers are genetically predisposed to poorer wellbeing than other people, there is something about the about the culture and practice of law that can have an impact. It is the culture of the well-known poor work/life balance, the long hours and presenteeism, the competitive environment, the fear of failure and the driven and perfectionist personalities that can be drawn to law. All of this contributes to an environment that can make some people more vulnerable to mental health concerns.

Lawyers are expected to cope with the demands of the job, and fear that not coping will be seen as a sign of weakness. They can find it difficult to acknowledge that they may need support and talk openly about mental health in the workplace.

At LawCare, the charity that supports and promotes mental health and wellbeing throughout the legal community in the UK, we know that talking is an important first step in changing the way we think and act about mental health. We want to get the legal community talking about mental health.

Since we were founded in 1997 we have helped thousands of people in the legal community manage the day to day pressures of working in the law. But we want to support lawyers to do more than just survive in the legal workplace we want them to thrive.

Wellbeing & Resilience

Resilience is an important factor in the workplace. Resilience is the ability to resist or bounce back from adversity, and in any workplace there will be people who thrive on challenges and difficulties, while others will find it hard to cope with unexpected change or problems. If someone finds it hard to forge ahead when things go wrong, the good news is that we can all learn how to develop our resilience.

Highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in times of constant change. Most importantly, they expect to bounce back, and feel confident that they will. That expectation is closely linked to a general sense of optimism, and finding the positive aspects in most situations is a skill that can be evolved. The right mental attitude to cope, and even flourish, when the going gets tough, can be developed.

10 Tips to Build Resilience:

  • Learn to see challenges, mistakes and failures as valuable learning experiences
  • Give yoursef a pat on the back when things go well. Be kind and forgive ourselves when things go wrong
  • Don’t give in to negative thoughts. Challenge them, and ask whether they are true or realistic
  • Use humour to defuse and downplay difficulties. We can laugh at ourselves and situations
  • Be flexible. Recognise that nothing stays the same, especially in the workplace
  • Take care of physical and mental health. Get enough sleep, exercise and eat well. When our physical self is in good shape, we are less fragile
  • Take time off work, use holiday entitlements and take breaks during the working day
  • Recognise that a bad situation is usually temporary
  • Build a support network. Make time for friends and family who offer encouragement and strength. Consult supportive work colleagues
  • Don’t extrapolate one bad situation into another unrelated situation. We can’t be good at everything; recognise areas of strength

Attitude and perspective are fundamental to building resilience. Paying attention to strengths and how to develop them, learning to accept that things won’t always go well, and focusing on what is working rather than what’s not, are all key.

How Things Can Change

We need to come together as a legal community to raise awareness and understanding of mental health, in order to create healthier and more supportive working environments for lawyers. Although attitudes are changing, the fact remains that many people feel unable to raise mental health problems at work, and we need to do something about this.

Organisations are only as strong as their people and a healthy and productive workforce where staff feel valued and supported, will be more committed to the organisation’s goals and perform better in their jobs. Mental health matters.  

About LawCare

LawCare is the charity that supports and promotes good mental health and wellbeing in the legal community throughout the UK and Ireland. Our support spans the entire legal life – from student to training, through to practice and retirement.

We understand life in the law. If people need someone to talk to, they can call us on our free, independent, and confidential helpline. Calls are answered by trained staff and volunteers, all of whom have experience of working in the legal sector.  We offer empathetic support for work, emotional, health and financial problems, and we signpost callers to specialist support where appropriate. Call us on 0800 279 6888 365 days a year, or visit our website www.lawcare.org.uk.

About Elizabeth Rimmer

Elizabeth Rimmer started her working life as a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. She has been managing and developing charities in the mental health sector for over fifteen years, and joined LawCare as Chief Executive in 2014.

Making Work, Work

Studies show that lawyers are particularly susceptible to unhealthy lifestyle choices and stress, but this lawyer who runs bucks that trend. Loren Zitomersky, known as Backwards Guy on Twitter and Facebook, has an athletic record that would put to shame most extremely fit people. From 1,426-mile bicycle rides to yearly marathons and an Ironman, he never stops.

At Obelisk Support, we support a healthy lifestyle in the legal profession and are in awe of Loren’s achievements. The best part is that he’s doing all this for charity, to raise awareness about epilepsy. The Attic caught up with this lawyer, who runs before work, less than a month before his next goal – to run all 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon backwards (yes, literally backwards running) and attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon ever run backwards (3 hours, 43 minutes, 39 seconds – about an 8:30 min/mile average pace).

Hold on to your hat.

First, Tell Us What Do You Do in Your Day Job?

I’m a motion picture production attorney at Disney.  I work in the live-action motion picture production group and advise producers and Disney executives on legal matters pertaining to Disney movies.  I essentially act as the general counsel on the movies.  Most of my time is taken up negotiating and drafting talent (actors, writers, producers, directors) agreements, but my job encompasses a lot.  The most recent movie that I was the production attorney on that has been released was the live-action “Beauty and the Beast.”

How Important is Fitness to Your Life?

VERY important.  I’ve ran 7 marathons, completed an Ironman and done many triathlons.

How and When Did you Start Running Backwards?

I’ve been raising money and awareness for epilepsy for 20 years (over $300,000 raised to date), and I had told myself that if I qualified for the Boston Marathon, I would do something big for my fundraising and awareness campaign for the Boston Marathon.  I qualified at the Mounts 2 Beach Marathon in Ventura, California with a time of 3:00:14 last June.  I stumbled upon the record for the fastest marathon ever run backwards (3:43:39 – about an 8:30 min/mile average pace) and I thought I could beat that time and raise a ton of money and awareness for epilepsy at the same time.

How Do You Combine Training with Work?

Being a lawyer who runs is difficult.  I have been waking up super early in the morning and getting my backwards runs done early so that my day is clear for work, but it definitely is a juggling act.  My employer Disney has been very supportive of what I am doing.

Tell us about Epilepsy and the Boston Marathon

One in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime, which is a crazy statistic.  The reason most people don’t know that epilepsy is so common is because no one talks about it.  People are afraid to talk about it.  They’re afraid of being judged, losing their job, losing their driver’s license and/or having a stigma attached to them.  I’m trying to change that and talk as much as I can to bring epilepsy out in the open.

How Can People Support You?

People can visit BostonBackwards.com to learn more and make a donation if they feel inclined (hopefully!).  Also, I just launched a challenge called “26 Steps Backwards to End Epilepsy,” and I’m super excited about it!  More info is on my website at bostonbackwards.com/26steps.

Words of fitness advice to other lawyers?

Always have a passion outside of work.  I think that is very important.

Bio

Loren Zitomersky was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, attending UCLA for undergrad and then later Pepperdine Law School in Malibu.  He is a motion picture production attorney at the Walt Disney Studios. He has two brothers, loving parents and a very supportive wife, Rose. In his free time, he runs backwards.

Making Work, Work

Burnout isn’t inevitable. On National Stress Awareness Day, we look at the endemic levels of stress in the legal profession and why it should no longer be tolerated as ‘part of the job’.

How much stress in our careers is acceptable? Law is widely considered to be one of the most highly stressful industries by those both inside and outside the profession. We all thrive on a certain amount of pressure, but on-going periods of high stress can have serious implications on physical and mental health.

Lawyers and the Pursuit of Happiness is a recent study by Keystone Law examining the happiness and wellbeing of 300 legal professionals. It found more than 63% of those surveyed believe law is more stressful than any other profession. Other studies have shown mental health occurrences more than double in law than other professions. Tellingly, the majority of respondents in the Keystone study (37.5%) cited flexible working as a solution to make job more enjoyable and less stressful.

As the legal services industry begins to change, flexible working patterns are more available to people with family and life demands. But this isn’t the whole story – it’s not just about accommodating personal circumstance, it’s about changing the culture of legal work to stop accepting burnout as an inevitable price to pay for being a lawyer. Legal work is highly valuable and it requires years of training, experience and aptitude to do the job well. However, it shouldn’t mean that people should have to run themselves into the ground to be successful. Everyone has to put in the overtime now and again, but a fair share of downtime should be facilitated. Client demands, a key point of stress for many lawyers in the study, can be met with more human first working patterns. As pointed out to us recently by an Obelisk consultant, with these changes clients have so many more flexible options to resource their legal needs, rather than paying for services and overheads they don’t require – potentially reducing stress on their part. With changing working patterns more and more companies are discovering that more can be achieved with less impact on mental and physical health, and that fostering culture with extreme levels of pressure is counterproductive long term. Healthier, happier legal professionals work better and are therefore likely to keep doing so for longer.

Take action

The International Stress Management Association identifies the psychological, emotional, physical and behavioural stress symptoms, such as memory lapses, mood swings, weight fluctuations and self-neglect. If you feel it is time to start making some changes to the way you work, there are options out there, and people you can talk to – many of whom have been there and come through the other side. Talk to a doctor, and have some honest conversations with friends and relations. Be part of the change and consider flexible working options to take control of your working life, and together perhaps we can banish the culture of burnout once and for all.

Stop stress from being the measure by which you value your worth as a professional. Explore The Attic for more thoughtful reads on the topic.

Making Work, Work

The future of work is already human. We just need to be more human, more of the time – Roger Steare, corporate philosopher

If you were following the #workischanging event hosted by CIPD this week, there were some interesting insights into the future of work, with flexible working and technology being two of the main topics discussed. Mobile technology, computerisation of traditionally human led job roles, reinventing the office and office culture, and the rise of the freelance economy; all these developments show our working world is a much different picture to the 9 to 5 cubicle office life that we still have the tendency to see as the traditional default.

What these changes really have at the heart is human endeavour and wellbeing. Shaking up office culture is all about creating the conditions to get the most out of workers, by making them happier in work and more able to balance their work and personal lives.

Obelisk has also been hearing what people would do with the time made available to them by working smarter and more productively in a flexible environment, as part of our #MyMillionHours campaign. We’ve looked in detail at the economic gains that can be made by reactivating talent and allowing people with fluctuating personal lives a way to continue working in harmony with those priorities. The numbers don’t lie, but what the discussion keeps coming back to is the prioritisation of worker’s wellbeing enabling everyone to do a better job at home and in their work, and remain happy and committed to the job they are in.

Expecting people to be boxed into work conditions that don’t accommodate their real, everyday lives should have long been dismissed as counterintuitive, yet it has been an accepted normality for so many for so long. By treating workers as human first, and shaping our changing working landscape around human life patterns and emotional reactions, while developing technology that enables us to do our jobs better, more efficiently and in more locations than ever, that acceptance gives way to innovation and change.

The very nature of modern business is fast paced, requiring businesses and people to be agile,  proactive, and reactive, with weekly and daily changes to projects, marketing campaigns, customer service responses, legal contracts and much more. Bringing in freelance workers on a project by project basis helps fight those daily fires, and allows businesses to bring in the specific talent and expertise required at the time. By doing so, a pool of latent talent is being tapped, and people who previously felt locked out of work or unable to progress their careers find their skills and experience reactivated, with their confidence and drive increased as a result.

It doesn’t need spelling out what an increase in confidence, wellbeing and ambition can do for the economy and society as a whole. Injecting 1 million hours into the legal sector can bring a much needed improvement to working patterns and wellbeing within the industry. Work for the majority of us is our passion – for many it is a vocation – and the feeling when it no longer is compatible with our lives is a devastating one. Seizing the opportunities presented by the changing working landscape could mean that no one has to experience that feeling again, and that talent can be brought back to life and used to make the lives of clients easier too. Changing work for the better is a matter of putting humans at the centre.