Work Life Balance – Do you Sleep in Your Office?


work life balanceWork life balance can be one of those elusive concepts.  Everyone talks about it; law firms say that they have it – but very few people seem to think they have attained it.

The video below is a TED talk from Nigel Marsh about this very concept, and I found it pretty interesting.

I can’t help but wonder, however, can work life balance really ever be achieved by a lawyer?  As one of the more time intensive professions, you will likely end up spending more than 45 hours a week at the office, and quite possibly 55 or more some weeks.

Work life balance is just that – it doesn’t mean having time to party all day every day, or taking extended holidays.  I firmly believe that people should work and be productive.  However, you need to ensure your life is not overtaken by any one thing – otherwise you become not a human being, but a slightly obsessed automaton.

Importantly, although the usual assumption is that the work component is overdone in “work life balance” there are some people who tip the scales more towards the “life” component and ignore their work.  That’s not the focus of this article, but is important to bear in mind that too much of the “life” side can be pretty unhealthy as well.  Work life balance means just that – balance.

That said, most lawyers I know claim to work too long, too hard and all the time.

In my mind, there are three major contributing factors to why your office time might be taking over your life:

  1. It’s short term insanity and all hands are on deck for that period in the knowledge that it will end some time soon so you can get some well earned time off;
  2. You have bitten off more than you can chew and your general workload is too high;
  3. You are working inefficiently.

The first problem will resolve itself over time, with any luck.

The second problem is one where you are going to have to do something about it.  ‘Fess up – tell someone you’ve got too much on your plate, and redistribute some of your workload.  If you don’t, chances are you will stuff something up due to your overloaded system.  Don’t risk it.  If there is nobody else to take on work – then you need to manage in the short term, but look at the situation as new work is offered – can you really take it all on, or do you need to be more prescriptive about what you say “yes” to?

Working inefficiently is best identified by somebody else.  Do you have a mentor or close associate who can help?  Ask around – see if there are better ways of doing what you do which will free you up a bit.

If your work life balance is way out of whack, take a look at your working life and see whether you are adopting an approach to working life that is simply chewing up your time.  Work is important and valuable – but there are other things to do in this world!

Happy lawyering!