By Legal Futures Associate Exizent
Last month, we conducted a survey among legal professionals to understand their experience of working life pre- and post-pandemic, and the impact on their mental health, wellbeing and day-to-day processes and practices.
As you might expect – thanks to reduced commuting times, contrasted with more time spent in bed, available to complete day-to-day tasks or just to relax or be more social – the majority of legal professionals (61%) said their work-life balance is now better compared to pre-pandemic. This, however, was not true for all.
15% of those we surveyed said their work-life balance is now worse than before and more than a third of legal professionals have actually considered quitting their job due to poor mental health during this time.
In an era of varying working habits this stark conflict of opinions needs to be addressed by employers to understand the contributors towards these views and improve the standards and processes at work that will help overcome them.
Mental health in the legal services industry
When asked about the influence workplace challenges have had on legal professionals across the past two years, the figures attained raise concerns around the declining performance of professionals, and more importantly, their declining mental wellbeing. This is despite most stating their work-life balance is now better.
Of our respondents, 69% said the shifts in work procedures have caused them to suffer disrupted sleep; 56% said it had caused them to make mistakes; and 49% said it caused them to become aggressive, snappy or impatient. These statistics all contribute to difficulties in and out of working life and showcase increased stress and reduced performance in an already demanding sector. It’s therefore unsurprising that a huge 44% said that the pandemic and the resulting working processes have caused a negative impact on their mental health.
However, with a huge 69% of legal professionals now opting for a hybrid working split, and a further 17% completely home-based how can employers overcome the cons associated with working from home and ensure the positive mental wellbeing of their employees?
Advancing working processes
Past decades have seen businesses far and wide thoroughly analyse their processes to find more efficient ways of working – to the benefit of customers, employees and businesses as a whole. But while we might’ve delved deep into the realms of digital desktops, cyber security safeguards and cloud processing, there’s something to be said about the disregard to the actual tasks at hand and the expectations on our workforces.
When asked about the primary challenge faced at work by legal professionals, 51% of survey respondents chose workload. This, juxtaposed with the 37% who have considered changing jobs due to poor mental wellbeing at work since the pandemic began, could point to increasing workload expectations, or otherwise, insufficient processes in place to support remote working – making it difficult for employees to complete the work at hand in the expected time. Whatever the answer, legal services must look to their workforces and make the necessary adjustments, or risk losing valued colleagues.
Diving deeper into the perception of current working processes by legal professionals, 38% of our respondents did in fact point to inefficient working practices as their biggest barrier to work, followed by 31% who blame insufficient software tools. It’s clear that legal service firms on the whole aren’t doing enough and must work to improve their digital tools to enable employees to work more effectively from wherever they are, to overcome this feeling of high workload expectations and reduce stress on employees.
Finally, when pressed further about their processes and responsibilities half (49%) said internal emails were the most time-intensive, followed by manual data entry at 43% and chasing up information requests at 35%. Other significant tasks include organising documents, client comms and admin tasks. Yet in a world driven by digital processes like email automation, there must be better ways to speed up the completion of these tasks and allow those working in legal services to focus on the value-add portions of their work – supporting clients.
Improving working processes to enhance mental wellbeing
Legal service firms face a number of commonalities when it comes to everyday tasks. Take the probate sector – manual tasks like repetitive data entry in IHT forms can be monotonous and error-prone and cause undue stress on the employee completing the task and the end customer wanting the process completed as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Another difficultly, in an era of home working, is the pressure to take on more client work due to reduced travel times to face-to-face client meetings. However, with every additional client comes additional admin work like data entry and chasing up requests.
With the right systems and processes in place, legal services firms can now overcome these challenges to support that 51% who labelled workload as their primary challenge. It’s now imperative that employers take time to listen to their employees about their challenges to ensure their processes and practices are appropriately designed to support them.
Speeding up legal services with Exizent tech
Exizent technology has been developed to help streamline slow and inefficient processes in legal services, like manual, repetitive data entry and ID verification to support lawyers in their workload and accelerate growth. By connecting the data and services used by legal services firms, banks and financial institutions, we help make the bereavement process better for all parties involved by reducing workload stress, removing unnecessary admin tasks and giving lawyers the peace of mind and time back to focus on what really matters most – their clients.