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The LexisNexis Bellwether Report 2020 has revealed that COVID-19 has had a serious impact upon the morale and well being of lawyers, which has got worse as the pandemic has dragged on. Around three quarters of law firm staff who switched to homeworking are experiencing feelings of isolation, lack of motivation and issues around communication.
Staff morale and wellbeing is currently the most acute concern for practice managers and it has grown since the early days of lockdown. 58% of firms cited it as their top concern six months into the pandemic, compared to only 26% in the first couple of months after the first lockdown.
Although around half the lawyers questioned for the report agreed that flexible hours had improved as a result of working from home, around a third reported that the number of hours worked had actually gone up. And, worryingly, stress levels had increased for 45%, with a similar proportion complaining of worsening work morale and wellbeing.
COVID-19 has affected certain groups of society a lot more than others. In the context of law firms, an important observation is that junior lawyers seem to be suffering from the ill effects of homeworking a lot more than established practitioners at partner level. This may be partly a result of less suitable accommodation (eg lack of a home office) and also because of the greater importance of socialising and mentoring opportunities for those on the first rung of their career ladder.
But despite many of the reported downsides of homeworking, 65% of lawyers still want to work from home beyond the pandemic, ideally on a part-time basis. Around a third have experienced an improved work/life balance as a result of homeworking and almost one in five lawyers have seen their stress levels decrease.
Clearly the ‘human effect’ of COVID-19 is a major worry for law firms. The situation only seems to be getting worse, so it’s important to put in place any measures which may serve to improve staff wellbeing and reduce stress levels. Some options to consider include:
Some firms have already put in place various measures to help their staff who are working from home. Victoria Hills, global transactions partner and sponsor for mental health at Freshfields, told the FT that the firm “offered webinars hosted by external speakers, with topics ranging from wellbeing to staying positive under pressure.”
The Law Society has put together a list of wellbeing and mental health resources for lawyers struggling with the impact of COVID-19. This includes an article by Coral Hill, Associate Professor at The University of Law, specifically looking at the challenges of homeworking, as well as resources from LawCare.
Click here for more information about the Bellwether Report 2020 (COVID-19: The next chapter) and to download the full report.
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Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved leading content and thought leadership, as well as writing research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"
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