Work-life balance: can you have it all?

Worrying about the state of your work-life balance is actually worse for your health than having a poor work- life balance according to a study by Oregon State University which made tabloid headlines recently. Researchers also found that those who continued to ruminate about their work-life mix were in poorer state of health than those who didn’t.

Studies such as these can be incredibly unhelpful and misleading, irresponsible even, given how it may well put people off even bothering to change their lives. It could encourage people to think it is pointless trying to change their work options, if worrying about it can be more harmful. Studies like these could even stop employers from making those changes to help facilitate a lifestyle balance. Sometimes an individual needs to make practical changes in their professional life to ensure they are able to prioritise their lifestyle.

Being told we can’t have it all isn’t a myth if people take charge of their reality.

For an individual, the pursuit of a better work-life balance is only stressful if there is no option to make the desired change. But in today’s gig economy, a good work-life balance is actually far more readily in people’s grasp. If only they’d just reach out and claim it.

Although many will think otherwise, the legal profession is no exception when it comes to modernisation, despite its reputation for being more conservative and traditional. We’ve seen in the last few years how the delivery of legal services has revolutionised, from the introduction of ABSs to the rising use of artificial intelligence to perform clerical work. This technological revolution is not just changing who performs the work but how they do it.

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Matthew Kay

Alternative ways of working have also started to be embraced, such as flexi-time and agile working, all supported through market changes and the accessibility of technology. Our view of work is changing and there is choice right now for those who want to achieve that work-life balance in the legal profession – there are many different types of lawyers who succeed in changing their work styles and lifestyles successfully by freelance lawyering.

A greater number of firms are seeing the value in these changes and that such changes offer a more effective way of utilising the talent available within the UK workforce, while also delivering the best solution for their clients.

For a growing number of lawyers, freelance work is a career-choice that they are actively pursuing ahead of following the partnership route. This isn’t a loss to the profession – many large law firms have realised that integrating this service, with the wider offering of the law firm can lead to greater client satisfaction alongside a level of flexibility within their workforce.

These changes have created opportunities for a new type of lawyer to emerge, such as entrepreneurs who use their lawyering to fund a passion project or business venture; to people with parenting duties; to people who are hungry for a wide array of experience through different types of legal work; to name just a few. The opportunity for working with greater flexibility provides lawyers with the opportunity to fulfil their interests and duties outside of work as well as a varied career within it.

It’s irresponsible in this day and age to perpetuate the old myth that you can’t ‘have it all’. The truth is you definitely can have it all, evidenced by so many different types of people, with different personal situations and motivations, achieving better work-life balance now, and being released from stress as a result. The legal profession has already started to realise this and options for lawyers should continue to grow in the future.

Matthew Kay is director of Vario for Pinsent Masons

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