What is work-life balance and how do we achieve it? This is a big question and one that is pertinent for professionals spanning any industry. But, in our industry specifically, work-life balance has always been somewhat of an enigma.
A 2018 Legal Trends Report found that 75 percent of lawyers frequently or always work outside of business hours, and 39 percent of lawyers say that those extended hours have taken a toll on their personal lives.
Now, work and life have never been so intertwined. Before the pandemic, most of us had distinctive spaces for work (the office) and life (our homes). When offices across the globe closed, we were thrust into a new world—and we were forced to grapple with a question mark around how we operate in this new world. It’s a world where work is easier than ever to access—sometimes for better, but often for worse. And, in this and many other ways, the pandemic has taken a particular toll on female professionals.
More women than men left the workforce last year or took on more household or caregiving responsibilities as a result of the pandemic. A 2021 Pew Research study found that, among married or cohabiting adults with a working spouse or partner, 40 percent of women reported being very satisfied with balancing work and life, compared to 48 percent of men. Interestingly, the 2019 report did not note a discrepancy between the genders.
Many of us are aware of the pandemic’s toll and may be looking for strategies to achieve a more balanced life. In our upcoming Stellar Women workshop, we will talk about these strategies and learn from our community on what’s worked well for them throughout the pandemic and looking beyond.
Here’s a sneak peak of what to expect on August 31.
Before we were sent into lockdown, many of us were in a rhythm. We woke up, got ready, commuted, worked, went home, ate dinner, and went to bed—waiting for the day to repeat. We may never have even questioned our patterns or whether they could change. Then lockdown hit.
This gave many of us an opportunity to assess these patterns. What’s working well for me? What isn’t working? For many of us, work ended when we walked out of our office and commuted. In the pandemic, though, our work is only a walk across the family room.
For me, it was too easy to always be available for my colleagues and clients. But this took a toll, and I found myself experiencing burnout—a common complaint for many professionals. For many during the pandemic, life went from routine to chaos. Parents were now operating around the clock as full-time workers, daycare supervisors, cooks, teachers, IT support ... the list goes on. The Atlantic noted that 40 percent of US adults have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, a quadrupling of the pre-pandemic rate.
One way to try and restore balance is through setting boundaries. For instance, when you shut your laptop at the end of the day, literally shut it. Don’t open Slack or Outlook or whatever platform you use on your phone. Take that time for you and do something that restores your energy: Take a walk, cook a good meal, binge-watch some reality TV. Do what serves you. Adding this kind of mental shift to your routine will help delineate your day and make it less tempting to return to the job after hours.
During the workshop, panelists will share their perspectives on times they have both set and adhered to boundaries. (Because you gotta walk the walk for it to work.)
Lead by Example
Oftentimes, work-life balance has different meanings for different people. For some, they prefer to log on in the wee hours of the morning. Others prefer to work a standard nine-hour day, with intermittent breaks. When it comes to work-life balance, communication is key—especially between managers and their reports.
Looking back at the former scenario, if a manager likes to log on around 5:00 a.m. and do some catch-up, she should articulate that habit to a report. That way, the report knows she does not intend to set a precedent for the department and they do not need to respond until they are ready to start their day.
During the workshop, panelists will discuss ways they’ve communicated with their team, including Lourdes Akande. Lourdes will share why she believes she and her team should truly be offline when they are on PTO and how she works to foster this practice throughout her team.
Navigating a New Terrain
This pandemic has forced us all to take an introspective look at the balance, or lack thereof, in our work lives and personal lives. For the first time, there is more widespread flexibility in the traditional work model. Some of us have realized that the old rhythm of working might not work for us anymore.
Join the Stellar Women workshop and engage in conversation about our shared experience over the last year and a half. Our panelists will also discuss their tips and tricks for finding that balance, and how to get your balance back if you’re feeling like you’ve lost it. We are also looking forward to hearing from you! The last 30 minutes will feature an optional breakout room discussion to foster connection and networking between attendees.
We hope you join us and the Stellar Women community on August 31 at 10:00 a.m. CST for our upcoming workshop The Balancing Act: How to Optimize your Energy and Effectively Prioritize Your Day. Register here to secure your spot today.
Artwork for this article was created by Kael Rose.