Improve Your Work/Life Balance As A Paralegal
The New Work Environment
It is no surprise that Paralegals must work effectively and efficiently. The statement has effectively become cliché and is taken for granted by professionals who often don’t truly understand what it means. It is essentially a factor of how much time and effort it takes to accomplish tasks. Less efficient work translates into longer hours required to complete those essential tasks.
For example, professionals estimate that “a paralegal working at 90% productivity who has 1,600 hours’ worth of work to do (regardless of whether or not that work is billable) will put in 1,780 hours to finish the work.” In addition, legal productivity has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis and will likely remain a complicating factor of concern.
The reality of dealing with the current COVID-19 and variant pandemic is that it might last for many more months and/or even years. Therefore, remote work or telecommuting has become the norm. In the near term and possibly at least for all of 2022, the days of a paralegal simply walking over to the attorney’s office for clarifications are gone and legal operations and administrative office support has had to learn how to communicate and be productive from their own homes.
This is an important consideration as paralegals will be experiencing the same significant pressures within the scope of their employment to include increasing workloads and anxiety due to telecommuting all of which have had negative impacts on mental health. As critical assets within the legal community, paralegals will still be experiencing pressures across the spectrum to include family health issues, loss of friends and colleagues, lost income, and isolation due to this pandemic. In terms of productivity then, paralegals who are working remotely will have to also include time budgeting for interruptions and familial interactions into their work/rest cycle in order to accomplish their primary tasks possibly exacerbating existing anxiety and worry.
Developing a Balance
Due to the new demands and limitations of teleworking, a paralegal’s regular workday has radically transformed. Subsequently, they have to become even more self-disciplined and establish and enforce a working area and somewhat rigid but flexible working hours within their living space to limit distractions by household responsibilities in order to overcome lapses in completing tasks potentially taking longer due to interruptions. The burden of requiring more time to complete their workload may very well translate to paralegal burnout based upon stress-related factors contributing to the feeling of overwhelming exhaustion and even new or aggravated mental health issues requiring attention from an already beleaguered counseling industry.
This in and of itself is problematic as the number of clients seeking care continues to rise, and most are experiencing a sharp increase in calls, appointments, and waiting lists. This difficulty in meeting patient demands causes an inability to find competent practitioners.
The way to work around these significant constraints is for paralegals to begin forging and maintaining strong relationships with the stakeholders of their employment be it the partners, associates and office managers of the law office and then with colleagues and peers and even clients so that should issues arise which affect the timely completion and filing of case documents, etc. the support network both internal and external to the law office can be accessed to fill in any gaps. This is especially true if the paralegal’s responsibilities revolve around sensitive government and corporate data where security is a concern.
By ensuring that a viable support network is in place the paralegal can be afforded some peace of mind and be able to better focus on the responsibilities of their respective position and thereby creating the necessary balance between professional and personal life so that neither is upset and out of sync which affects productivity and possibly mental health. It is important for paralegals to know that they are valued and respected within their employ and that they have the support of their office stakeholders so they can continue their high-stress work with a feeling of assurance. The byword for each and every paralegal in 2022 must be balanced and should be anticipated for and practiced by each member of the law office of legal organization to ensure that every team member is covered and protected during these unique and trying times.
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