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Prevent COVID Burn-Out: Set a Schedule

Prevent COVID Burn-Out: Best Practice #1 for Attorneys Working from Home in the Pandemic

We’ve all heard the phrase “burn-out” used in relation to stressful scenarios. In the past, the term would cause some attorneys to cringe as they think back to their years in law school or time spent cramming for their state’s bar exam. Perhaps in recent years the term would bring up memories of massive caseloads and client deadlines. In 2020, “burn-out” is almost synonymous with COVID as attorneys continue working from home and blurring the lines of work/life balance in a global pandemic.

What many people don’t know is that “burn-out” has officially been recognized by the World Health Organization as an “occupational phenomenon” and can be characterized by three dimensions1:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  3. Reduced professional efficacy
Sound familiar? Don’t stress! Here is a best practice we’ve heard for preventing burn-out in the current environment:

Set a schedule…with boundaries!

Even before the impact of COVID, many attorneys at solo/small law firms struggled with work/life balance. During COVID, this challenge has only intensified.

Creating a schedule that mirrors your prior schedule can help create a sense of normalcy. If you used to work 8am to 6pm and then check a few emails before going to bed, try to replicate that schedule! Since you are no longer commuting to work, you may find yourself starting work earlier and continuing to work later – don’t fall into this trap! Instead, get that morning workout in, read the newspaper, enjoy a cup of coffee, or take the dog for a walk around the block. You’ll be fine if you start at 8am as normal (after all, this schedule worked for you before COVID).

As you’re setting this schedule, set boundaries! When it’s time to be done with work – be done with work! Most attorneys are never truly “unplugged,” but setting boundaries is key.

1 https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/

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