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Last week Lisa and I put an article together about the latest developments in the legal recruitment market and how many firms are offering the option to delay the start date for roles that are being recruited for now. Many firms, especially those based in Auckland are making the decision to flex and move start dates to the New Year, this is for several reasons. One of the main reasons being that staff (as well as job seekers) including Partners are feeling fatigued and leaders are sensitive as to whether the extra pull on resources is worth waiting for a fresh year.

2020 and 2021 have been a long couple of years, I know that a lot of people are feeling considerable levels of fatigue and the word ‘burnout’ has been thrown around within our legal networks. Although it has been a tough few years, burnout is not new, so what is burnout and how can we break the cycle?

Burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress, this often leaves the person feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands. Feel familiar? Burnout is on the rise. If you haven’t felt it yourself recently, you might recognise some of those symptoms in your team or peer group.

So how can you break the cycle?

  • Ensure you are not over working – Whether this is in the office or at home when you are in lockdown. Cognitive overload is real, this occurs when our brains are forced to process more information than usual and get tired as a result. This can come down to a number of things – in the legal market the work keeps increasing as the New Zealand brain drain is occurring – in the last six months lawyers have left our shores in droves to experience their OE’s and the ones left here are picking up the workload. Take a break,  reduce those meeting times, go for that walk, spend time with your friends and try to disconnect (as much as possible). The Tyler Wren team were set a task last week to all take a Friday afternoon off and take a photo of ourselves at the beach to send to the team – we had people dressed up in ball gowns, as KFC buckets, doing acrobatics and spending time with their loved ones – it was the perfect time to reset. 
  • Set clear goals and celebrate the mini-milestones – We often become stuck because we are unsure where to invest our energy and put so much pressure on ourselves to succeed and become unmotivated in the process.  Are there ways to reshape your job in order to gain more control or to focus on the most fulfilling tasks? As a team we set weekly goals and have regular check-ins to talk through the wins, we were also very fortunate to have packages to arrive on our doorstep to enjoy with our Friday zoom drinks – much like we normally have in the office at 3.00pm on a Friday.
  • The best antidote to burnout is to seek out personal interactions and prioritise your progressional and person development. Taking on a new project or furthering your education and development can seem like the last thing you need, but boredom only makes work harder. You need to keep motivated and challenged in your role but also use this time wisely to band together with your colleagues to offer mutual support and identify and activate positive relationships and learning opportunities, you will all increase your sense of control and connection. We do this three times a week as a team.
  • Evaluate your options – Discuss specific concerns with your manager and colleagues. Feeling ineffective is one of the main drivers of burnout. If you’ve tried all of the above and still feel drained, it may be time to look for a role that feels more meaningful or a team that gives your work the recognition it deserves or offers a better workflow management system. I am always happy to be a sounding board for what changes you could make in your career.

By understanding burnout and implementing strategies that work for you, you can recover and your experience can serve as a turning point that launches you into a more sustainable career and a happier, healthier life. 

Sometimes you need to adjust your attitude and see your job in a new light, whether this be for the better or worse. Whatever your situation, always look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of focusing on the fact that you’re dissatisfied with your job and burnt out, focus on the good things the job is helping you accomplish right now and look forward to what’s coming in the near future. Maybe you love the company you work for, but there’s a different role that better suits your unique skills and passions. 

The New Zealand legal profession has taken massive leaps forward in terms of flexibility, support and listening to what staff need, but there are always going to be some firms that do this better than others.  We are working with a number of law teams who are excelling at this in the market while offering complex, challenging files and clients for their Lawyers to work on. 

Are you burnt out, looking for a new challenge or just want to look forward to 2022 and see what the market can offer you? We are working on a huge number of opportunities right now that could have you starting immediately or in the New Year, so please do get in touch with me – 09 930 9828 or sdoubleday@tylerwren.co.nz to talk through what you are looking for and how we can mitigate the risk of burnout going forward.