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  • Writer's pictureEmily Taylor

Mental Health in the Legal Workplace

I don’t think I have actually introduced myself properly since I started the blog series….

Hi, I am Emily and I suffer with anxiety, OCD and PTSD.

I have never spoken about this before and I’ll be honest, it is quite scary to put it in a blog!

Life as a lawyer for many is extremely stressful and high pressured. Many professionals already struggle with anxiety, depression, or another mental health struggle. But not very many feel comfortable talking about how it impacts them in the workplace.

What we don’t really talk about enough is that life happens whilst we are trying to do our best in our careers. However, ultimately whilst we try to keep these separate, it is not always possible and a work/life balance is not always equal or easy to distinguish.

How do I manage my work around my mental health?

If I’m honest, I am still learning.

I find planning my day or week out helps manage my workload around my anxiety and OCD.

I sometimes find with my OCD that when something urgent comes in (which as we all know is common) that I worry I won’t complete everything I want to do for the day. I find that not trying to fit too much into the day works. If I complete my list and nothing urgent has come in, it gives me time to work on extra pieces of work – which I then see as a bonus.

I also find planning my annual leave to ensure I get regular rests really helps me to not feel overwhelmed.

Something I have improved on but still working on is speaking up if I am struggling with a certain case or issue. Asking my peers for their opinions and thoughts helps me solidify and clarify my own thoughts. I used to worry that if I didn’t know the answer and it turned out to be really obvious that I would feel silly but actually sometimes a fresh perspective from a colleague can be just what you need, and also one day they will probably ask for your opinion on another matter.

How a workplace can help

Whilst speaking with a colleague recently, they made a valid point, that we are not in the 80’s anymore – we don’t come to work and pretend we have nothing happening outside of work then leave work for the day. The truth is, our work and personal lives are very much intertwined.

In order to get the best out of us, it is important that a workplace understand that life for the majority of people is extremely pressurised and stressful. A lot of people suffer with problems that they do not share with the world – whether that be through pride, embarrassment or simply just not wanting to share it.

So how can a workplace make work more comfortable for people who are struggling if they don’t know about it?

1. If you want to share how you are feeling with your employer, you should have an environment to do so. If your employers do know that you need support they can provide it through assisting with caseloads, as well as referrals to support charities, as well as inhouse support mechanisms.

2. Having support mechanisms in place and advertising them. Ensuring employees know there is help available and that it is confidential gives people the opportunity to reach out.

3. Creating a culture where burnout is discouraged, and targets are reasonable.

4. Giving colleagues time to talk to one another.

I recently read an article recommended by a colleague, which identified job satisfaction as a being a spectrum. Job resources have a wider impact on an employee far beyond the workplace, which highlights how important it is that a workplace provides the correct support.

Failure to have the correct support in place can lead to the following:

1. Reduced productivity

2. Low morale

3. Lower employee retention

4. Increased absenteeism

5. Poor employee engagement

To sum up….

Firstly, I would welcome hearing other people’s tips on how to manage mental health with work. It is so important that we create a safe and comfortable network to learn from each other.

If one person takes one thing away from this article, I would hope it is that if you are struggling, then you are not alone and it is more than ok to ask for help! It does not make you a failure and it does not mean you are not good at what you do.

Together, we can create a future work environment that is supportive and inclusive for all. Also, just remember, no matter what your struggles, the exceptional qualities you bring to your employer and we can help mould the resources available in our workplace (as we are the people the resources have the biggest impact on).

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