I remember the days when law partners left associates in the office, expecting them to work all night, and returned in the morning to the associate who never sleeps.
Times have changed, thanks to technology. First, we don’t need to work from a desk. We can work remotely from a lounge chair on the beach or the comfort of our own home. Technology allows us freedom of movement and flexibility in our work schedules, though it can be both a blessing and a curse if you can’t stop looking at your phone (my personal bad habit) and are unable to live in the moment.
We need to find a way to balance the benefits of modern technology with the simple need for rest, relaxation and time away from work. How can we accomplish this? Our law firm has wrestled with this question for years. The Generation X’ers gave way to the Millennials, and unlike us older baby boomers, the new generations cannot relate to slaving away at the office day and night, missing out on what’s going on in their world (and what they see on social media). They want it all, and why not?
How can letting people work less and have more flexibility equate to being more profitable? The answer is in retention, commitment and loyalty, and flexibility in work styles, allowing each employee to work in the most efficient manner for them. Replacing employees who get burnt out, exhausted (and thus inefficient), sick, or just tired of the long commute, can be very costly. Anxious or depressed employees who have poor work-life balance are less productive and thus less profitable. There are countless studies on how physical exercise and a positive attitude affect employee productivity; how it reduces sick time and improves their attitude towards their employer.
Some businesses are better than others in promoting work-life balance. In 2018, the employment search engine Indeed evaluated 72 million reviews to determine which companies excelled at encouraging work-life balance. Surprisingly, several industries traditionally known for long hours and demanding cultures were included on that list.
Not surprisingly, no law firm made the list. But if banks and tech can make modifications, so can law firms and other businesses.
We may never make “the list,” but I firmly believe there are things we can do to promote work life balance in our offices. Numerous studies have demonstrated the impact of the physical environment on mental health, productivity and innovation. Recently, our firm, Haber Law, relocated to Wynwood and modeled our renovation on the Google office featured in the film The Internship. Gone are the old wood paneled law offices of yesteryear. Our office now features stand up desks, a coffee bar area to sit and work, open areas with sofas and comfortable chairs. Employees are allowed to use headphones for music. The new design reflects our commitment to accommodate the needs of those who work differently. The workload is the same; but the numerous options available have changed our office culture for the better.
The top contender on the Indeed list, Keller Williams Realty, promotes flexible work schedules, a modification most businesses can consider (unless you are a hospital or school) and something we have implemented with great success. With wireless internet and remote access, employees can work from home, take their child to the doctor, dog to the vet, or wait for the plumber. Driving in South Florida has become time consuming. Some employees spend hours commuting. Allowing employees to work from home reduces stress and promotes loyalty and commitment for which we are the beneficiaries.
Not surprisingly, Google made the list. One Google employee explained, “The manager you work with is key to your work-life balance and overall satisfaction.”
We may not all be able to move to Wynwood. Not every business can allow employees to work remotely. And while we often cannot tweak the workload, we all can be more mindful managers.
David B. Haber is the managing and founding shareholder of Haber Law. His practice areas include construction and condominium and homeowner association law, as well as complex commercial and real estate litigation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ This is an opinion piece written for Business Monday’s “My View” space in the Miami Herald. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
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