Mental health improves amid COVID-19 restrictions

12 July 2020 By Naomi Neilson
Mental health improves

While the legal profession adjusts to remote working conditions and scales back on its connectivity with colleagues, lawyers have reported improvements in mental health – but there are some concerns that firms should look out for.

The global coronavirus crisis forced the legal profession into a “new normal” and while for most that meant getting a critical update in technology and communicative methods of working, it also saw lawyers readjust the reliance on the workplace for mental health.

The COVID-19 Business Confidence survey, commissioned by Lawyers Weekly’s sister brand MyBusiness, examined how business leaders and employees have fine-tuned the working practices during a pandemic. In a previous survey conducted at the height of COVID-19, lawyers reported a significant decrease in their mental health. 

In the follow-up, the state of mental health has improved with about 70 per cent of the respondents reporting a “positive” mental health state, with 7 per cent reporting a decline. Broken further down, 31 per cent of respondents said they felt “very good” in terms of mental health while another 38 per cent responded with “good”. 

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Momentum Intelligence head of strategy Michael Johnson, who headed up the survey, noted: “In the last survey, taken at the height of COVID-19 in Australia, we had about one in five respondents indicating that they were in a negative mental health state. We are extremely pleased to report that this has improved to now only 7 per cent.”

These results are corroborated by the fact that 85 per cent of respondents were happy to work from home, with just 9 per cent reporting dissatisfaction. Almost 60 per cent also reported feeling that they were more productive working remotely. 

However, compared to other industries, law still sits on the higher end of the negative reports. This survey encouraged participants across the range of Momentum Media’s professionals’ services brands. Comparing this, law sat just below the accounting and aviation sectors for negative mental health. Real estate and defence were highest. 

Although there were improvements in mental health, firms and in-house organisations should be aware that lawyers are feeling less connected with their colleagues. Almost 55 per cent of respondents said they felt way less connected with colleagues and only 17 per cent reported any connection. Broken down, 14 per cent felt “way less” united.

According to the anonymous responses to the survey, some lawyers said they felt less connected with the work due to feeling “left out”. For those who are just starting in new jobs, lawyers said they felt they were missing out on vital connections with colleagues. 

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One comment added: “This experience has put my career in perspective and what my employer is lacking compared to my needs.”

Another response indicated that the expectation of working at home was accompanied by “an expectation you can and will add more hours to the [workweek]”. Some lawyers also felt they were being micro-managed which made them feel distrusted by the firm. 

“We encourage everyone to check in on their friends, family and colleagues during this time to help them get through this challenging period,” Mr Johnson said. 

 

For further insights into how the profession has coped with the COVID-19 pandemic: 

Mental health improves amid COVID-19 restrictions
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