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How to ‘rest and reset’ your law firm for better workplace performance

If you feel as though your firm is limping towards the finish line this year, you’re not alone, writes Peta Sigley.

user iconPeta Sigley 21 December 2022 SME Law
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Across the board, people are pushing through end-of-year fatigue, many burnt out and desperate for downtime. And it’s no wonder. The past few years have seen our lives turned upside down, and while we’ve slowly returned to normalcy this year, the residual exhaustion and overwhelm have made it all the more challenging. None of us began the year with a full tank, and as a result, we may be feeling more spent than usual.

It’s at this time of the year that performance standards are at risk of slipping. Mistakes and oversights are more likely to occur, decision making may become impaired, and leaders may spot signs of presenteeism, withdrawal, weakened cohesion, and lowered overall resilience.

The solution? A period of meaningful rest and rejuvenation to help us build resilience and reset before the new year. Many professionals underestimate the importance of rest when it comes to achieving high performance, instead regarding it as a luxury to be earned only when certain milestones are met. However, those who do recognise the importance of rest understand that resilient high performance can’t be achieved or sustained without it.


Therefore, as we approach the end-of-year break, leaders and partners must ensure they are not only encouraging their people to rest and reset but enabling them to do so. This involves making sure staff are equipped with the knowledge and tools to support their own resilience and wellbeing, and while formal, company-wide wellbeing programs are indeed beneficial, their impact is only as far-reaching as the commitment from everyone. A truly impactful approach requires engagement and involvement across all levels of a firm, with each person actively committing to their own wellbeing.

The following simple daily measures can be integrated into a daily routine to promote rest and enable a mental and physical reset:

Prioritise sleep. Many busy professionals won’t realise they’re living with a sleep debt. Sleep deficiency leads to impaired cognitive function, mental fogginess, lowered productivity, and an inability to effectively manage emotions and responses — not to mention fatigue and lowered energy levels. As we wind down for the year, aim for between seven and eight hours of restful sleep per night and commit to a regular wake-up time, even on weekends. Deep, restful sleep plays a key role in our body’s recovery after periods of prolonged stress and exhaustion.

Seek a change of scenery. One of the most effective ways to mentally disconnect from work is to create physical distance between ourselves and the office (or home office). Whether it’s a day trip to the coast or countryside, a weekend away, or an overseas holiday, getting away from your workspace makes it easier to switch off and begin to unwind for the year. If a trip away isn’t possible, aim to spend as much time outdoors as possible. The positive benefits of fresh air, nature, and sunshine are not to be underestimated.

Make time for relaxation. Daily relaxation may sound like a luxury few can afford, but disregarding downtime could be at our own expense. Rather than viewing relaxation as a reward or an act of self-indulgence, we must view it instead as an act of self-restoration. Taking as little as 10 minutes each day to relax the body and mind will allow us to decompress and rebuild our resilience stores after a challenging year.

Commit to regular exercise. It’s a well-known fact that regular movement is one of the biggest contributors to positive mental and physical wellbeing, and the antidote to mental fatigue. Take advantage of the warmer weather and start slowly if necessary — just a 20-minute walk or a leisurely cycle is enough to allow the mind to switch off from work and the endorphins to kick in. In addition to promoting heart health, mobility, strength and overall physical fitness, daily exercise is proven to enhance mental clarity and mood, allowing us to shake off lingering stress and tension and feel mentally rejuvenated.

Spend time with those who matter. Maintaining strong, positive relationships is critical to our mental and emotional wellbeing, but it can be difficult to make time for social events when urgent work matters demand our time and attention. As we approach the end of the year, aim to carve out dedicated time to reconnect with friends and family. Spending time with loved ones is the perfect way to refill our cups and gain perspective on the things that matter most.

As the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the same is true for law firms. In order for teams to start the new year refreshed and re-energised, taking the time to rest and reset is vital. Importantly, this must be both modelled by leaders and supported by the broader practices of the firm. When people are encouraged and enabled to prioritise their wellbeing, firms effectively lay the foundation for organisational resilience and sustainable high performance.

Peta Sigley is the co-founder and chief knowledge officer of Springfox.