6 Best Ways for Overworked Lawyers to Stay Healthy
Maybe you’ve recently been inspired to slough off some extra weight. Or maybe you’re ready to finally check out this “mindfulness” trend you’ve heard so much about. But you’re a lawyer, which probably means you don’t have the time to get yourself to a trainer or enroll in a meditation retreat.
Don’t worry, you can still stay healthy in mind and body, while working a crazy schedule. Here’s some of our best tips, from the FindLaw archives.
1. Put Some Motion in Your Motions: 5 Office Exercises for Lawyers
For most lawyers, the legal profession isn’t one that keeps you on your toes, at least not literally. Most of us will spend a good chunk of our days sitting behind a desk. If we’re lucky, we might get a nice detour to a conference room or, on rare occasions, a court house — but mostly, legal brainwork requires little physical stimulation.
All that sitting is terrible for you. Sitting for more than three hours a day knocks an average of two years off your life while easily adding an inch or two to your waste. You’re not about to give up the law for a career as a professional jogger, however, so here are five ways to combat the sedentary nature of the profession — all of which you can do at work.
1. Stand. At Your Desk.
Standing desks have been growing in popularity for several years — long enough that you should no longer write them off as just a fad. While standing isn’t the most vigorous exercise, it’s the sort of passive exertion that is great for the office: improve your posture, aid your circulation, burn extra calories, all while polishing off that motion in limine.
2. Take a Minute to Stretch
Stretching can help you feel better throughout the day. If you hunch over when you read or type, stretching your shoulders and neck will help keep you loosed up, instead of knotted and achy. Stretch your wrists when you’ve been typing or clicking for awhile and do ankle and calf stretches to invigorate your neglected lower half.
3. Copy Machine Calisthenics
Tell your paralegal that you’ll handle the copying, then spend a few minutes getting leg exercises in while your documents collate. Hold onto the copy machine for support as you do some quick leg lifts, leg swings, glute kicks, and calf raises. Voila: copies made, legs invigorated.
4. Take a Break to Pump Some Iron
Want something a bit more challenging than lifting your legs? Bring in some weights for a quick in-office workout. Companies such as Bowflex make compact, adjustable weights that are small enough to keep out of sight under your desk but heavy enough for a quick mid-day workout.
5. Isometric Exercises
Whatever happened to planking anyway? Planking and other isometric exercises — exercises where you hold a position with no visible movement — are great for building and maintaining strength. Since there’s little motion and no equipment, these are great for the office, whether you’re doing isometric crunches or simple calf raises.
2. Lawyer Yogis Share Relaxation, Mindfulness Tips in ‘Yoga for Lawyers’
Being healthy isn’t just about being physically fit; it’s about having a balanced, centered mind as well. So if you find yourself being stressed out, overworked, or just in a bad mental state, you might want to try out some mindfulness techniques — made for lawyers, by lawyers.
3. 3 Ways to Optimize Your Law Office Space for Health, Success
A windowless office is going to make you feel gross no matter how many hours you spend doing crunches or saying “om.” Don’t let yourself be ground down by a drab, depressing work environment. Instead, follow these three tips to make your office some place revitalizing.
4. Law Office Ergonomics: Tips for Staying Pain-Free
As lawyers, we spend most of our days sitting at a desk, working on a computer. And while our ever-expanding concern over our ever-expanding “office chair ass” is legitimate, there are more important things at stake — like our health.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration defines ergonomics as “fitting a job to a person,” and by doing so, you can help “lessen muscle fatigue, increase productivity and reduce the number and severity of work-related MSDs [musculoskeletal disorders].”
Law Office Ergonomics
Hiring an ergonomics consultant may be beyond your budget, but you can take matters into your own hands to make the work place more comfortable for you, and your employees. Not only will your employees suffer from fewer work place injuries, but they will also be more productive.
The work station is the first place for you to look to make sure that you are optimizing ergonomicness (yes, we made that word up). OSHA suggests checking for proper lighting and ventilation, and checking your equipment for proper placement. You essentially want to make sure that you maintain good posture, and not place unnecessary stress on your eyes, neck, shoulders, wrists and back.
While many are quick to blame the chair for back problems and pain, it’s often the positioning of the chair, not the chair itself, notes TechnoLawyer. You don’t need to spend money on fancy chairs, you just need to make sure you adjust them to the sitter’s body. According to OSHA, you want to keep your body in a neutral position to alleviate stress. And, while Mr. Peacock branched out to an exercise ball chair, it’s not OSHA-approved.
Some accessories can alleviate work stress. For example, if you have to draft while you are on the phone, consider a headset. There are also optimal placement considerations for your phone, monitor, mouse and keyboard. Visit the OSHA website for the full ergonomics checklist (there’s a lot to consider).
Though you are not required by law to provide an ergonomic work place for your employees, it’s in your best interest to do so. You, and your employees, will work more productively if you are not in pain. It may seem like a waste of time and resources, but you will be paid back in that higher productivity.
5. How to Work From Home Without Harming Your Health
As technology makes it feasible to work from just about anywhere, at anytime, the issue of telecommuting is getting more and more press. Last year, Marissa Mayer made headlines by requiring telecommuters to come in to the office, and this week Parade reported that a recent study “found that working from home enhances feelings of physical and mental fatigue in those who are having a hard time balancing their personal and professional lives.”
Maybe Mayer was on to something . . . or maybe we just need to live by certain principles if we want to telecommute.
As an attorney, your presence in the office will usually be required, whether you’re having a meeting with a client, working with other attorneys, or have a court appearance, so your option to telecommute will be more limited, than say, a graphic designer’s. That said, when you do have the option to telecommute, it should not be a free-for-all. Follow these five tips to maintain some structure in your day.
1. Dress for the Job
While the allure of working in your sweat pants seems too much to resist — avoid it. In fact, avoid anything with a drawstring and made of flannel or fleece. No, you don’t need to wear a suit, but wear something with a button or a zipper. You’ll feel more put together, and this will be reflected in your work product.
2. Have Office Hours
Just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean that your schedule should be haphazard. The best way to stay focused is to keep regular hours, as you would in your office, and stick to your routines. For example, start off the day with your daily morning tasks, and end the day with your daily end-of-day tasks. Routines don’t equate to rigidity, but to productivity.
3. Stay Connected
Understandably, your coworkers will need to get in touch with you (and want to makes sure you’re actually working and not at the beach), so be sure to make yourself accessible. Let coworkers know how to reach you, stay logged on to your work email, and even stay connected on your firm-wide instant messaging system.
4. Set Expectations
If you have family members that are at home while you are working from home, make sure you manage their expectations. Just because you are home does not mean you can stop to help out with the dishes and laundry — be clear that you are working, and won’t be able to deal with “home stuff” until the end of your business hours.
5. Dedicated Work Space
If you have enough room for a home office, then use it (and take advantage of the tax deductions). If not, be sure to create a dedicated work space, i.e., not on the couch in front of the television. A table will do, so long as you have all of the office supplies and tools that you will need with you, and as an added bonus, try to make it ergonomic, if possible. As a last resort, you can go outside the home to work, though you’ll want to be sure that you are on a secure connection since you are dealing with confidential information.
Working from home is just that — working. Don’t mistake it for personal time. If you’re one of those people already struggling with work/life balance, then telecommuting may not be for you. Whether you are able to take that step will depend on your personality, and ability to focus.
6. Will Relaxing Make You a Better Attorney?
Do you really need anything else?
Today’s lyrical wisdom comes compliments of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood hit, “Relax.”
If you’re looking for deeper meaning in “Relax,” you’ll probably find yourself more stressed. (Relax, don’t do it. When you want to go to it. What does that mean? Or if you think you know, keep it to yourself.) The song is kind of meta in that way. But if you just relax and go with the flow, everything will be 80s-synth-pop-dandy.
It’s helpful to take a similar approach in business, according to The New York Times. A Times opinion piece argues that relaxing can actually make you more productive:
A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health … Spending more hours at work often leads to less time for sleep and insufficient sleep takes a substantial toll on performance. In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.
Yes, you could be a better attorney if you chilled every once in a while. Are you one of those attorneys who eats lunch at her desk (one-third of the work force does) or works during vacation (like half of Americans)?
Give yourself a chance to recharge. The fresher you are, the better you can represent your clients. Nothing like stating the obvious. But if this is so obvious, why don’t we do it?
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