Work life balance policies are lacking in-house, survey finds

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More than 50 percent of lawyers working in-house are not covered by any work life balance policy, a recent survey has found.

While 88 percent of lawyers surveyed by the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association rated work life balance as important or very important, only 49 percent of respondents reported that their organisation has a formal work life balance policy.

Telstra is one organisation that announced a formal work life balance policy last year.  The policy meant that all roles within the organisation would become flexible, following a significant investment into the technology necessary to work remotely.  The initiative, ‘All Roles Flex’ meant that employees were given the flexibility within their work day to address commitments they might have outside of work.

David Field, general counsel at Telstra, says the initiative is particularly positive for the legal profession where working long hours is common.

“There is a culture of unsustainable work hours within the legal profession.  Often lawyers think they can’t ask for different working arrangements or that they can’t push back on a deadline.  If you create an environment where you can open a conversation, it’s amazing what you find is doable and acceptable, and it’s great to be able to change that conversation,” he said.

Field said that the flexibility has meant that employee satisfaction is high and that his team has a low staff turnover.

“By allowing people to meet other commitments in their lives, outside of work, we are making a major investment in the sustainability of the team,” he said.

The Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, which promotes psychological health and safety within the legal community, introduced a set of 13 workplace guidelines last year.  The guidelines help organisations and their employees to combat the high risk of mental health problems.

Jeremy Hyman, a board member of the Foundation, says that the introduction of a formal policy is important in establishing a healthy work life balance.

"Part of creating a safe work place is creating a psychologically safe workplace. Organisations adopting formal policies related to psychological health of staff are important.  As different organisations will be at different stages of their journey to improve the standard of psychological support provided to employees, policies help to facilitate a supportive culture and set expectations for those in the workplace,” he said.