Who Said What?! The WHO, That’s Who!

June 4 2021 | Committees

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a quite interesting, albeit disturbing report in May 2021.  According to a news release, the WHO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that in 2016 alone, 398,000 people died from a stroke and 347,000 died from heart disease as a result of having worked 55 hours or more a week!

While the report was based on a global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, the news release does not provide exact details on the particular professions studied. Even so, we can extrapolate; we do not need them to tell us that the legal profession is a profession where long working hours tend to be the norm, rather than the exception.  We do not share this information to alarm you, but rather to share the impact that long working hours can have on your existence…literally.

Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the WHO added to this compelling news, stating, “Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard [and] it’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death.”

Of course, it will be interesting to see if and how this might change in a COVID world.  More people are working remotely, and many people are not working. Our hope is that if you are working, that this global pandemic has assisted with you finding ways to be more creative and reasonable with your working hours. 

All of us at the Wellness and Stress Management Committee ask you to take a serious assessment of the amount of time you spend working, compare it to the amount of time you spend not working, and then evaluate how you feel – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  If you are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and still unable to manage your workloads, start paying attention to signs of burnout, particularly if you are a male and/or a middle-aged or older worker, as these populations were considered by the WHO to be more at-risk than others.

So, what can we do? 

  1. First, we can look out for one another.  Be a true team player and recognize the signs if you suspect a team member is on the verge of burnout.  Have a dialogue with them.  Take the time to formulate possible solutions; if they don’t work out, reformulate and ask for help!  
  2. If you’re a solo, there are options!  Perhaps it may be time to delegate/outsource some of your responsibilities.  If paying for services is an issue, you can still evaluate your obligations (self-imposed and otherwise) and determine where you can possibly scale back so that you can be productive and fulfilled.  Again, when in doubt, ask for help!  It’s not a weakness to need to reframe and revamp your workflow.    
  3. While the “hustle and grind” mentality is often embraced, particularly in light of an unstable world, we know it is not a feasible or sustainable personal or professional strategy in the long run.  Your health, wellness, and well-being are at stake, and it takes planning to keep them all in check!
  4. Aim to work more effectively and efficiently where possible, but above all: get lots of rest, enjoy the outdoors as much as you can (5 minutes a day counts!), drink your water, connect with colleagues, and stay tuned in to this Committee as we share more information with you to inspire you on this journey. 

We’d love for you to join the Lawyer Wellness Challenge that starts on August 2, 2021. Email our Chair, Sheila M. Wilkinson, for more information and to get the link to join!

About the Author:

Darleene Peters is Counsel at Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore and is a 1998 alumnus of Loyola University College of Law (JD) and Loyola University College of Business (MBA). She is also a certified Nutrition Coach, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, a known Foodie, and a proud member of the 50 & Up Club. She also serves as the Wellness Contributor for the Greater New Orleans Louis A. Martinet Legal Society’s e-newsletter.

Blog Post edited and proofed by the 2021 Chair of the Lawyer Wellness & Stress Management Committee, Sheila M. Wilkinson. Thank you for reading!


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