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Survey findings highlight diversity of workplace wellbeing experiences

1 April 2022

In 2021, the VLSB+C surveyed Victorian lawyers to understand the impact of workplace culture on the wellbeing of lawyers.

According to Fiona McLeay, Victorian Legal Services Commissioner and Board CEO: "It was encouraging to see the headline findings were generally positive. However, the story changed when we delved into the findings based on the respondents’ age, gender and other demographic factors. This tells me the legal sector, as a whole, still has work to do to improve the situation."

Overall, 76% of the 881 respondents said that their workplace culture had a more positive than negative impact on their wellbeing. However, that was not a consistent experience for everyone, as 29% of women (compared to 17% of men) said the impact was more negative than positive. This sentiment was also shared by many younger lawyers, with 47% of men and 34% of women aged 21-30 saying the cultural impact was more negative than positive.

The survey found that the factors that had the most positive impact on wellbeing were supportive colleagues, flexible work arrangements, reasonable work-life balance, supportive management and a culture that does not tolerate bullying or discrimination.

Notably, half (49%) of all respondents who reported that their workplace culture had a more positive than negative impact on their wellbeing cited their workplace’s response to COVID-19 as one of the reasons for that response. This was a reassuring result given how disruptive the pandemic has been to all of our lives.

Conversely, the top factors negatively impacting wellbeing were unreasonable workloads, poor work-life balance, long work hours, hypercritical culture and lack of collegiality.

Unreasonable workload and work-life balance were in the top three factors for both men and women. Many of the other negative impacts identified by women pertained to ‘cultural’ issues within the workplace. For example, women more commonly selected negative factors such as hypercritical cultures, valuing profit at the expense of people, and bullying.

It's also important to highlight that the most common negative factor for young lawyers was the lack of training and development opportunities.

"Our findings show there are different workplace cultural challenges for lawyers, based on gender and age," Ms McLeay said. "Improving workplace culture is everyone’s responsibility – including the regulator. The diversity, sustainability and safety of our profession depends on our ability to address these issues for everyone. We need to continue to change attitudes to how we think about and respond to these challenges. We also need to look at diverse solutions to these complex problems, and how these can be tailored to the experience of each group. And finally, we need to invest in training and developing our people," she added.

To help improve the wellbeing of the legal profession the VLSB+C is taking an active role in championing cultural change through its regulatory work, supporting the professional associations, developing wellbeing resources and wellbeing projects. You can access our wellbeing resources here.

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