Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Dining Together Helps Law Offices Succeed

Want to have a happier, healthier and more profitable law office?

Start sitting down for a group meal once a week. Do it in the office or go out. And don’t discuss work while eating. Simply share space and break bread together.

Another tip: consider telling your employees to take off early on Friday – or even better, don’t even come in at all.

Those are two suggestions to emerge from recent research on social behavior and workplace efficiency.

Eating Together Pays Dividends

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that family dinners have significant health and emotional benefits. Not only do participants eat healthier as a group (less fast food, more fruits and veggies), but their social skills are enhanced.

This is true, the researchers found, even in dysfunctional families.

“We know that children who sit down for frequent family meals have better dietary intake,” said one of the scientists in the publication Journalist’s Resource. “The novel piece of our study is we considered the role of family functioning — how well families communicate, connect emotionally and problem solve.”

Another finding: the greater the participation in the meal, the more pronounced the benefits. “Many hands make light work,” the researchers said. “It also teaches important life skills.”

Though the study focused on families, the principles apply to any group setting – like a law office. A key is to set reasonable goals. One group meal a week, or every other week, is a good start. And keep it simple and low-key. The idea is to relieve stress, not enhance it.  

Read the full report here.

24 Hour Workweek

A workplace experiment in New Zealand is making waves in the business world.

A company called SkinOwl instituted a four-day workweek of six hours per day, or 24 hours total. The theory was that when people were at work, their attention would be laser-focused on the task at hand, leaving 18 hours “to spend with their family, run errands, self-care, and anything else that fulfills their happiness outside of the office.”

The results – higher productivity and healthier employees – were so dramatic that SkinOwl made the 24 hour workweek permanent.

The company’s founder said her employees demonstrated they could get just as much done in 24 hours as they did in 40 – and have better balanced lives in the process.

“Because everyone can have a full life outside of work, people come to the office ready to execute their tasks,” says Annie Tevelin in this FastCompany article. “Essentially, you have an efficient team who works well together.”

Even though it might not be possible to replicate Tevelin’s results in your law firm, one point is inarguable: working excessive hours is a bad idea. Employees who work more than 11 hours a day are more than twice as likely to have depression and 60 times more likely to develop heart disease, according to The Center for a New American Dream.

Before you whack 16 hours off your office workweek, consider these suggestions:

  • Ease into it. Start by trimming an hour off each day or alternating four and five-day weeks to see what works best.
  • Offer flex time. Let employees determine what hours best suit their personal schedules.
  • Try Remote Months or even Remote Years. Let employees work from home – or anywhere they’d like – for a pre-arranged period. Evaluate the results.
  • Set clear expectations. Tell employees exactly what they are expected to accomplish. Set work schedules according to tasks, not time.
  • Be consistent. Don’t let some employees have flexibility that others are denied.
  • Use it as an incentive. Employees who have been with your firm for a certain length of time – five years, say – become eligible for flexibility in their schedules.


What do you say? Is the 40-hour workweek outdated? What is your firm’s policy?



About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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