ACC Australia poll flags in-house ‘burnout’

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The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Australia published its third member flash poll related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with results showing in-house counsel in the country are feeling considerable strain since the pandemic locked them down.

The focus of the poll was mental wellness and the work habits of more than 450 in-house lawyers were explored during the past three months.

Between 40% and 50% of respondents reported feeling tired or low energy, experiencing anxiety, with trouble sleeping or concentrating as a result of the pandemic; 30.3% rated their level of burnout as “high” or “very high”.

The survey found that 88.3% of in-house lawyers are currently working from home, while just under 10% have seen pay cuts, furloughs or dismissal due to budget cuts. Of those working remotely, 53.4% are working longer hours than before.

On the positive side, 83.3% of respondents rated their overall emotional state as “somewhat good”, “very good”, or “extremely good”. A similar number, 84.2%, expressed positive feelings for their work and company.

Over half have attended a virtual cocktail party, and others reported attending online fitness classes, religious services, dinner parties and meditation sessions as ways to relax and connect with others.

Tanya Khan, vice president and general manager at ACC Australia Asia-Pacific, said: “As businesses around the world struggled to adjust to the new challenges of COVID-19, corporate legal departments were at the forefront of those transitions. Members repeatedly shared with us how the stress of these responsibilities were impacting their wellbeing and overall mental health.

“The results from this flash poll provide some insights that COVID-19 is taking an emotional toll on the in-house community, but that they are also an incredibly optimistic and resilient group of professionals.”

The poll opened on 3 June and closed on 8 June, and a total of 460 ACC members provided answers. This was the third in a series of informal surveys designed to elicit feedback from in-house counsel on a variety of topics related to the impact of COVID-19.