Oftentimes, working remotely can allow the flexibility to find a good work-life balance. But mental health advocates warn that all that time spent at home can also lead to undetected stress and feelings of isolation. 
What’s more, some may find themselves working more than ever from home. A recent survey by the Association of Corporate Counsel found that over half of in-house respondents are working more remotely than when they were in the office, with over 40% also experiencing anxiety.
Still, law firms, corporations, and individual attorneys themselves are in a good position to address these potential mental health issues head-on.
To be sure, remote work is far from new to the legal industry, and some attorneys have adjusted well to the freedom of not being under the direct guise of their firm, noted Patrick Krill, founder of behavioral health consulting firm for the legal industry Krill Strategies.
“Law firms have been moving toward allowing people to work remotely over the last few years as a perk or benefit and to increase their well-being,” Krill said. He added that for some, this meant forgoing long commutes and dealing with “less stress because they can attend to other aspects of their life.”

Still, coronavirus-induced state shutdowns have left some lawyers out of the office for months, meaning burnout from overworking can go unchecked. “Often when lawyers find themselves with that extra time they tend to overwork and the lines between work and home are blurred even more,” Krill added.
Timothy Bowers, the managing partner of cloud-based VLP Law Group, advised that firms shouldn’t look to have access to their attorneys 24-7 while they are working remotely. For the attorneys newly initiated into remotely working, Bowers suggested maintaining their pre-coronavirus schedule. “I think it’s really important for folks to maintain some sort of routine that they had in the office.”
However, workload realities can make some routines unrealistic, said Kirkland & Ellis director of wellbeing Robin Belleau, a lawyer and licensed clinical professional counselor.
“You kept hearing the recommendation that you stick to your regular schedule and when people couldn’t they felt bad but in actuality they were doing what they needed to do,” she said.
Belleau believes that people need to be more flexible in how they structure their time when working at home with children and others.
While some are juggling multiple people’s needs and schedules, other lawyers can be experiencing strong bouts of isolation while working through quarantines. But some firms have looked to address that by hosting “virtual happy hours,” which can be a useful tool for fostering engagement.
“Telling jokes and being social in a way to make that connection in a remote world that we are used to but it’s important because we’re all online, [during] not just COVID but the protests, Black Lives Matter issues, all the chaos in the world,” said James Fisher II, founder and managing partner of virtual firm FisherBroyles. “We are keeping tabs of everybody and have that human connection so to speak.”
Krill also stressed that it’s critical to stay connected and leverage video conference platforms to spot any warning signs that may go unnoticed when an attorney is communicating entirely through emails or phone calls.
“It’s really important that someone working from home doesn’t go largely unseen for large periods of time and it’s happening,” Krill said, adding that during the pandemic, attorneys can go two or three months without a manager seeing them.  ”There need to be nonnegotiable visual check-ins with people, not every day, but certainly regularly.”
But such check-ins also require more than just exchanging pleasantries. 
“This is true in-person but more so virtually: If you’re a partner or supervisor knowing how to ask open-ended questions [is important],”  Belleau said. “I even defer to this as a therapist. I will ask, ‘How are you doing?’ The typical answer is, ‘Fine.’ If you want to get more information about how they’re doing, you want to ask an open-ended question: ‘Tell me how your day is going.’ It’s an opening [for them to offer] more details and insights into how they’re actually doing.”