A 2011 MetLife study found that employees facing legal issues could lose an average of 3 hours per work at work. Whether the legal concerns stem from debt, divorce, taxes, childcare or real estate, handling these concerns can take several weeks – and many employees have no other time to address these problems than during business hours.
Workplace Options, a provider of work-life programs and employee benefits, recently conducted a national survey that reveals American workers struggle to balance their workloads with some of life’s common legal demands. For example, about three out of 10 respondents said they needed to take time off from their current positions to deal with legal matters. Of employees who have faced a legal matter, 71 percent said they had to hire an attorney, which typically is possible only during the workweek. Finally, more than a third of respondents said it would be difficult to arrange time off from work on short notice to handle the situation.
"Most individuals are faced with common legal situations several times throughout their life, ranging from a minor traffic ticket to something as major as divorce or a complicated estate settlement," said Dean Debnam, chief executive officer of Workplace Options. "These situations almost always impact performance at work, and with fewer employers offering legal assistance to employees for some of these common issues, productivity is naturally going to suffer."
Health and Productivity Effects
Another 2011 MetLife study found that most common legal issues faced by employees usually last between 5 and 6 weeks, with employees spending an average of 3 hours per week dealing with them. The study also found 37 percent of men and 47 percent of women said their own personal legal issues negatively impacted their physical or emotional health, which further affects productivity in the workplace.
"If employees are worried about personal issues, or are nervous about finding excuses to leave the office, their work will suffer," Debnam said.
If employers offer legal assistance for their workers, or otherwise establish programs and policies to help address this issue, employees may be less distracted when facing legal problems. Furthermore, these workers may experience fewer emotional or physical effects from the experience, which could also impact their productivity.
The national survey polled 600 working Americans and was conducted by the North Carolina firm of Public Policy Polling.