Busier periods requiring brokers to work longer hours combined with changes to the way we socialise have also resulted in a blurring between work and personal life.
However, with an Intelliflo study showing that advisers would continue to work from home after the pandemic, how can they avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Tom Davies, sales director at Alexander Hall, said reminding employees that they were still part of a bigger network helped to lessen feelings of isolation and the pressure felt when working remotely.
This was done by updating employees on any changes in the sector and making them feel included.
He said: “We achieved this by holding at least three company calls a week, as well as smaller team calls at least once a day, all via video conferencing. The content included training sessions, external guest speakers, as well as a panel discussion for a diversity and inclusion event.”
Sarah Fallowes, head of HR at Mojo Mortgages, also recognised the importance of retaining the social aspect of work.
She said her firm was in the process of setting up a virtual social committee for employees to get together online and spend time with their colleagues.
Additionally, Mojo is making use of mental health support service, Able Futures, so employees could speak to someone if and when they need to.
Trusting the process
To ensure staff were not feeling overworked and too restricted, allowing them to be freer has worked for some firms.
Darryl Dhoffer, mortgage and protection consultant at The Mortgage Expert, said prior to the lockdown, his company’s office hours were fixed between 9am to 6pm, but that has since changed to adapt to different lifestyles and situations.
A huge reason why this has worked is down to the faith he has in his staff to continue to carry out their duties in their own time.
“Our commitment has never been an issue,” he said.
“Lucky for us we have no concerns on trust so having that happy work-life balance has always been in our ethos, so that transition has been easy to accommodate.”
Davies reiterated this, saying: “On an individual employee level we ultimately had to trust people to do the right thing and they didn’t let us down.”
He stressed the importance of creating structure among his employees to make sure they were disciplined about splitting their time evenly between work and rest.
He said: “We underpinned this approach with clear guidance to help them exercise the right judgement, such as; setting up a defined working area; sticking to a daily structure; creating a distinction between the working week and the weekends; and of course making a concerted effort to take breaks and get some fresh air and exercise.”
Fallowes also encouraged her team to make a clear differentiation between when work began and ended.
“Sticking to a routine and having a disciplined way of managing the day can really help you to be productive and avoid burn out,” she said.
She added: “Schedule a start and an end time – so for example, if you usually start work in the office at 8am and finish at around 4.30pm, try sticking to those times.
“Once your work day is done and you are using a room that is no longer an ‘office’, clear away everything and put it in a box somewhere you cannot see it, as it is time to go back to home mode.”
Fallowes said this was also important for mental health as blurred lines could be “frustrating” and having a streamlined day was beneficial to a person’s overall wellbeing.
Frame of mind
Being the sole employee at his firm, Tony Silver, director of White Horse Mortgages said remote working was difficult for him as he missed the psychological aspect of being in an office.
He said he had noticed a drop in his self-esteem and productivity, and as a result the number of active cases he is working on has also significantly dropped. For him, the only solution was to return to the office as soon as he could.
“I now go into my office a few days a week since things have been eased.
“I believe I can get more done working in an office because I feel more professional. my computer works infinitely better, the Wi-Fi is better, I can concentrate for longer periods. I feel more able to provide a professional service too,” he said.
And although there were fewer professionals in his office building for him to interact with, Silver said he still preferred to work from the office so he could continue to have face-to-face meetings where appropriate without worrying about compromising his personal space.
To give his employees the choice, Dhoffer’s office remains open with safety measures in place and the admin support team has been brought back to the office.
He said: “We feel a base camp for clients and other staff members where admin support is available will only benefit all concerned, and is still essential.”
For those who are unable or unwilling to travel into work, creating an atmosphere that was similar to the office was the most appropriate response.
Davies said there was a difference between working remotely away from an office and working from home as the latter often meant distractions.
“The psychology between the two was important for how we prepared our staff for the lockdown. We also recognised that the environment people were operating in ‘at home’ varied from one-bedroom flats, to house shares with flatmates, to parents in flats or houses with children.
“In each instance it was vital for us to assess the setup and make the necessary adjustments to safeguard their wellbeing and ensure they could maintain a high level of service to their clients,” he said.
Embracing the change
For some, an acceptance that things were different to what they used to be was one way to manage through any burnout or struggles to remote working.
Davies said: “There is always a danger of burnout when the market gets busy, but I’d rather deal with this challenge than managing morale because the market is depressed. I have encouraged my team to appreciate what they have.
“The best way to manage burnout is to be organised, get it ‘right first time’ and of course be polite and patient with lender staff. They are trying their best and will be more inclined go above and beyond, next time round.”