A study of property professionals this week from YourBusinessNumber found that one in three have been forced to take time off over the last couple of years as a result of fatigue or burnout.
The biggest contributors according to the study were heavy workloads and having to deal with clients.
And brokers told Mortgage Solutions that the way that the mortgage market works actively pushes advisers towards burning out, as well as sharing their methods for reducing the risk of overstretching.
Will the work dry up?
Paul Neal, mortgage and equity release specialist at Missing Element Mortgage Services, said that it is particularly easy to fall into the trap of becoming overworked if you are self-employed, and noted it is now far easier for clients to contact their brokers, thanks to developments like social media, WhatsApp and the like.
Scott Taylor-Barr, financial adviser at Carl Summers Financial Services, added that one of the challenges of being self-employed is that it’s all too easy to just work, taking on every enquiry that comes your way out of a fear that it will dry up at some point.
He added: “The volumes we are seeing just can’t be sustainable, can they? But the last thing any broker wants to do is let a client down, so we start that little bit earlier and finish that little bit later, maybe do the odd weekend here and there. Then you realise that 8am – 10pm has become normal and you work more weekends than you don’t.”
There’s more to being a broker than finding a mortgage rate
Lewis Shaw, founder and mortgage expert at Shaw Financial Services, echoed that self-employment adds an extra element to work pressures, and noted that brokers often end up filling other roles beyond pure mortgage advice.
He explained: “In the last six months, I’ve had people crying in the office because they want to leave their partner; numerous customers who are battling cancer; I’ve been a relationship counsellor; acted as an estate agent putting deals together; I’ve had couples having arguments when certain transactions on bank account have caused a breakup; I’ve had to run through medical questions separately by reading body language knowing it would cause problems to ask when the other party is present.
“If only it were as simple as picking a rate and sending people on their merry way.”
Making more of your time at work
Brokers wanting to avoid burning out should try to start each day with a ‘to do’ list, and prioritise the most urgent tasks, according to Robert Payne, director at Langley House Mortgages.
“You don’t have to complete that list each day but it does help to physically see what you need to do and cross off completed tasks as you go,” he concluded.
Stuart Powell, managing director of Ocean Mortgages, suggested that specialisms can help brokers avoid burning out ‒ partnering with experts in sectors like bridging and complex residential means that your clients still enjoy a great service, but brokers’ time is not taken up from cases outside of their comfort zone.
Along similar lines, Powell emphasised the importance of not trying to go it alone. “Whether that means recruiting an administrator, buddying with other companies or getting to know the lender’s BDMs, all can help you avoid burnout.”
Getting the balance right
Taylor-Barr said that it can be helpful to book personal time into your diary. “It sounds daft but if you have ‘watch the footy at the pub with friends’ as an appointment in your diary, you are less likely to book something in over the top of it.”
He also argued it was important to prevent inefficiency from clients becoming your problem.
“If you’ve been chasing them for weeks for information/documents and they only reply at 5pm on a Friday evening, don’t feel you now have to drop everything to submit their case. It can wait until Monday; they didn’t see it as that urgent so neither should you.”
Ian Hewett, founder at The Bearded Mortgage Broker, said that he now has two phones ‒ one for personal use and one for work ‒ which helps him to switch off.
“I have not loaded my work emails onto my phones, so I am not looking at emails at 9pm at night. I mean what can I do, the lenders won’t be in,” he said.
And finally, Neal suggested that turning to a pet might be the answer.
He said: “My best tip, get a dog. Twice a day as a minimum you need to be outside, it offers companionship and a welcome break from the screens.”