Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.
I am so tired. We must be in the office two days a week. It has been exhausting. I have three small children and used to have a lot of at-home help, which I lost during the pandemic. My husband and I try to patch together coverage, but he has to be in two days also. I work for a large financial services firm, and we used to have reduced rate parking. That has been eliminated. We also went to the hoteling structure because we sold a building and had to consolidate our space. Not knowing where I am going to sit, carrying my bags around with me and having to search a busy downtown area with a ton of construction to find parking is overwhelming.
I get into the office by 8:30 a.m. and feel as though I have worked a full day.
I spoke to my manager about full-time virtual because my role is such that I am behind the scenes and can easily do what I need to from home. I did it quite successfully for the better part of two years. My manager’s response was, “This is to instill collaboration back in the company.” Okay, but on the days I am in, I might see two people I know and previously worked with. It’s still like a ghost town and some managers are validating 100% work from home for their important employees because of the mass resignation. We are all doing three times the work we were in late 2019 with no additional upside.
Is this normal and are you hearing this from others? I am a positive, upbeat person who is used to pushing through and doing what I need to but lately I want to quit and go work at Talbot’s in retail. I make a good living and I need to get three kids through college but having every single day feel like an exercise in exhaustion doesn’t seem worth it lately.
Am I not seeing what I need to do? Do I need to manage myself differently? I need someone to tell me if it’s time to get off this treadmill or if things will change and I can go back to being exhausted only on Thursdays and Fridays instead of every day of the week.
The short answer is “yes,” I am hearing this consistently from people I work with in financial services firms large and small. It’s interesting your note arrived late today because just this morning I was on a small group session with some women in a large firm and they were saying some very similar things. It’s a balance that is tough to strike – companies want people back to get that “in-the-office” experience going again, but people are resisting it for a variety of reasons. The reality is that a two-year pandemic and all the resulting experiences has left people physically worn out. You have three children at home. I’m going to guess you experienced quite a bit of angst trying to school them and keep them focused and busy when they weren’t able to go to school. The experience has hit all of us very hard and while companies are somewhat acknowledging it, I don’t find the average manager taking the resulting stress on employees as serious as it needs to be.
You say you have a back-office job, but I find people who are dealing with clients in any manner are also experiencing client stress. I will be in Michigan next week at an FPA event talking about communicating with clients during these stressful times. The stress and difficulty in navigating is coming from all corners and some days it seems hard to catch one’s breath and regroup.
I’m not sure if you are asking for advice or just looking for confirmation you are not doing anything wrong per se, and you are taking the steps necessary to survive the best you can.
Often we have a “when I get there” experience. Once the pandemic is over, when I get better parking, when the kids are a little bit bigger and so on. We tend to focus on the end-goal when we will finally be able to rest and rejuvenate and get our mojo back in order!
But life doesn’t work this way. Once you get something settled, there will be something else. My colleagues with small kids deal with stresses related to that stage, and my colleagues with older kids deal with stresses related to that stage. I have colleagues who love their jobs, then a new boss comes in and they hate their job. I know people who couldn’t wait to get back to the office and now lament the commute and higher gas prices to get there. I know people who are sick of the virtual world but don’t want to have to get dressed up in the morning to go to the workplace. If you think about it, it’s kind of funny – there is never a time where you can say it’s all in place. Things are always moving and changing.
To that end, you need to be taking care of yourself amid what’s happening. Your firm is no different than any other financial services firm I am working with right now. Everyone is on overload, there aren’t enough hands to go around to do the work and people are struggling with the right in-the-office balance. Take stock of what you need – going to Talbot’s may or may not be the answer but every job and situation is fraught with difficulties.
Figure out how to incorporate some level of self-care and allow yourself the break to take it one day at a time instead of pushing to get to some imaginary end-goal where life is settled. It’s going to be like this for a long time, possibly forever. Strap yourself in and figure out what you need to do to make it reasonable for you.
Why are companies forcing the back-to-work issue? We are losing some of our best people because they are given the chance at other advisory firms to WFH full-time. We are in a small community, not a big city, so the talent pool is smaller. We lost our third team member last week because another advisory firm is letting her run operations from her home.
My boss says we paid for this location and we’re going to use the real estate and it isn’t optional. How do I get him to see this is losing us the opportunity for good talent to stay? His view is that everyone is replaceable. They are, but in the meantime, we are all picking up slack and having a hard time filling the roles.
If he isn’t feeling the same pain you are feeling, he isn’t going to be motivated to take a step and change anything. If there is one thing I’ve learned in doing this work for decades, it is when a leader gets an idea entrenched in their mind, unless there is a compelling reason (often one that impacts them directly), it is hard to get them to change their point of view. You need to start tracking in 15-minute increments the additional work these departures have put on your plate and show in black and white the hardship you are experiencing as a result. You might consider finding a good candidate who is remote and could step into one of these roles immediately but that isn’t willing to relocate.
If you shared some data and facts about how this position is impacting the workplace and also limiting your opportunity to find good people to fill these roles, he might relent. Sometimes the leader does not want to give in because they are afraid everyone will want to WFH full-time and this impacts culture and ability to share ideas, and yes, leaves an expensive office empty. Maybe there is a middle ground you could propose.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry, in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.