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One advisor says there should be flexibility in a role to do things when it’s most efficient to do them.BrianAJackson

How good are you at ignoring a ringing phone or pinging device? Whether at work or at home, it can be difficult for advisors and their teams to resist the temptation to pick up.

However, there’s growing awareness that a right to disconnect from work is important to avoid anxiety, depression, and burnout.

The Ontario government recently passed legislation requiring businesses with 25 employees or more to develop a written policy regarding employees’ right to disconnect.

While many advisory practices have teams of fewer than 25, and the federal Canada Labour Code doesn’t limit after-hours electronic communication for work directly, some advisors are taking informal steps to protect their teams’ right to disconnect.

Rob Pollard, portfolio manager with The Wyndham Group at Raymond James Ltd. in Toronto, says he believes that staff members work best when they’re happy and stress-free.

“When I saw that about [the Ontario] legislation, it was fascinating because it was common sense to me. So, I get sad that it has to be legislation,” he says. “Why wouldn’t you want this for your staff? They’re going to be better and do great work for you if you can figure it out.”

While he doesn’t have a written policy that addresses the right to disconnect for his 11-person team, he has made it clear that he doesn’t expect them to answer calls and reply to e-mails outside of work hours.

That said, Mr. Pollard adds that “There are going to be times you’re doing work during personal time, but then … sometimes you need to do personal things during work time. And that’s okay.”

He says that flexibility should be there because “you do things when it’s most efficient to do them.”

Mr. Pollard has also built structural redundancy into his practice to help avoid situations in which work piles up for any one person. There are three separate departments – with five people that focus on administration, three in tax and planning, and two in trading. He says staff cover for each other.

“They’re helping each other because they know that if [a crunch] hits them, we’ll be there for them too,” Mr. Pollard says.

How the pandemic changed work and personal time

Working from home during the pandemic has made it more difficult for advisors and their teams to disconnect, says Eric Thomson, senior financial planning advisor with Thomson Financial Partners at Assante Capital Management Ltd. in North Bay, Ont., who works with a team of three other advisors and six team members.

“Many of our clients are getting to know our cell phone numbers versus just the [land line] number that they would typically have called at the office,” he says. “[But] we certainly wouldn’t need or require or expect our team to be checking e-mails on the weekend, or putting hours in unless … maybe through the course of the week, they’ve had some other commitments and things that have taken them away from the office.”

Echoing Mr. Pollard, Mr. Thomson emphasizes the value of allowing staff to take care of some personal matters during work hours and vice versa – something the team was allowed to do before the pandemic as well.

For him, it comes down to treating others as you would like to be treated.

“Having an unwritten policy as it relates to [the right to disconnect] allows you to have that flexibility and balance,” Mr. Thomson says.

Technology can be an ally

While technology is sometimes seen as an impediment to the work-life balance, it is, after all, what keeps us connected.

Michael Hendershot, portfolio manager with TPI Wealth Management Group at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc. in Burlington, Ont., says his two team members use it as a tool to disconnect.

“They have an app on their [mobile] phone where they can turn [calls] on and off. So, when a client calls through to their [office] number, they can choose to have that come through on their cell phone or wait and get it the next day if clients do call in the evenings,” he says.

Similar to Mr. Pollard, Mr. Hendershot thinks one way to keep work and life in balance within his team is by cultivating a culture that encourages people to step in if they see someone else is stressed or under pressure.

From time to time, he also finds himself reminding his team members to switch off.

“I’ll get emails from them on the weekend. They’re doing something, they’re asking me a question, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, here’s your answer,’” he says. “But if it’s not a rush, I always say, ‘Get off the computer! Go spend time with your family!’”

Overall, he believes a team’s culture has more of an impact than a written policy ever could.

“With our team, a written policy would get in the way because life is dynamic. It’s never smooth. It’s not a straight line and you don’t know what’s going to happen every day,” Mr. Hendershot says.

“It would be a detriment to our team because it would [require] constantly sitting down and adjusting the written policy to try and adapt to everything.”

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