MaryAnn Kokan-Nyhof, vice-president and insurance advisor at Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc.’s Kilcona branch in Winnipeg, had her routine down pat when the COVID-19 pandemic started and everyone was forced to work from home.
She would wake up at the same time each morning to exercise, shower, change into office wear and apply makeup – all before sitting down at her computer at 8:30 a.m. Her afternoons ended with similar precision and resolve.
“I learned to close my laptop at 4:30 p.m. and not look at it again [that day],” Ms. Kokan-Nyhof says. “I [would] go downstairs, make dinner and connect with the family.”
But more than six months into lockdown, the line she once drew between her work and her personal life has faded.
“Over time, it became more and more blurred because everyone was feeling isolated,” she says.
Ms. Kokan-Nyhof started catching herself answering client calls during her dinner hour, or stepping out to do errands like laundry or gardening in the middle of the workday.
Although she’s learned to embrace the flexibility that working from home affords, Ms. Kokan-Nyhof acknowledges that some advisors may struggle with establishing boundaries between the personal and the professional in this new format. Add in the newfound responsibility of going into the office for a few days a week, and the combination is a recipe for burnout for many financial advisors.
Navigating the hybrid work model many advisors have adopted is only likely to only become more difficult as the busy fall season progresses. Rachelle Langlois, advisor at Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada in Kimberley, B.C., is already seeing requests from clients ramp up as they get back to work from their summer vacations and children head back to school.
One of Ms. Langlois’s retreats from work during busy stretches is the great outdoors. She and her family often head to the lake on weekends well into the fall, which requires her to shut things down every Friday at 4 p.m. For many, taking time off is a saving grace under normal circumstances – but especially so while working from home, when stir craziness is inevitable. For Ms. Langlois, it also helps her step away from her devices.
“The computer goes away, and it doesn’t get opened again until Monday morning,” she says.
Ms. Langlois has a similar attitude toward her daily schedule, intentionally working breaks into her calendar to avoid overbooking herself, which is particularly easy to do when working alone.
“Some days, you get to the end of the day it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t stop all day.’ So, I try to carve in a little bit of time,” she says. “Schedule that blank time to catch up on things that are coming up, or even just take a break, get up, have a glass of water, make your coffee.”
Carol Lynde, president and chief executive officer of Bridgehouse Asset Managers in Toronto, says being intentional about rest is essential to mitigating burnout during hectic periods. Her firm has spent the past few years researching mental health in the financial services industry in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
She has worked with advisors on avoiding burnout through breathing techniques, mindfulness and other healthy habits; getting sufficient rest tops the list of techniques she doles out – especially amid social and economic unrest like that brought on by COVID-19.
“You have to be clear and you have to be in a position to be able to discharge that emotional anxiety that clients are having,” she says. “If you have more rest, we all know we feel better, we are able to handle situations in a different way.”
Ms. Lynde underscores the importance of getting a full night’s sleep and taking breaks as part of an all-encompassing rest regimen. But the sedentary lifestyle that comes with working from home makes it easy to forget to take regular breaks and get to sleep on time.
With several factors disrupting regular routines, Ms. Lynde says holding yourself accountable to keeping healthy habits is essential. One way she does that is by setting reminders on her smartphone.
Ms. Kokan-Nyhof says sticking to a healthy routine has gotten easier the more she’s come to understand herself and her needs. Although she’s slowly letting go of her strict work-from-home schedule, she’s learned to let go of the guilt that comes with that, understanding that embracing what works for her is most important.
“I know myself really well,” she says, noting that there is no universal, perfect balance between work and life. Rather, it’s up to each person to figure out what works.
“It depends on what your priorities are; you may have a priority to work 20 hours a day … and that is your balance because that’s what you want to do,” Ms. Kokan-Nyhof says.
It’s important to trust that only you know what’s best for your own well being, she says. However, when in doubt, it never hurts to seek a second opinion.
“Check in with someone around you, someone you love, and ask them their perspective,” Ms. Kokan-Nyhof says. “They can often see things in you that you don’t see in yourself.”