How to Strike a Work/Life Balance When You Work in the Financial Industry

Equilibrium is a financial services firm with a difference. The company, founded by Colin Lawson in his bedroom 24 years ago, has made a name for itself over the years with its resistance to fit the traditional wealth management business model.

It’s an approach which has paid off, as Equilibrium has won numerous awards and clinched a spot in the top 10 of The Sunday Times’ Best Small Companies to Work For list three years in a row. They also have a 92% staff retention rate.

Under the stewardship of Managing Partner Gaynor Rigby, Sarah Warburton, Head of Culture, has played a vital role in shaping the culture and engagement strategy that earned their place on the list.

Here, she discusses how other financial services firms can follow suit and ensure that staff are striking the correct balance between work and their personal lives.

 

I actually made my start in financial recruitment with Equilibrium, initially joining part-time on the talent team to assist with a number of different projects. My time at the company slowly upped and upped, and I was invited to join full time as the Head of Culture in 2015.

So much has changed in that relatively short space of time, but one thing has remained resolutely the same: we put our people first and make their happiness a key priority.

The phrase ‘work/life balance’ is bandied about so freely these days, but a lot of companies – particularly in the financial services industry – are yet to fully understand the importance of it.

We have accepted that the nature of our work means we must be chained to our desks and work incredibly long hours, answering emails and phone calls from clients and CEOs at all hours of the day.

Historically in this industry, we have accepted that the nature of our work means we must be chained to our desks and work incredibly long hours, answering emails and phone calls from clients and CEOs at all hours of the day.

It’s time for the financial sector to move away from deploying it as a glib turn of phrase in recruitment brochures and actually start implementing sustainable work/life balances which are healthy for employees.

But what does this look like in action?

The three keys for us at Equilibrium are freedom, flexibility and time to be at home with your loved ones. We’ll look back in the future and think that being available 24/7 – especially being available on weekends when you don’t work in a business that’s operational on a weekend – is bananas.

It’s very normalised in this industry as the workload is demanding. It’s become par for the course to work on evenings and weekends but, in reality, there’s just no need for it. If time is managed correctly and realistic goals and deadlines are set, there is absolutely no need for employees to be working on weekends.

At Equilibrium, we shut and lock the office doors at 6pm every night, and we have a house rule that we don’t answer emails after this time. This means that our team can properly ‘switch off’ and be present when they’re away from their desks.

There is a temptation in client-facing roles to be on hand to respond to clients at the drop of a hat because, theoretically, this will keep them happy.

However, if you’re burnt out, drained and tired from being ‘on’ all the time, you won’t service your clients to the standard you should, which is what we try and reinforce to our advisers and investment managers.

This is also why it’s so important that our team gets quality time off. We encourage them to spend their time away from work with their loved ones and in a way which will be fulfilling to them, leaving them rested and recharged. That way, when they return to work, they’ll be focused on the task at hand.

Burnout is common in the financial industry, and job roles can often come with a lot of pressure. This can lead to staff taking an undue amount of sick leave to try and ‘reset’, meaning client work suffers.

It’s also why we have such a generous holiday allowance, so that staff can take long holidays and have ample time to pursue their passions outside of work.

Burnout is common in the financial industry, and job roles can often come with a lot of pressure. This can lead to staff taking an undue amount of sick leave to try and ‘reset’, meaning client work suffers.

To try and mitigate that as much as possible, we make our working environment as supportive and engaging as we can, so that a healthy work/life balance is prioritised and staff aren’t left feeling overwhelmed by their job roles.

We encourage people to take their full lunch breaks and encourage ‘walking meetings’ outdoors so that the team can get out and about in the fresh air. We also have a room where people can decompress and are always understanding if people feel that they need to take time to focus on their wellbeing. We emphasise the importance of sharing problems and speaking freely about mental health and wellbeing.

All of these factors have contributed to Equilibrium having an incredibly productive and happy workforce, and that is something which we feel is important to make clear to other employers. Investing in your staff and their happiness will only ever have a positive impact on your bottom line. Our turnover and productivity levels have not suffered as a result of our employee engagement programme and strong work/life balance – conversely, they have both increased.

It’s also crucial to remember that benefits don’t make a culture. People do.

However, what’s important to remember is that company culture isn’t ‘one size fits all’ – what works for us may not be viable for another financial business. Ultimately, it’s about knowing what drives your team and understanding what works, which is why culture and work/life balance varies from company to company.

For example, over half of our team is client-facing, so whilst flexibility is important, there’s only so much flexibility that we can actually allow because clients expect them to be available to a certain degree.

It’s also crucial to remember that benefits don’t make a culture. People do. The perks are great, but they aren’t the real reason Equilibrium is one of the best companies to work for in the country. If you help people grow, develop, find their passion and make them feel valued, your company’s working culture will naturally be positive and productive, and employees will feel as though they have a comfortable balance between their work life and their personal life.

For more information, please visit www.eqllp.co.uk or follow Equilibrium on twitter: @EquilibriumAM
Search @Equilibrium.amon Instagram to see what the team have been up to recently.

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