Taking time away from the office can have many benefits for advisors, from the personal (e.g., spending time with family and exploring new places) to the professional (e.g., resting and recharging to help prevent burnout). At the same time, being away from work (whether it is working fewer hours during the week or taking full vacation days off) means having less time for client engagement, business development, and other firm activities. This raises the question of how advisors can most effectively balance their work obligations with the benefits of taking time off.
According to the latest Kitces Research study on Advisor Wellbeing, the median number of weekly hours worked and annual vacation days taken vary by position, where associate advisors tend to work more hours than lead advisors or executives, and where lead advisors tend to take more vacation than their counterparts. Further, median hours worked and vacation days taken also vary based on the advisor's status within the firm. For example, firm owners and employees work a median of 45 hours per week, while solo producers work a median of 40 hours per week. In addition, solo producers also take more vacation days than owners and employees.
These differences could be related to job experience and tenure, but they may also be related to differences in job function of each role, which can have a large impact on how advisors feel they can regulate their work hours and vacation time. For instance, even though some advisory firm executives may have fewer client advisory responsibilities, their job responsibilities include managing their staff and the office itself, which could be one reason why they take fewer vacation days than lead advisors.
Further, work hours and vacation days appear to be correlated with adviser wellbeing. For instance, the Kitces Research study found that advisors who reported very low quality-of-life scores took about 15 vacation days each year and worked about 43 hours per week. Advisors with very high quality-of-life scores took 29 vacation days each year and worked 38 hours per week, suggesting that advisors who work long hours may not be offsetting their regular work hours with vacation days, which could be a source of relaxation.
Given the various benefits of having time away from work, advisors have several options to reduce their weekly work hours and add vacation days to their calendar. For instance, designating a schedule based on realistic working hours can help them structure their time in a way that will help them meet their goal. Also, setting expectations for clients is especially important, both in terms of vacation days (by letting them know at the beginning of the engagement that the advisor will not be available during certain vacation periods) and during the workweek (which advisors can do by including their availability for replies in their email signature). In addition, bringing on new employees to share the work burden can free up time for firm owners, but they need to be careful not to allow this newfound time to be consumed by management responsibilities!
Ultimately, the key point is that taking time away from the office is a key contributor to an advisor's overall wellbeing. And for advisors who would like to work fewer hours per week or take more vacation days (or both!), setting clear expectations with clients and co-workers is an important first step toward creating more high-quality free time!