Many financial advisers agree with the notion that Yahoo Inc. chief executive Marissa Mayer put forth when she reined in telecommuters at the Internet search engine company this week — collaboration works best if people are actually together.
Thanks to videoconferencing solutions like Skype and document-sharing services like Google Drive, remote workers can literally be on the same page as other employees who are sitting together in a conference room strategizing about a client's financial plan.
However, such setups don't do much to boost camaraderie between the adviser and staff members. Neither do they allow for interaction with clients who come into the office for meetings, advisers said.
In fact, only about 21% of advisers offer their employees the benefit of telecommuting, according to a 2012 survey by the Financial Planning Association. The larger the firm, the more likely it is to offer workers a chance to work some time from home, with up to 25% of firms with 31 or more employees allowing some telecommuting.
But most advisory firms offer employees a different office perk aimed at helping them with the challenge that causes most people to seek to work from a home office in the first place. That is, they try to help workers balance family and workplace demands.
More than three-quarters of financial planning firms offer employees flexibility in their work schedule, including allowing employees to go to doctor's appointments, or take their children to them, without having to use official time off.
Such “lifestyle” perks are important to offer employees in a services-based industry like financial advising, said Angie Herbers, a personnel consultant who works with financial advisers.
These benefits give employees perceived control over their day, which is important if advisers want to keep their staff engaged in their jobs. And advisers do want to keep employees engaged, or bigger troubles ensue, she said.
A failure to provide the right perks can create a negative image in workers' minds that can never be overcome, she said.
That leads to poor morale and ultimately to the most disruptive effect, high turnover rates, Ms. Herbers.
So while advisers may largely agree that the financial planning business isn't an ideal application for telecommuters, they may want to consider whether they offer other office perks that tackle the root challenge employees face so they want to continue showing up for work.