Is work/life balance easier to achieve for small business owners? Or is it harder? The answer is both, depending on who and when you ask.
Owning your own business seems to offer greater potential for achieving work/life balance, but especially in the early years of starting up, reaching that elusive goal may seem impossible.
In a survey by GetResponse, almost one-third of small business owners cited work/life balance as a reason they started their companies. How did that work out for them? The numbers speak for themselves:
- 25% work more than 40 hours a week
- 69% answer business emails in their free time
- 91% work weekends
- 26% never stop thinking about their business
- 16% haven’t taken a vacation in over 4 years
Personally, I don’t think work/life balance is possible to achieve. Instead, I like to think of it as a work/life seesaw. Most of the time, either work or your personal life will predominate; there’s only a very small fraction of time when everything will be equally balanced.And unlike riding a seesaw, there are times when both work and your personal life are making extreme demandson your time.
A survey by FlexJobs found employees value work/life balance more highly than salary when considering taking a new position. There are some ways you can help both yourself and your team find better work/life balance.
For your team’s work/life balance:
- Allow remote work. Set your employees up so they can work outside the office at least some of the time. Using cloud-based data storage and collaboration tools such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft’s Office 365 makes it easy for you and your team to work from anywhere you have an internet connection.
- Be flexible: If you can’t allow employees to work remotely, try to offer as much flexibility as possible. For example, can your employees work from 7 to 4 instead of 9 to 5? Can they work four, 10-hour days and have the fifth day off? At a minimum, giving employees time off for things such as doctor’s appointments or children’s school plays will help improve your employees’ sense of work/life balance and keep them happier.
For your own work/life balance:
- Prioritize. When you feel swamped, take a look at what’s on your plate and focus on what’s truly important. Usually, that means work only you can do, that delivers high value (such as growing your business), and that serves your most important customers.
- Negotiate. Do you have a dozen deadlines all hitting on the same day? You’d be surprised how often clients are willing to be flexible. If you know the project is not an urgent priority for the customer, see if you can talk to the customer and extend your deadline. Use this tactic only with established clients who know your track record—and only in dire situations—so it doesn’t damage your reputation.
- Get help. Many small business owners hate to delegate work, even when they have perfectly capable employees who could handle it. If your work/life balance is out of whack, identify tasks you’re currently doing that someone else could handle, and train them how to take over.
- Don’t have employees? Look into hiring part-time contractors or virtual assistants or handing off some of your personal life duties, like cooking, cleaning or picking up dry cleaning, to your family. Make sure you are taking advantage of business apps that can automate and streamline time-consuming menial tasks, such as scheduling blog posts or email blasts, coordinating meetings or generating invoices.
- Schedule some downtime. Whether it’s a short meditation every morning, a vigorous game of tennis on Sundays, or a weekly lunch with a friend, build in a little bit of time every week to decompress. Even when you’re working your hardest, having that downtime in your calendar and sticking to it will make you feel like you’re not just a work machine.
Work/life balance may be almost impossible to attain, but trying to get as close as possible will give you more energy for both your life and your business.
- Read next: Tackle Employee Mental Health Issues and Your Small Business Will Benefit by Chris Brogan
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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