The Work-Life Balance Debate

Three-quarters of small business owners believe their quality of life has improved since they took the plunge and started up on their own, according to research from insurance firm MORE TH>N Business.

More than four-fifths of respondents said their reasons for starting up were to be happier and almost half wanted to see more of family and friends. MORE TH>N Business has dubbed these lifestyle entrepreneurs “alterpreneurs”.

See our article on the happiness of being a small business.

Judy Osborn quit her senior-level job in a top London PR firm to set up her own PR business, Purple Rabbit, in order to become more flexible and spend more time with her son. ‘I found the stress of commuting to London with a young baby back in Oxfordshire just too much to bear,’ she says. ‘Starting my own business was the best decision I’ve made, as it has allowed me to become more ‘Mum’ than ‘Working Mum’. My firm has done well and I can honestly say that I now enjoy the best of both worlds – work and private life.’

MORE TH>N asked life coach Sally Ann Law to come up with some helpful tips to help busy owners of small firms achieve a good balance between work and home life.

Ten Tips for a Healthy Work-Life Balance

  1. Do a ‘life audit’. Work out what’s good/bad/indifferent in your life. Get rid of as many activities in the ‘bad’ and ‘indifferent’ categories as possible. ‘Scale up’ all the activities that bring joy; either do them more often or look for ways to get more out of them.
  2. Keep a record for one week of how you actually spend your time, both in and out of work. Work out a plan to structure your day or week more effectively. Review and modify over time.
  3. Choose, or try to negotiate, at least one day per week where you stop working two hours earlier than usual. Do something beneficial in that gained time, either with your family or for yourself alone.
  4. Before you leave work, make an ordered, realistic list of what you intend to accomplish the next day. Build enough slack into the day to allow for unexpected tasks.
  5. Make rules to limit email use to particular times in the day. Switch your mobile phone to ‘silent’ when you’re busy. Technology isn’t inherently stressful, it’s the way we allow it to influence us that can be.
  6. Get some form of exercise two or three times a week. Choose something you like (or hate least) and get started. Exercise reduces stress and improves concentration.
  7. Ask those you care about the most what changes they would like to see. You may be surprised what they say. Sometimes the smallest changes can bring happiness to you and others, especially children.
  8. Look for ways to connect, or reconnect, with friends outside of work. Invite friends to join you in activities you enjoy, that way you see more of them and spend time doing what you like.
  9. Focus on the present. Keep working to make the present and near-term future as calm and happy as you can…the future will take care of itself that way.
  10. Get support tackling any or all of the above tips. It’s not easy to make changes, particularly when they affect others. Remember you are doing it for all the right reasons and don’t give up!

Work-life balance blurred for directors

Managers’ readiness to switch between work and leisure activities during their time off is creating a ‘grey area’ between their personal and professional lives, research finds.

Company directors spend an average of 2.5 hours a week on top of their usual working week researching, reading or learning for work in their own time, according to a study of 2,000 respondents by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), suggesting a work/life balance that is blurred for directors.

Career development activities, industry monitoring and work-related learning were found to take place frequently and voluntarily outside of core working hours and locations, largely enabled by mobile technology.

Of the 76 per cent of managers who can use devices including smartphones, laptops or tablets to work, almost half (49 per cent) check their emails just before going to sleep at night and a quarter (24 per cent) check them again on waking before they get out of bed in the morning.

Additionally, 26 per cent of managers check emails on their way to and from work and even social occasions are not email-free – 22 per cent of managers monitor emails when they are socialising with friends and 9 per cent even when out on dates.

Out of office hours, 59 per cent of managers choose to visit websites related to their profession, 32 per cent read magazines and journals about work, and 30 per cent read work-related books.

CMI chief executive Ruth Spellman says that managers voluntarily indulging in certain work-related activities before and after work doesn’t mean they are actually doing their day-to-day job outside of office hours, but just keeping up to date with news on the industry sector they work in.

She says, ‘This creates a bit of a grey area in the work-life balance debate. It’s very important that people keep an eye on how much of their free time they spend dipping into the world of work – maintaining a good work-life balance is vital.’

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