Work-life balance is a term we’ve frequently heard banded about and more so since the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen many of us working remotely.
A balance suggests that we should have an equal division of working and family or leisure activities, but shouldn’t we be looking to find harmony between work and life, not balancing one against the other?
This is especially true for business owners and leaders. At the different stages of their businesses, they will need to dedicate different amounts of time and energy.
Just as the needs for family, friends, and yourself change and go through seasons, your business will too. Therefore, work and the rest of life might not always be balanced and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the short term.
Some people are building their business at pace and dedicate their time and energy to that. For others, family comes first and there is every shade of grey in between. Business owners are individual leaders, with unique businesses and different personal and company visions. However, those who put their business first do need to be mindful of what they might sacrifice in their homelife.
The challenge is how we achieve a ‘work/rest of life’ harmony, starting with defining what it means to you.
Living the life you want
Finding the harmony of your work-life brings perspective. If you only ever focus on delivering your vision for work, you may well forget why you’re doing it in the first place: mostly likely to live well and look after those you care about. It’s easy to miss this if you only work.
When you start a business, you often burn the candle at both ends and you get used to working long hours. It becomes the norm, and you don’t challenge yourself as to what you really need to focus on.
By taking the right amount of time away, you feel revitalised, healthier, and then actually enjoy work more as well as ‘life’. Not only that, but you reduce stress and increase productivity.
Stop feeling guilty
Business owners often face a lot of fear. Fear that their business is about to evaporate; that the people who work for them don’t understand what the business needs; that if they turn down an opportunity that it may never return, and in general, they feel guilty when they are at work, and guilty when they are not.
You should never feel guilty for taking a rest, it’s important that we do.
Focus and structure
A lack of harmony between work and life often boils down to not prioritising and planning effectively. You’ll find that if you maintain one to-do list for both business and personal tasks, you’ll be able to prioritise your time much better. And once you have a plan, stick to it.
Business leaders often overwork because they have a reluctance to delegate. This might be because the processes are in their heads, meaning it’s quicker to do the task themselves rather than explaining to someone else. Secondly, leaders can worry that no-one can do it like they can. Instead, leaders need to challenge themselves and ask – “could they do it better than me?” It’s important to accept that we all have different ways of doing things, and just because someone has a different approach to something, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong…and it could be better!
Make a change
It’s baffling how many of us continue with a work-life balance with which we’re unhappy. If you hear yourself saying “I don’t have time” or if your partner complains about how much you are working, that might be a signal to review how you’re spending your time and make changes.
We all have the same amount of time available to us. What differs is how we each choose to use it.
Employees need work-life harmony too
Sometimes we can be very insular and not realise that as leaders, we need to think about the work-life harmony of others too. You are an example to your employees. What sort of culture are you creating if you’re always at your desk? They may replicate your behaviour, believing that working long hours is what is expected of them.
Take some time out to think about these things and you’ll be on your way to leading a more fulfilled working life.
Mags Fuller, co-owner of The Alternative Board