Work-life balance is seen as an important factor in our well-being. But if you’re an entrepreneur, juggling a business with family life can be a precarious balancing act.

recent report from the Office for National Statistics found that six out of ten women believe they have the right balance between work and family life.

While it has to be said that the report was conducted among employees, perhaps you started your business because you wanted greater control over your life and work schedule too.

The problem is of course, that running your business and having even a normal work-life balance, let alone the idyllic one you may have envisaged, can be extremely difficult.

It’s particularly challenging if you’re in the early stages of your business, or if you’re operating a micro-business (between 1-9 employees) when typically, you have little budget to afford a host of staff to help you and have no choice but to manage everything yourself.  You naturally want to be available for your clients and don’t want to let anyone down.

Perhaps you can relate to Rebekah Harriman, a social media consultant, mentor and coach. She set up her business five years ago and consults to SMEs nationwide on their social media strategy; and found this to be the case for both her clients and herself:
Often, it’s simply learning how to switch off.

She shares: “When I first started out in business, I answered everything all of the time because that’s what I thought I had to do to make it work. “I’ve had client consultations on the phone during the school run, calls throughout the weekend and even answered emails at birthday parties. While I wouldn’t want to swap my business, I think it is hard to walk away from it, especially if your office is at home.”

Perhaps the first step is to set some ground rules for yourself.

Rebekah, who admits that she is only just getting the balance right for her, adds: “In my own experience as a working mum of three, I’ve found that the key is to be upfront with your clients about what you can or cannot achieve.  For example, I’ve made it clear to clients that I am only available for work and telephone calls during ‘school hours’.  Clients don’t mind when they know what to expect from the outset.”

“I’ve stopped working at weekends, except in exceptional circumstances, and during the summer holidays, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to not work on the days the children were at home so that we can all go out and do something together.”

It’s not easy making these types of decisions, but they will help you achieve much-needed quality time away from the business.

It’s not easy making these types of decisions, but they will help you achieve much-needed quality time away from the business.

Do also consider these practical suggestions:

  • Create physical boundaries between home and work, such as a separate workspace, or room. Walking away from your workspace or closing the office door, will make it easier to step freely into your personal life.
  • Set yourself specific work times and stick to them.
  • Delegate wherever possible.  The popularity of freelance hires makes it possible for even the modest of businesses to obtain help during busy periods.

The fact is that there is no such thing as a perfect work-life balance.  Your priorities will change, both in business and in personal life, and you might simply need to be flexible enough to adapt accordingly.

What do you think? Do you feel you’ve achieved a healthy work-life balance with your business?

Published Tuesday January 7, 2014