Work-life balance – A debate

Today I have a day off.

But what does that mean for a business owner? Is it really a day off, where you completely stop thinking about work or is it a day off in disguise, where you pretend to do other things while secretly thinking about your next big work project or just check a few emails to make sure the office hasn’t burnt down?

My post today is less about tips or advice and more about stimulating the discussion around work-life balance and what it means for you. I’ll start and you feel free to dip in on the comments section below, I’m genuinely interested to get your points of view.

For about the first 5 years of my business I worked almost every weekend I could. I’d never leave the office before 7/8pm and put everything I had into it. Personally I think it’s difficult to get a business off the ground without that level of commitment, unless you’re incredibly lucky. I guess this instilled a work ethic in me which I find hard to shift now. I have other commitments now, a wife, a dog (as of last week!), a cat and I’m sure in time children will follow. I enjoy skiing and trips away with friends, all of which have been afforded to me because of the long hours I’ve put in over the years. If I’d opted for a career which allowed me more of the ‘life’ in ‘work-life’ would this have been possible? I guess I’ll never know but I do know a lot of people along the way have told me I work too hard and maybe they’re right…maybe they’re not.

The key I guess is that I love what I do. Granted, it’s not easy all of the time and when it’s tough, it’s really tough but I wouldn’t swap it. Do people tell you to slow down? Have you cracked running a business and living a life outside, completely switched off from it? Do you have secrets to share?

So let’s discuss, debate, play devil’s advocate with the topic of work-life balance and share thoughts on the way you work and play.

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  1. Graham White on 9th September 2013 at 12:35 pm

    An interesting post Al. It’s an issue facing professionals, business owners like yourself and I’m sure a lot of other people too. I notice the lines have blurred the more senior I’ve become. Seniority is not a hard and fast concept where I work though so perhaps I mean something more akin to “as my responsibilities have increased”.

    Personally, I’ve always made time to switch off from work as I think it’s healthy and important to do so. Weekends are my own (one of the reasons I left a previous role) and I like to make sure I’m always home on time and pick up where I left off the previous day. I think some of that has been instilled by having parents in jobs during the clock-in / clock-out generation. However, if it were my business and my employees on the line every day I think the balance would shift, even for me.

    BYOD is having an impact here too. Work and home life are becoming harder to separate when employees are using their own compute power for work and more of them are taking devices home too. The idea of 9-to-5 went a long time ago in a lot of places and took with it the idea of a permanent desk location as we became more mobile. Those things are a double-edged sword, they make a good work-life balance a lot easier to achieve but come at the cost of always being connected.

    • DanCave on 10th September 2013 at 12:35 pm

      “The idea of 9-to-5 went a long time ago in a lot of places and took with it the idea of a permanent desk location as we became more mobile.”

      – In larger workplaces this does seem to be the case. I for one work from hoe up to 3 days per week on equipment supplied my employer. I can see how for some that may present an issue and make it harder to define boundaries.

      As a contractor, my solution is simple; turn off the work laptop at a set time and don’t turn it on again till the next work day. It sounds harsh but at the end of the day that is the time they buy from me. Occasional late nights and extra hours are acceptable and part of the parcel, but you MUST respect yourself, and you must be professional. If you work for free, why would your employer pay you more?

      I realise the above statement may not align with everyone sensibilities, and things like job satisfaction play a role, but at the end of the day its ‘work’ A.K.A “time spent not doing the things you REALLY want to do.”.

      I also don’t believe what I say 100% myself as many factors go into how much time/effort/blood/sweat/tears you put into a work position.

      As a business owner, Alastair, I don’t think you will ever achieve the balanced perspective of an employee/contractor, that is because your life benefits from your job 100% off the time. I only benefit when I’m being paid, its a subtle but important difference.

      There are so many factors to consider with work life balance that it’s impossible to articulate all my thoughts and feelings in a blog comment, but I’ll leave with one final thing…

      As we all know well, if the company you work for is positive and caring and get you to ‘buy in’, its much harder to ‘switch off’ or “achieve balance”, because you want to help as much as you can. this is great when crunch time happens. However balanced employee’s are happy/productive employee’s; In general get them bought in but actively make sure they take enough personal time too.

      PS no time to proof read this, sorry for any SPAG errors.

  2. Subversive UX on 12th September 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Great post! I certainly think it’s hard to detach. For myself I love what I do and will also spend evenings and weekends moving things forward, reading or learning.

    The two I find hard is realising that the bike ride or social event you went to was in fact 2 months ago, and trying to meet new people without thinking of the business context.

    But as you say, I don’t feel that a small business can grow without the continuous effect and dedication to it.

    • banksy6 on 21st September 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Dave. I know what you mean about the social/business overlap – very hard that one!

  3. Simon on 21st September 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Good post Al

    As I always say, it depends on what your motivations in life are – and those motivations are a personal preference to what are true values are. e.g. If it’s family time and with the kids – then you’ll be more motivated to find the time in one’s busy weekly schedule to prioritise for this

    • banksy6 on 21st September 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks Simon, I can see that and maybe that changes as you go through life too.

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