Regaining work-life balance this Christmas

Running a small business is hard work. For many, both men and women, the work seems to outweigh the reward.

But it’s okay, because running your own business delivers a great big dollop of work-life balance, doesn’t it? Actually, according to the ABS, no, no it doesn’t.

As the ABS discovered, the work-life balance that being one’s own boss promised, is often missing especially for women. Turns out that women are 20 per cent more likely to be dissatisfied than male small-business owners – although almost 50 per cent of men aren’t feeling the balance either.

Why? Well, mostly it’s because business owners are always on call, alert and chasing the next thing, filling their pipeline, chasing that cashflow, doing the work to keep clients happy. And then, when that’s done, doing the work that running a business requires.

It. Never. Stops. And, unless you’ve a suite of staff members at your beck and call – which, let’s face it, is unlikely with only 15 per cent of small businesses having more than five staff members – that life-balance is likely to remain elusive.

How might that play out? You take on more work than you can handle, but you figure you’ll just get it done somehow. But when you look at the reality of having promised 100 hours of work in a week, there’s no way possible to really get it done. No matter what you tell yourself or the client. You start to run a little behind. The phone rings and ties you up for half an hour.

Cue the anxiety and adrenaline that further scatter your thinking, slowing you down even further. What can be done?

Well, it’s almost Christmas time. Now there will be few small-business owners that read that and thought, “hooray for holidays. I’m looking forward to my break”. The rest of you probably groaned. Rather, you’re probably thinking, “it might be a little quieter and I can catch up on stuff”. But that’s the wrong kind of thinking, especially if you want to swing the pendulum back from 24/7 work towards life.

In fact, a study done by Xero found that 60 per cent of small-business owners hadn’t taken a break in the last year, and a quarter hadn’t had a break in more than two years. If it’s been more than two years for you, chances are you’re getting dangerously close to business-owner burnout. And a real break means not being on call and answering your business phone.

So how do you take a break?

Well, it takes a bit of planning, but it’s definitely doable. This year Christmas falls on a Monday, which means you could take 11 days without anyone noticing. But if you’re going for extra life balance credit you could take a whole 18 days (22 December-8 January).

There are three options:

  • Call all your clients now and tell them that you’re taking three weeks off at Christmas. Check what they’re likely to need over that time and take care of it earlier if you can.
  • Do a deal with a friendly competitor. When you’re on leave, they look after your clients and vice versa when they’re on leave.
  • Have a virtual receptionist answer all your calls whilst you’re on leave. They can take messages, bookings, answer questions, etc. – like a real member of your staff. And, if it’s super-dooper urgent, as in people will die if they don’t speak to you, the receptionist can SMS you or put the call through. But let’s face it, unless you’re an on-call surgeon, or an emergency plumber, no-one’s call is going to be that urgent.

Start thinking about what you can put in place. You can thank me for it when you return to work refreshed, revitalised and ready to rock in 2018.

Roland Farrugia, Virtual Services Advisor, Serviced Offices International

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