The myth of work-life balance in small business

Do you want to start a business to create a better work-life balance? Here’s why you probably shouldn’t bother.

One of the common stories we hear at Business Foundations is that of the burned-out office worker who is fed up losing every inch of their week, evening and weekend working for someone else.

Image: Kevin Horstmann

Image: Kevin Horstmann

The conversation usually goes like this.

Us: Why would you like to start a business?
Extremely overworked employee: Because I need some work-life balance.

We get it – we really do, but here’s the bad news: running a small business will probably consume more thought, effort and emotion than any job you do for someone else.

But the plus side is that the effort you put in for your own business will often not feel like work.

The Holy Grail for all of us is to balance the time we spend at work and the time we spend at home or with family and friends. As employees, that can feel like a negative transaction: you are either stealing minutes from the family to work or you are skimping on work you might feel you owe to someone else.

But in small business, the transaction is a very different one.

For a start, there are few boundaries that delineate where work should begin and end.  Most new entrepreneurs find that their best intentions of limiting their small business to ‘working hours’ evaporates pretty quickly. They’re thinking about the website in the shower, they’re preparing accounts in front of the television, and they’re talking about their idea whenever they can — when catching up with friends, or on Facebook or to anyone who will listen.

So where does the balance come in?

The beauty of small business is you’re in the driver’s seat, and you can decide how you spend your time and when. That might mean spending the day with your family on a weekend and then tapping out a few orders at night, or working until 3pm in time to pick up the kids from school, and starting again once they’ve gone to bed.

It might mean choosing your clients carefully so you take on work you enjoy so much so you would do it without getting paid. But it also means you need to accept and embrace the fact that working in a small business will invade much of your day. You are getting to do something for you and your family. Your work will become your life, but the rest of your life will benefit from the investment of time and effort you make.

Balanced? Probably not – but you may be happier because of it.