Work-life boundaries

Self-employment is often seen as the pathway to a better work-life balance, but sometimes the reality of owning a small business is far from the dream.

The demands of running a business can leave little time or energy for other parts of your life, like social time, leisure activities or learning, health and fitness. This imbalance may be possible for short periods, but consistently sacrificing other aspects of life that are important to you can leave you feeling conflicted and dissatisfied.

Small business owners who juggle their role of managing the business with the shared or sole responsibility of managing a family, may feel the strain of work-life imbalance even more intensely. When business demands compete with household responsibilities, you can regularly feel like you have to choose between the business and your family.

Finding the right balance for your health

Difficulties in balancing work and private life is known as work-life conflict. Research is finding that work-life conflict can affect our work satisfaction as well as our health and wellbeing.

Striking a healthy work-life balance, where you adjust your daily activities to achieve a sense of balance between your work and personal life, can:

  • reduce stress levels, at work and at home
  • increase your job satisfaction, and satisfaction with life in general
  • enable you to participate more fully in family and social life
  • give you more time to pursue personal goals and hobbies
  • improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Tips to take action to improve your work-life balance

  • Recognise the importance of the non-work dimensions of your life: Exercise, friendships and participating in leisure activities act to protect your mental health and enhance your resilience to stress. To stay healthy in business, it’s important to allocate time to these in your weekly schedule.
  • Monitor the hours you work on your business: Calculating your business hours should also include the time you spend thinking about the business in your personal or family time. If your time allocation to the business is consistently causing work-life conflict over a period of time, consider redefining your working hours.
  • Work smarter, not longer: List the tasks you need to get done, prioritise them, allow yourself a certain amount of time per task and stick to it. Avoid wasting time on tasks that don’t add value to your customers. Defining your personal and business goals can assist you to prioritise.
  • Invest in help: Getting help to improve your business systems or outsourcing parts of your business can free up some time to spend on other things that are important to you. There are a number of advisory services to help you decide what would work best for your business, including Business Connect Advisors, a free program funded by NSW Government.
  • Arrange your work schedule to meet commitments: Running a small business gives you the autonomy to decide when and how you work. Make the most of this opportunity by scheduling your work around your personal and family commitments.
  • Set boundaries: No matter how many hours you put into your business, there will always be more you could do. The key to achieving a healthier work-life balance involves setting boundaries and respecting them, for example:
    • say ‘no’ to work if you’re already overloaded
    • letting your clients know in advance that you will be unavailable during certain times of the day or week
    • define your work space, especially if you work from home
    • be clear about your business offering and say no to requests outside of this scope.

Further information and links

Flying solo

Work-life balance articles for sole traders.

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