This week is Working Families' #WorkLifeWeek, and as a network of business-owning women we think it’s a brilliant initiative!
The campaign encourages those of us who are employers to share how we are supporting our employees with families to have flexibility in their work, and inspire others to do the same. So if you're an employer as a business owner, is this something you can get behind?
At Inspire, many of our members are women who have chosen to leave employment due to a desire to increase their flexibility to be parents, carers and enjoy freedom in how and when they work. But often the reality is that growing a business can cause us to work longer hours than we did before and to feel that the juggle is even harder!
So we thought we'd share some tips today to manage the stress that can sometimes come from trying to grow a business.
It’s unlikely to come as a surprise that, in a survey done by the accountancy-for-freelancers firm FreeAgent, the number one reason respondents gave for choosing to become self-employed was that they wanted a better "work-life balance". We should add that we don't necessarily believe there is such a thing as work vs life as a business owner, but having boundaries that enable you to enjoy your life can help to create harmony, and it's this harmony that many employed people feel they lack.
It may not be that you, reading this article right now, regard time freedom and having more flexibility as your own top reason for starting your own business but we’re willing to bet it factored in somewhere.
Working from home, or in a location that suits you, can have a positive impact on your stress levels. In fact, a study of over a thousand remote workers showed that 60% of people felt their mental health was better for it! Not only that, but you save money from the commute – a not insignificant £29 every week, according to Aldermore Bank. Then on top of that, those of us who have family caring commitments can also be more flexible about how and when we work: critical during school holidays or in times of crisis or illness within the family.
During the pandemic 25 out of 26 companies interviewed felt that employees working remotely and more flexibly had no or even increased effect on productivity, so it stands to reason that the self-employed and business owner community do just as well. But, crucially, when you live and work in the same place, that line between ‘work’ and ‘life’ is hazier. Keeping both your home and your business running efficiently is no easy task, so we have some tips from research and our own experiences to help you on your way:
Tip #1 - Outsource work
If you find the tide of work vs. life turning the wrong way, perhaps it's time to get someone else involved.
Find whatever part of your business you hate the most and, if you can, pay someone else to do it. There are articles and articles and articles about the benefits, but to keep it short and sweet it can help not just your sense of wellbeing but your business too.
Smallbusiness.co.uk points out that delegating gives managers ‘more time for creating growth strategies and focus on the general improvement of the business’. In other words, you can get on with focusing on the tasks that you bring your strengths and skills to – which are probably the ones you find the most fun and are what inspired you to start a business in the first place!
Only you know what sort of help you need: maybe a Virtual Assistant to streamline your commitments, or a bookkeeper for your finances, or a social media manager to release you from having to create and manage your marketing campaigns and online presence. You can find people to help you among our members at The Inspire Network within our membership community, so it’d be a great place to start your search as well as to explore what you may be best off outsourcing, how to do it, and when.
Tip #2 - Share the mental load
In case you’re not familiar, ‘mental load’ is the organisational effort of keeping a household running well, recognising what tasks need doing and when, not just the physical act of doing them.
If you’re a business owner with children, chances are your mental load is huge – 86% of working mothers say they handle all their household responsibilities, and those who are the breadwinner for their house are actually more likely to be doing so.
If you’re being crushed by the pressure of your mental load, share how you’re feeling with your family, partner, or whoever else may be living with you and adding to this pressure. Enlist their help and explain to them that you need their support.
Consider allocating just one or two new tasks for them to do to start with and increase this over time. A rota of tasks may also help everyone see what they need to do and when, to help them remember!
Tip #3 - Prioritise rest, manage stress
Sometimes as a business owner, things can feel pretty full-on, and stress levels can run high.
There’s just no way around it: starting and growing a business is a lot of work, and the only way to move forward is just to knuckle down and do it. Still, it’s essential to set aside and ringfence downtime, so that you get the rest you need. If you’re not well-rested you’re at risk of becoming unwell, and your business needs you to be functioning!
As a network of business owners, we know how tough it can be. Managing stress can be done in dozens of ways, that would take up many blog posts (in fact, come back in a couple of weeks for an International Stress Awareness Week article!) but you know yourself best...
Do you have friends or family who will loan a sympathetic ear? Can you make a few minutes for yourself every day to do something calming or fun? If you have your secret stress-management techniques we’d love to hear them.
Tip #4 - Seek support from people who understand
If you find yourself struggling to manage the juggle and looking for support to find a better sense of balance (or harmony, remember?), you can access even more helpful advice and tap into the power of the hive mind in The Inspire Hub and attend Block-Busting meetings where you can workshop your challenges and find support from other business owners who know what it's like!
Find out more about becoming a member and gaining access to our safe, supportive community and meetings, by joining us: www.theinspirenetwork.co.uk/membership