Running a small business takes guts. It also takes a lot of hard work.
Whether you are at the helm of a high-tech startup or leading a generations-old family business, you’re likely wearing a lot of hats and putting in more than your share of twelve-hour days.
Are you caught in an endless cycle, moving from one project to the next with no breaks in between? Does taking a weekend off—let alone a vacation—seem like an impossible dream? If so, it’s time to recalibrate and invest your energy into creating a healthier work-life balance. You may think, “I don’t have time for that,” but the good news is, with some creative solutions, you can actually get more done in less time.
Why work-life balance matters
The benefits of work-life balance start with having more hours in the day to spend outside the office, enjoying friends, family, and free time, but that’s only the beginning of the advantages:
- Work-life balance prevents burnout.
- Companies that value work-life balance attract and retain top talent.
- When employees are allowed to create their own schedules, they are more productive and sleep better.
- Work-life balance over the course or your career is good for your health—and may even extend your life.
5 ways to create a better work-life balance
Creating a healthy work-life balance is good for you, your team, and the company’s bottom line. Here are five tips to help.
1. Consider a shorter workday
There was a time when the eight-hour workday was considered a victory—but that was 200 years ago when ten-hour workdays were the norm. While long hours may have been effective for factory work, working to exhaustion is not productive when it comes to creative thinking. Experience demonstrates that shorter days can increase productivity.
When Tower, a small business that makes stand-up paddleboards, switched to a five-hour workday, it not only maintained productivity, but it was also named the fastest-growing private company in San Diego. Its nine-person team creating $9 million in revenue in 2016.
CEO Stephan Aarstol pointed out, “Just because you’re at your desk for eight hours doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Even the best employees probably only accomplish two to three hours of actual work. The five-hour day is about managing human energy more efficiently by working in bursts over a shorter period.”
2. Automate as much as possible
To be the most effective during the hours when you are at work, let technology do the work for you. You wouldn’t type a memo on an old-fashioned typewriter, would you? Then why are you still manually posting to social media? There’s an app for that (ninety-three of them, in fact) that will not only post your Tweet, for example, but also give you valuable information about customer engagement and recommend the best times to schedule your posts.
Are you still sending email campaigns with the same software you used five years ago? A lot has changed since then. VentureHarbor lists the pros and cons of the latest email marketing software—and its top choice costs less than $10 per month.
Automation tools are everywhere, and they’re easy to use, so why not let them do some of your work for you?
3. Move to the cloud
“Moving to the cloud” means moving data to the cloud, and if you’ve used Google Drive to save a photo you snapped with your phone, you’ve already moved data to the cloud. Put simply, the cloud is a network of servers.
Is your small business making the most of the cloud? Chances are, not yet. In an interview with BizTech, tech industry expert Rob Enderle explained that many small and medium-sized businesses are missing out: “They simply aren’t aware of how much more they can do and how much money and time they can save doing it in the cloud now.”
Accounting, design, CRM, developer tools—these are all available in the cloud. Moving to the cloud means that you no longer need to buy a one-size-fits-all “solution” that comes in a box, requires a lot of space on your computer, and has to be upgraded every year. With the cloud, you can log into a software provider’s platform and find the right fit for your company’s needs. The cloud is an emerging technology that can make your company more agile.
4. Get smart with the “Internet of Things”
Small-business owners may assume that the Internet of Things (IoT) has applications only for big businesses. But small businesses can win with the IoT as well. The IoT can transform almost anything into a “smart” device by adding a sensor. For example, a smart lock on the entrance to your business can be opened with an app on your phone because the app communicates with a sensor attached to the lock.
How can the IoT benefit small businesses? First, through efficiency: Imagine never running out of anything again. When your ink cartridge gets low, its sensor sends a message to your purchasing app, which searches for the best deal and places an order, and the next day, you have a new cartridge on your desk. More complex examples include energy efficiency (e.g., smart lighting in your office), loss prevention, and dramatic changes in manufacturing.
In the near future, the Internet of Things will provide real-time data about all sorts of processes and products. Imagine what that data could mean for making your business more efficient, effective, and profitable.
5. Take a vacation
When you see just how much can be done in less time than ever before, you may want to book a vacation. It turns out that you probably need one.
Most small-business owners have a tough time taking a vacation, and only 15 percent totally disconnect when they do. In spite of the benefits—to your health, your productivity, and even the company’s bottom line—Americans in general and small-business owners in particular leave a lot of vacation days on the table.
If you can’t carve out two weeks, start by taking a weekend off, completely unplugged. With the right preparation, you can empower your staff to run the business while you’re away.
What better way to demonstrate to your team that you value work-life balance than to take a giant step toward it yourself? As you implement these recommendations, you can streamline your business while creating a healthier, happier, and more productive work environment for you and your employees.