Work-Life Balance? That’s Only Two-Thirds Of The Equation

There have been plenty of articles discussing the all-too modern dilemma of work-life balance. This article is particularly geared towards small and medium sized business principals and entrepreneurs. I’ll introduce a little history, talk about where we are now, then touch upon the role that money, or the lack thereof, has to play in this struggle.

What Happened To The Once Shortening Work Week?

When I was very young, the typical workweek in England was 5 ½ days. Long before I joined the workforce, most office workers there were 9 to 5 or 9:30 to 5:30, with an hour for lunch…. that people actually took! The talk was that with the dawning age of office computers, it was only a matter of time before the workweek shrank further. I grew up feeling that this was inevitable. It was, as they say, a known fact! Somehow, adding the word “known” before fact, really means that what is being talked about is widespread opinion.

Of course, what actually happened is that the decline in work hours has reversed to the extent that leisure time and even sleep, have been squeezed. The term work-life balance was unheard of until not a whole lot of years ago.

Call me a sceptic. (If you’re American, you can call me a skeptic! I surely won’t know the difference!) The wrongness of this absolute presumption, is one of the reasons I tend not to believe many of the pronouncements from the most respected sources, about how robots will be taking away most jobs. Or rather, I disbelieve the net effect, after new jobs are created, and many others strike out on their own.

What other things have we been told absolutely will happen to the workforce? (Please add a comment below, to start a discussion. I promise to join in).

Where We Really Are…

So here we are. Those in non-unionized jobs are working long hours and lucky to ever get a lunch break. Those working for themselves are working 7-days each week — and long hours on most of those days. Vacations? As my fellow Londoners say, “are you ‘avin’ a giraffe?” (Cockney rhyming slang for laugh!) If you go on one, you’re still working — just in a different location! And if you’re transitioning? I’ve done that, so I know. Not easy, is it!

Of course, all small business owners know that however much time you spend on your small business, you can never learn everything or do everything. And this is where those without a lot of money, hefty backing or an already healthy customer base, need help.

How Do We Get Around This?

Those who have the bucks to do so can spend anywhere from a couple of thousand a month up to 6-figures or more annually. For that money, they can get help with any or all of their SEO, Content Strategy, Social Media Management or they can hire a full Digital Marketing virtual department. Any number of companies, including our own, will offer some or all of these services for those who can afford them.

And what if you don’t have the money? Network!

Collaboration and Digital Marketing

With more people than ever working on contracts, there are any number of ways that projects can be built or small companies can be staffed, without hiring employees. I’ve fantasized about building the perfect collaboration/project management tool, because to my mind, there is nothing that comes close to meeting the evolving project dynamic. Alas, such a project has huge ramp up time, and will surely be blown out of the water by the big players. Might someone perhaps mention his or her favourite collaboration and/or project management tool below, no matter its limitations?

Creating projects in this way, though, still costs money. And kick-ass tool or not, someone still needs to spend the time to keep on top of things.

If You Have Little To No Money….

The whole work/life balance thing is only two-thirds of the story for those who are running a business. The other third is money. If you have that, you can sooner strike a good balance with the other two. If you don’t, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

If you’re just starting out on the tightest of budgets, it’s all about the networking….. and time, patience and perseverance. Influencer Marketing for a beginner is only going to happen quickly if you:

  • Came into a field already knowing that someone will champion you
  • Are willig to pay them money (so discount those without any)
  • Have something you can give them that they will value as much as money or
  • Get really, really lucky!

Back To the Future — Barter!

Bartering has a very interesting history dating back thousands of years. If you want to read a little about it, I’ve added a couple of resources at the end of this article.

I find it amusing that this old system is going through such a revival. But in an era of so many people trying to do their own thing, it was surely inevitable.

In this article from mint.com, there is an interesting caution about employing it. Beyond the trust factor, they suggest a familiar trap:

“At times, it is easy to think the item you desire is worth more than it actually is and underestimate the value of your own item.”

Familiar, of course, because we’ve all been seduced by goods or services that ultimately didn’t provide the promised, expected or needed value. Likewise, many of us have been nervous about asking for true value for our own products or services. I’ve heard frank conversations where participants admitted to feeling like imposters or frauds when asking for money. Yes, if you feel pangs of guilt asking for money for your services, you are similarly likely to have to fight the compellation to undersell your part of any barter.

All of that aside, this is not the best option for work/life balance! However, it could also be a business saver.

Closing Caution

Misaligned work-life balance is a still-increasing problem. And the shift towards entrepreneurship is doing nothing to ease that. The march towards further automation that is eliminating many jobs, will surely only exacerbate the situation for many. The most important thing when going out on your own is to somehow free up some of the time you’re spending on the day-to-day running of your company, to occasionally take stock of your chosen direction.

If you’re neither getting the returns your efforts deserve nor getting your workdays in check, there’s no reason to believe that continuing to do the same thing will change those results for the better. If you are stuck in a profitless rut yet always working, please find the time to make changes. We see too many small businesses disappear. Please don’t be the next one without going down fighting!

Over To You

There’s so much to write on this subject, it’s impossible to do more than scratch the surface. Do you have anything you’d like to share on this subject? I’m sure anyone identifying with the above would be very grateful for your comments.

Images: Copyright: ‘https://www.123rf.com/profile_kchung' / 123RF Stock Photo

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