by David B. Bohl
The mantra of the late 90s and the first decade of the 21st century is "Be proactive." And corporations are doing a fine job of being proactive in claiming ownership of the "work-life" discussion.
They're doing this because when they launch the discussion first, they get to define the parameters--they get to make the rules.
To many companies, good "work-life" balance means providing on-site amenities and conveniences so that employees don't have to leave work often ... and thus, they stay later.
It might also mean that a company allows telecommuting so that employees can work from home via computer, since studies have shown that employees will actually put in more hours per day at home, working online, than at the office.
In short, companies attempt to frame the work-life discussion in a way that is most favorable to them.
The problem is that those solutions generally don't benefit the employee or enhance his/her life balance.
Therefore, entrepreneurs and small business owners should not try to emulate what large corporations do. Instead, you should look towards owning your own work-life discussion.
The discussions that companies have with their employees about work-life balance are adversarial by nature. At the heart of it, the company wants more work from the employee and the employee wants more time off.
Thus, company-employee discussions are win-lose propositions because they invariable end up being about the corporation versus the employee.
The good news is that this needn't be the case for the entrepreneur and small business owner. For you, your business and your family are not mutually exclusive -- they're intertwined.
Particularly in the case of home-based businesses, you can do things that most companies wouldn't allow, such as tend a sick child during coffee breaks, or spend lunch doing laundry with your spouse.
Or you could take a page from pre-World War II life, when traffic in cities had yet to become horrible, and sit down and have lunch with your spouse and kids (pre-WW II, most men who worked in offices drove home to have lunch, since traffic wasn't the huge issue it is now, and cities were not as large).
As a business owner, you own the discussion when it comes to balancing your life and your work. You can make trade-offs. If your child needs a chaperone for a school field trip on a Thursday afternoon, you can take off and go (don't forget to change your voicemail and email to reflect that you're out of the office).
David Bohl of Reflections Coaching, LLC, has these suggestions for taking ownership of your work-life balance:
- Define your priorities.
- Define your work boundaries, such as where you work and what your business hours are.
- Define possible exceptions to business hours, such as your child's field trips, doctor visits, birthdays, et cetera.
- Make a contingency plan for how you will deal with exceptions. (For example, "If I take off a weekday afternoon, I'll put in a half-day on Saturday.")
- Talk with your spouse and kids and find out what they'd like as far as time spent with you, and when.