The Importance of Baking Work–Life Balance Into Your Business

work-life balance May 27, 2020

A tweet on work-life balance caught my attention this week. Here's what it said...


It wasn't so much Daniel's tweet that got me thinking, but the string of responses... tweets like:

"HAHAHA Balancing a life of working all the time."

"Business isn't for everyone"

"No such thing. Business is 24/7"

"Work yes, life no!"

Don't get me wrong. I'm the first to admit that building a business is hard work, and I have a great deal of respect for the work Daniel does...

But, baking work-life balance into your business from the outset, is that really such a bad idea?

Nine out of ten startups will fail. 

A sizeable percentage, forty-two to be exact, fail because there is no need for their product or service. Another 29% run out of cash and 23% because they don't have the right team. Then there are things like poor product, poor marketing, losing focus... the list goes on.

What's not on the list is: not "working all the time" or not working "24/7".

However, burnout is there... 8% of startups fail because of burnout.  

A few years ago, Business Insider published an article about depression in the startup community. According to the article, 7% of the general population report suffering from depression, while 30% of founders report dealing with its effects, and more than 50% of those get to burnout.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is: How can we bake work-life balance into our businesses from the outset?

And burnout isn't unique to startups. Research by Harvard Business Review found that 25% of entrepreneurs felt moderately burned out, while 3% felt strongly burned out. The same article mentions research that shows burnout leads to work-related issues such as job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, inefficient decision making, and turnover, as well as health-related issues such as depression, heart disease, and even death. 

So, why if most of us embark on our entrepreneurial journeys in search of freedom do so many of us find ourselves burned out and feeling trapped in our businesses?

I think, at least in part, that the answer lies in our perception of Silicon Valley and the startup culture, which has seeped into every other business. We see a few people who have become billionaires, and we tend to think if we work like them, then we'll be successful (rich like them) too.  

But a lot of the companies that come out of the Valley are not profitable, and there is no way for them to survive beyond 5 or 6 years—their end game is an acquisition, an IPO, a merger, or fizzling out.

They aren’t playing what Simon Sinek refers to as an infinite game

So when budding entrepreneurs embark on their entrepreneurial journey, they get caught up in the startup rhetoric and set off with a pocket full of what I like to call H-Words... words like Hustle and Hack and Hyper — words that are only useful in a finite game.

And so begins the journey toward failure or worse the owner's trap.

Over the years, I've built many successful businesses from the ground up, and I've had the opportunity to work with many successful entrepreneurs. I've never heard any of them say, I wish I had worked longer hours. Most of them wish they had worked more wisely and spent more time on the life side of the work-life equation.

Just putting in more time or working more doesn’t mean anything. You’re not guaranteeing yourself a better outcome or more success.

In fact, for many business owners, success is not defined by revenue targets or big numbers. Instead, it means doing something they want to do, something that they really enjoy doing. Working with the people they enjoy working with every day. Challenging themselves intellectually and creatively. And having a positive impact on the world.

Yes, building a company is hard. Finding good people is tough: it’s expensive, it’s hard to train people it’s hard to keep them. The worst thing you can do is lose those people to burnout and team dynamics.  

I used to cringe at the phrase work-life balance. But now my leaning is toward freedom. And my work and life are more mixed up. One does not dominate the other. I've found that things like clarity and purpose and focus play a massive role in helping me achieve my goals—more so than working more. In fact, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is how I keep my energy level up and produce more in less time. 

And I'm not alone... 

Entrepreneurs like Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson built BaseCamp as a side project, dedicating maybe 10-15 hours per week from Jason on the design and another 10-15 hours per week on the coding done by his partner David Heinemeier Hansson.

The trick is, if you have 40 hours designated work hours in the week, make sure those are productive in the way you want them to be productive and not just chasing dollars.

The interruption to thought through the endless stream of emails and text messages and social media posts about hustling and hyper-connecting with customers takes away from your focus—and causes a work-life imbalance. 

You can’t build an enduring company that way. You’ll burn out. Your people will burn out. And if you don't fail, you'll end up caught in the owner's trap, wondering why you didn't bake work-life balance in from the outset.

Have a great week!

For more of insights into building a business that runs without you, check out:

And be sure to subscribe to The Freedom Experience podcast for behind-the-scenes insights into how to turn your business into a valuable asset that doesn't require you to become a workaholic zombie to thrive.


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