By Amy Filippaios, founder of salon supplies wholesaler, SimplyHair
As a business owner, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a constant challenge. As the final decision-maker, at work, you are constantly pulled in different directions and responding to an ever-changing list of demands. Depending on your domestic responsibilities, time spent at home can be dominated by chores and childcare rather than relaxation, which can lead to burnout.
When my husband and I set up SimplyHair in 2013, we were both young with little responsibility and we were able to throw all our energy into getting our business off the ground. As the business and our family have grown, we have worked hard to adapt, dividing our time and energy across all areas of life and looking after our own wellbeing. Disruption throws us off-kilter and as business owners, particular transitions lead us to find new ways to redress the balance.
Finding a healthy work-life balance during the start-up phase can be very challenging. As most entrepreneurs and business owners will know, in the beginning, you have to commit your whole self to the business to aid its success. This phase can be incredibly exhilarating, as you begin to watch your ideas come to life, however it is easy to quickly burn out.
Both my husband and I were guilty of this, working all day, into the evening, and often at the weekend – running a digital marketing business alongside the SimplyHair e-commerce brand. Switching off was near impossible, especially when you live with your business partner, however it is important to remember that whilst you need to have all engines firing to get things off the ground over time this will lead to fatigue. Burn out will negatively impact your mental health, and ultimately, affects the growth and longevity of your business. There were definitely moments where we needed to completely step away and take a break to regroup to avoid losing sight of the bigger picture. To prevent your business defining your entire existence, schedule time for non-business-related activities and designate hours where you don’t discuss work.
Parenting and family life
Whilst finding a work-life balance was challenging in the start-up phase, nothing could have prepared us for the challenges we would face when we became parents. My husband and I had both of our children within 14 months of each other, so in little more than a year, we went from only having ourselves and our business to prioritise, to have two very small children. With no support from our family, we had to quickly adapt to our new roles as parents and still keep our “first baby”, the business, running. I had to take extended maternity leave and ended up being away from work for nearly 18 months in total. For other business owners, the pressures of family life can take different guises, from raising children to supporting relatives through illness or old age, which can alter their personal priorities.
It is important to learn to delegate to members of staff and relinquish control over some business decisions. When you are used to doing everything yourself, learning to trust others and resisting the urge to micromanage can take time and patience but is fundamental in order for the business to level-up and for you to find your feet as parents or carers. We had to rethink our schedules, and are fortunate that we can now split our days equally between working in the office and taking care of the children. It has taken a few years to learn to compartmentalise, another vital skill that ensures when we are with our children, our time is focused on them, and when we are at work our brains are dedicated to the business.
Awareness around the importance of managing our mental wellbeing has thankfully increased in recent years. One in four of us experience mental health problems every year and it can strike at any stage of life, particularly during periods of transition. Postnatal depression (PND) hit me at an especially vulnerable time. As anyone who has suffered from PND will know, guilt over our capabilities as a parent is a fairly common theme. In addition, as a business owner, my fears were exacerbated as I also experienced concerns over my ability to return to work and what it would mean for my team and the future of SimplyHair. During this time, I had to learn to prioritise myself, something I hadn’t really done when dividing my work and home life, so that I could focus on regaining my health. Detaching myself from work completely had a negative impact on my mental health, as I like to keep my brain busy and active. Therefore I found a way to work part-time, which helped me feel valuable in the business again and improved how I viewed my abilities as a mother. I also sought medical and professional support, which many business owners are reluctant to admit to, yet, we have no qualms about seeking advice from consultants and mentors when expanding our organisations. Whilst my PND was an incredibly personal challenge to overcome, ultimately it helped us to achieve a much more harmonious work-life balance and helped me to be more open with my husband and team. As a result, my personal and professional relationships flourished and our businesses benefited.