Finding work-life balance as a small business owner

Managing your business

The question of what to do about worker burn-out and achieving employee work-life balance has loomed large the last couple of years. But what about the balance between business and personal life for small business owners?

Small business owners need to juggle the care of customers, business partners, and employees in addition to their families. Truist’s survey of 518 small business owners (Truist's 2023 Small Business Survey) found that 39% of owners are still looking for balance.1 Failure to find an appropriate work-life balance can contribute to a variety of negative consequences, as a number of surveyed owners reported experiencing increased stress, trouble sleeping, less time for self-care, increased irritability, strain on close relationships and physical health problems.

When work and life are out of balance1

Percentage of small business owners surveyed who experienced:

bar graph showing survey responses of when work and life are out of balance.

“It’s difficult to be your best self either at work or at home if you’re stressed,” said Scott Stearsman, head of small business for Truist. “Taking the time to learn what small business owners are doing to keep their lives balanced and energized is time well spent.”

Actions you can take to have more balance in your work and home lives

Despite the added stress, 88% of small business owners surveyed are taking positive actions to achieve work-life balance.1

“Work-life balance is not a one-shot deal. It’s an ongoing process of defining your purpose and then adjusting your activities to align with that vision,” said Bright Dickson, senior purpose advisor with the Truist Leadership Institute. Follow these steps as you seek the balance between work and personal activities that fits your situation.

  1. Think through your priorities and set goals.
  • Look at your priorities for both your business and personal life. Many small business owners state that they started their businesses to achieve better work-life balance or to fulfill a personal passion.
    • What are your priorities for your business in terms of sales targets, new products, or social or community impact?
    • Are there times when you will need to be singularly focused on the business (such as the first year in starting up or when bringing a new major client on board)?
    • What are your priorities for your personal life including family, exercise, hobbies, or other activities that bring you joy and balance?
    • Are there times when you need to focus on family such as the birth of a child or the care of a parent?
    • List these activities in order of importance.
  • Set specific work-life balance goals for yourself. Reviewing the priority list you created, establish boundaries around the number of hours you will spend on work and hours you won’t be available for work (except for emergencies). Also add in tangible personal goals for yourself and those you care about.

Actions to achieve work-life balance

Percentage of survey small business owners who:

bar graph showing survey responses of actions to achieve work-life balance

2. Actively schedule personal care.

  • Recognize the signs of stress and the activities that help you de-stress. What are the indicators of stress for you—insomnia, eating too much or too little, fatigue, headaches, irritability? What are activities that bring you peace and calm—being in nature, playing with your child, going out with friends?
  • Incorporate stress management strategies. Small activities can help you reduce stress in the moment such as deep breathing, stretching, a quick walk outside, or keeping a gratitude journal.
  • Build regular health and wellness activities into your schedule. In addition to blocking time for the stress-reducing activities above, set aside time for personal care activities such as daily or weekly exercise, meal planning for healthy food, and regular social interactions.

3. Seek support for balance.

  • Look at the circle of family, friends, business associates, and advisors around you. Since it’s often difficult to get an accurate perspective on your own work-life balance, ask those around you to hold you accountable.
  • Delegate, so you don't have to do it all yourself. Hand off those tasks that others can (and should) handle so that you limit activities that create stress or rob you of time.
  • Build a collaborative, high-performing team and empower them to succeed. Employees, contractors, partners, and advisors who understand your vision and have the skill and motivation to make it happen can help prevent pressures on your work-life balance from emerging.

4. Use tech and financial tools to manage your time.

  • Leverage technology and automation. For every process, consider asking, "Can this be automated?" Adopting accounting, payroll, marketing, customer service, and inventory systems can save time and help avoid the stress of finding time for routine tasks.
  • Explore using time tracking and calendaring apps. There are several options available to help you track and manage your time. In selecting the best app for you, consider who will use it, how you’ll use it, whether it needs to integrate with other systems such as accounting and payroll, and whether you’ll access it on desktop, tablet, or phone. Start simply by putting your guidelines into action, such as setting “unavailable” time for exercising or carving out time for projects.

Consider using financial productivity tools to free up administrative time. Use online banking to get more visibility into how your business is doing. Take advantage of Online Payroll, Merchant Services, and business credit cards to simplify the financial management of your small business.

Are you ready to find the work-life balance that fits you?

Talk to someone who understands small businesses. Call your Truist small business banker at 877-279-3083, schedule time for an in-person or virtual appointment, or visit Truist Small Business to find out how we can help with ideas, advice, and financial tools for your business. 

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment advice. You’re encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We don’t make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information. We don’t endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here. And we take no liability for your use of this information.