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These days, you can barely open a magazine without reading something about the lack of work-life balance in our society. Experts with all kinds of titles and certifications give advice on how to make free time for yourself, family, and friends. Next to the many reasons listed on why switching off your blackberry at night is essential to your peace of mind, you will most likely find an image either of an incredibly healthy looking person walking on the beach or someone blissfully stretched into some or the other yoga position. Point taken; the interconnectivity in our world has lead to a collective feeling that we constantly have to be ready to absorb new information and ‘switching off’ is becoming increasingly difficult. Therefore, advice is needed and can be helpful. When you work in a family business, however, the mainstream tips on how to balance work and life might just not cut it. The reason is simply that most of us working in a family business encounter more or less the same people at work as we do in our home lives. This leads to perpetual discussions about work that start in the boardroom and often only end on the living room sofa.
While it may be beneficial to a certain extent to discuss issues that happen at work with the family at home, it may have a detrimental effect on private relationships as well as on your own well-being if the attention keeps being dragged back to work, be it through a phone call or through another family member bringing up a work-related subject. It is essentially about finding a balance between work, the family and yourself.
Mothers do have a great say in this matter. As guardians of the home, they have a great influence on whether business crosses the threshold and may sit at the dinner table. For any mother, the well-being of the family comes first. She often is the one that recognises individual needs quickly and also sees when a family member is over-worked and therefore overwhelmed. Simple rules such as days that are reserved for family activities only, or are just simply ‘off work’ can sometimes do the trick. However, education and impressions during childhood can be even more meaningful: If children from an early age observe their parents to maintain a healthy division of time between work and their private lives, they are very likely to reproduce such a pattern themselves. For family business mothers, it is a difficult balance to keep. On one hand, a family business would like nothing better than to see the next generation taking a keen interest in the business, and therefore it is important to keep children in the loop on what is happening to the business. On the other hand, for children not to resent the business they need to be able to observe that it has not consumed their parents entirely and that there is always sufficient time for private lives and leisure time.
In a family business maintaining work-life balance makes double sense: if more time can be allocated properly just to the family and just to the individual’s needs automatically a healthy family paradigm is maintained that fosters respect between family members and for the business as well. Work-life-balance is an individual responsibility; however, in a family business, there are measures that can be taken by the family to make things easier on everyone. Whether that includes yoga and beach walks or not is ultimately up to everyone’s own taste.