Balancing work-life responsibilities

Growing a business has often been equated to raising a child – a 24/7 role involving countless sleepless nights and never-ending concerns about the business’ future success. While a work-life balance is always strived for by entrepreneurs, the increasing consumer, economic and societal pressures means finding this desired balance is becoming even more difficult to achieve.

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Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that to keep up with work-life demands and to make ends meet, both at home and in the workplace, many people are working harder and longer, especially small business owners.

“It’s not surprising that with these increased pressures and a skewed focus towards work that stress levels are on the rise. But rather than having a positive outcome and generating increased input from the extra work hours, this could have the opposite intended effect,” says Mjadu.

Given the very nature of entrepreneurship, high stress levels are a common and often unavoidable component of an entrepreneur’s day, week and month. However, elevated levels of stress can be brought on by an unbalanced lifestyle and led to long-lasting negative effects, on both the entrepreneur, their family, business and broader network.

Read more: SA’s best entrepreneur announced

As October 2017 marks Mental Illness Awareness Month, it has been widely reported that increased and unmanaged levels of stress is a leading contributor to a number of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.

Pointing to recent figures by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), which reported that 74% of South African workers reported reduced concentration and a loss of productivity due to depression, Mjadu says that while entrepreneurs may believe that more work hours, equals greater success, this isn’t always the case. “Business owners should be cognisant of the role that a healthy work-life balance can play in promoting good personal and business health.”

However, finding this balance isn’t always easy, and that some of South Africa’s top entrepreneurs struggle with the task on a daily basis.

Willem van der Merwe, owner of Africa Biomass Company (ABC) and 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year, says that one of biggest challenges in running your own business is balancing the various aspects of your life, but he found that involving his family in his business from early on helped them understand the demands and pressures placed upon him as his own boss. “My family is my number one priority and having their full understanding and support is vital. No family support equals no business in my mind,” he says.

But finding the type of balance where you don’t disappoint either party, work or family, is especially tough, says Joe Hamman, owner and founder of Novus Group and a finalist in the competition. “I don’t believe that I have perfected the balance yet myself, but I do commit to a routine of leaving the office at 18h00 daily and not doing any work once I get home so that I can be 100% present with my family in the evenings. I do, however, wake up at 02h00 to catch up on any work while my family is sleeping,” says Hamman.

To minimise work pressures, entrepreneurs, especially those in the start-up phase, should look to create trackable systems to monitor and track the business’ operations, says Siphiwe Ngcobo, founder of iLawu Hospitality Group and 2017 Job Creator of the Year. “When I started my business, managing a work-life balance was incredibly difficult, and it had a negative effect on my personal relationships. I’ve since learnt the benefit of implementing effective systems throughout my business, which has meant that I don’t have to be physically present for each process. As a result, I now also have a team of qualified and capable staff who are able to take tasks off my hands,” he says.

The absolute key to maintaining a healthy home life and entrepreneurial balance is knowing what is of most importance to you personally. “Decide whether family or business success is any more important than the other. Making a firm decision in this regard will you help you manage your environment accordingly and enable you to achieve your desired outcome and ultimately, your desired balance,” feels Van der Merwe.