No doubt you’ve read a lot about work-life balance and conflict over the past 12 months, in between your virtual meetings and homeschooling efforts.
No doubt you’ve experienced plenty of conflict yourself: the frustration, the emotional exhaustion of competing priorities. Perhaps those feelings have spilt over into the work domain. But could it affect the performance of your business?
Thankfully, new research not only addresses this question, but offers something you can do about it.
Exploring work-life conflict in entrepreneurs
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In new research from Brock University, Canada, researchers hypothesised that the emotional exhaustion caused by colliding personal and professional roles can affect business performance. They also had an inkling that approaching work-life challenges with an entrepreneurial mindset could protect business performance.
To test their theory, researchers went to where the problem is most potent. They surveyed 200 female entrepreneurs in Chile. While women generally experience greater work-life conflict than men, this is even more likely where gender stereotypes are a strong cultural norm.
The survey explored the entrepreneurs’ views on how work interfered with their family life, the emotion exhaustion from their work, how their business performed compared to their competitors, and the extent to which their business adopts an entrepreneurial strategic posture (defined as “high-levels of innovation, risk-taking and proactivity”).
The negative cycle
Researchers found entrepreneurs can experience this negative cycle:
- Running your own business takes a lot of energy;
- You feel emotionally drained when you experience work-life conflict;
- Emotional exhaustion can worsen business performance; and
- Running your business takes even more energy …
Chances are you’ve been there. You feel heavy expectations from yourself, your colleagues and your family as you jump between all the ‘top’ priorities. There’s a dauting feeling of losing control and letting people down.
Breaking the cycle
The encouraging news is that this cycle can be broken.
The research participants taking a more entrepreneurial approach to their business reported significantly lower levels of emotional exhaustion. They were also less likely to experience adverse business outcomes as work-life challenges increased.
The logic here is that an entrepreneurial mindset allows you to challenge norms and find novel solutions. You’re more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment and control as you address your conflicts with innovation. This relative boost of energy sustains you as you run your business.
The researchers offer these two broad recommendations:
1. Establish and solid network
Seek out and nurture relationships with:
- Mentors and role models who have experienced similar challenges;
- Professional and personal supporters who will tell you when you’re pushing too hard; and
- A village to take some of the load off when something’s got to give.
2. Think like an entrepreneur
Researchers found that adopting an entrepreneurial strategic posture at the business level reduces work’s interference with personal lives. That can lead to a boost in job satisfaction and protect business performance from the effects of work-life conflict.
So what could that look like?
- Outsource that thing that always takes you too long;
- Fight the afternoon energy slump with a 20-minute run;
- Shift your workday two hours earlier or later a few days a week;
- Enjoy a lunch date with your partner; or
- Take up that offer for help.
Now’s not the time to get conservative. Challenge, innovate and learn, and break the cycle.