Tips for better work-life balance: Telstra survey finds SME owners want more family time

At some point in time, everyone wishes for an extra hour in the day. For SME business owners, new research reveals they’d spend the extra hour with their families.

A Telstra survey of more than 1000 business owners released yesterday found if there were 25 hours in a day, 43% of SME business owners would spend the extra time with family.

Of the respondents only 14% opted to put the extra time back into their businesses.

The survey also revealed 70% of the respondents started their business to try and manage their work-life balance better.

But Australian Institute of Management Victorian chief executive Tony Gleeson told SmartCompany in today’s society work-life balance is something which needs to be worked on, not just hoped for.

“Mobile phones, the internet and email brought in the expectation that you should be contactable at all time and constantly be responding to emails,” he says.

“People are now struggling with work-life balance. In a global survey we conducted we found around 90% of people worked over their contracted hours, but while people are working longer there hasn’t been a structured mechanism to balance this out.”

Gleeson says 20 years ago when workers went home, the only work they could take with them was reading, but now people need to create key performance indicators for their work and home lives.

You need to have a clear set of KPIs and know what to focus on in your professional development plan and what will be successful in the business. I see people doing work and I wonder why they’re doing it, often they’re doing things which don’t matter and it makes people inefficient,” he says.

“You should also think about setting KPIs for your family. Consider the things you need to be at like school concerts or parent-teacher nights, but remember there always need to be a balance.”

Of the respondents, 35% said they intended to invest in technology solutions in the next 12 months to increase their time.

Telstra recommended using cloud computing and tablets within the business to free up time.

“Mobile solutions can unlock the extra hour for small businesses to invest back into their lifestyle, which was one of the reasons they chose to set up their business in the first place,” Telstra Business group managing director Will Irving said in a statement.

“Finishing jobs sooner or getting more done each hour is imperative in any business and the easiest way to do that is by reducing time spent on administrative tasks.”

But Gleeson says the rise of mobile devices has meant people are more likely to take work home with them.

“Email and some of those devices have created grey boundaries between work, work life and family,” he says.

“My real concern is that they’ve allowed people to do things like send emails in front of the television, extending their work time and bringing it into the home more than ever before.”

Gleeson says people should consider switching off mobiles from a set time at night and during the day making set time to respond to emails.

Gleeson says business owners and employees feel like they need to work longer hours and stay connected, but businesses need to focus more on quality over quantity.

“You need to differentiate between quality and quantity. Understand yourself and the business and the things which actually make a significant difference. Those are the things you need to focus on,” he says.

“This is where an organisation needs to have strong KPIs so people know what success looks like. But remember success comes in lots of ways, like the number of new ideas generated and the operational efficiencies you achieve, not just revenue.”

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