Work-Life Balance. Now that’s an elusive concept when you run your own business.
What did I sign up for when I started my own business and left the security and reliability of a Government job? I saw it as an adventure, the big unknown, greener pastures, no more job interviews when my short-term contract ended… But if you’ve ever run a business then you’ll understand that it was naivety that led me to sign up to run a business. I had a goal of flexibility, and great things we could achieve.
I knew that my own business would be hard work; but I just didn’t understand how it would have such a colossal impact on all our lives.
I love my family. I love my husband and my two teenage girls. I want to be with them, and I want to be present with them when I am at home. It’s not always easy to remain present when you have 100 things going through your mind of what needs to happen to help your clients, or so that your team can do their job. Learning to switch off is one of the things I’m working on, so I can be the loving and caring wife and mother that I aspire to be. But it’s not easy.
Working from a home office for the past 3 years has led me to appreciate the importance of separating work from home. Working in a corner of the loungeroom with a nice desk and an office chair was a starting place for me. A place with low overheads and low risk in starting the business. However, both my workplace and my place of relaxation were in the same room. You can’t rest in a place of stress (even if it is good stress!)
Where could I go to switch off and not see any work that needed to be done? Where could I go so that I wasn’t reminded of the endless list of tasks needed for the business? Where could our girls go after coming home from school wanting to relax?
So, for almost 3 years I worked from that little nook in my loungeroom. I did all I could to contain my work within the desk, cupboard and drawer space, and pack things away at the end of the working week. I turned on a light to symbolise that I was at work and turned that one off when I wanted to relax for the night. I tried to separate the two spaces as best as possible, where there was no physical barrier other than a lounge.
For a time, it was lovely. For a while I relished in the fact that I didn’t have to drive anywhere to get to work. For a while I enjoyed being able to get up in my pyjamas and start working without putting on work clothes. For a while I found it really nice to spend afternoon tea with my girls when they came home from school before going back and finishing work that day.
Then working from home stopped being fun. It became overwhelming.
I could never get away from my workspace. When I was on weekends or holidays (if we hadn’t gone away) the piles of papers still sat there, beckoning, as if to say, “Come on, you know you want to work on me. It’ll feel much better if you just get one more report written”. Many times, I gave in to the call of the unfinished work, to do “just this one little thing”. My vacation time quickly flitted away and before long I was back to work, in the same space.
My mental health suffered from not being able to get away from work and responsibilities, and my home, my refuge and place of calm, became my place of stress and anxiety. “Why won’t the girls do their washing up? It’s my workplace, so they should know how much I want them to finish the washing up each night so that it feels more professional.”
“Why are they sitting on the lounge on their devices just relaxing while I’m working?” “Shouldn’t they be working as hard as me and get off Pinterest and Snapchat and get some things done?” “How can I be working while they’re relaxing in my same space?” My list of unrealistic expectations kept growing, but it wasn’t their workspace, just their home and place of refuge. The boundaries had blurred.
I knew these questions I had were unrealistic, but they were driving my thoughts. My family did not appreciate this time. This was exacerbated throughout 2020 when we could barely get any separate space from each other due to COVID19 restrictions and home schooling. We all tried to squeeze into different nooks and rooms through the house, so we could do our work or schooling. My family let me know that they didn’t appreciate their wife and mother being so preoccupied with thoughts of how to help others in the health business, when they themselves needed some love and attention as well.
We all needed our own space.
Three years into being a business owner and I have now rented a commercial property to go to work and get me out of my loungeroom. I now have a supportive team of people whom I feel privileged to work alongside of in the same building. I LOVE being away from home for work. I LOVE the drive to and from work while I blast the music and sing loudly along while I transition between my home world and my business world. I try not to bring work into my house; I no longer write long reports from my loungeroom and tell everyone that they need to be quiet for 4 hours while I craft a report.
I really enjoy working in a rented commercial office, and I am loving working beside my colleagues in this shared space. However, I would be lying if I did not say I am challenged by the new expenses for this privilege. Again, it’s a challenge to this ideal of “balance” between risk of increased overheads in order to help sustain what obviously would not have worked much longer if I kept working at home. I am confident that this will be short term pain for long-term gain.
In a little while, once all the systems, processes and income streams are moving forward, I expect optimistically that this period of self-doubt and self-directed pressure on how to pay all of the bills will be just a dim memory. I have a bigger vision of running a self-sustaining business model that drives us into new areas, allowing us to do all we’d ever dreamed of in wanting to be an allied health worker. To help people on our own terms while still being there for our families. This vision and dream propels me onward and upward.
Renting a space for the business has been my best decision to sustain me….