The self-employed also need work-life balance


The employed look at entrepreneurs with envy. The self-employed seem to work at their own schedule, can take breaks whenever they wish, and do not have to account for their time to a supervisor.

The reality is different, though. The evidence shows that businesspeople actually work longer hours than employees, take fewer breaks and hardly ever go on leave. Data from across the world shows businesspeople working more than 50 hours a week. That's at least eight hours a day Monday to Saturday, or seven hours a day, seven days a week.

There are no definite statistics on how many hours Kenyan entrepreneurs put into their businesses, but a typical shopkeeper opening shop at 6am and closing at 8pm is working 14 hours a day.

Owners of busy roadside cafes start working at 5am to prepare breakfast for their customers and close after 10pm. Public transport operators, supermarket owners, boda boda, hairdressers, barbers, bar owners, and hotel keepers are known to work long hours due to the nature of their business. Professionals doing freelance work often face tight deadlines, which forces them to work late into the night.

Unlike large organizations where each employee has a specific role, entrepreneurs cannot afford to employ many people. The entrepreneur must of necessity take up a variety of roles. He or she is in charge of sales, procurement, human resources, financial accounting, transport, customer service, and ensuring compliance with relevant laws. The multiple roles are a large part of the reason why businesspeople work late into the night.

Long working hours can bring success, but at the expense of health and relationships. Employees are often told to have a healthy work-life balance, but entrepreneurs also need that reminder.

“Today's working male and female face a broad set of daily challenges, which many times creates an imbalance between their working life and personal or family life," reads part of a paper written by Dr. Abdulrahman AlHazemi and Wasif Ali. The two describe a healthy work-life balance as "a state of equilibrium in which the demands of both a person's job and personal life are equal".

Work-life balance does not mean evenly splitting the day between work and personal matters. That may be possible in employment because the working hours are fixed, but not in a business. Achieving a work-life balance is all about making time to manage the many responsibilities of life.

The first step towards a healthy work-life balance is to take control of your time. Unlike in employment, businesspeople can determine for themselves how long to work. However, the ability to control one's schedule creates the temptation to fill up the day with activity. Realize that you cannot do everything yourself. It may be necessary to delegate an activity to someone else and postpone or cancel it.

For effective time management, question the value of everything you do, whether it's business-related, a hobby, a commitment to friends, or entertainment. Do these activities contribute to your personal goals? If not, consider dropping them to free up time for more fulfilling activities. 

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