“It’s true hard work never killed anyone but I figure why take the chance?” Ronald Reagan, former U.S. President
“For workaholics, all the eggs of self-esteem are in the basket of work.” Judith M. Bardwick, Business Consultant & Author
Question: “now that having a phone/email in your pocket 24/7 is a universal norm, how does it affect your professional life and how do you unplug on your days off without coming across as lazy or uncaring, and is someone who never unplugs a better employee/manager because they’re always available?”
Name: Dani Sage
Current occupation: Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Wife, Animal mom, Salon manager; “Just A Gluten Intolerant Workaholic In Domestic Bliss!”
Over the past couple of posts, I’ve discussed work-life balance. Research into work-life balance is often centered on corporate practices, such as employee benefits and policies. But nearly 50% of the U.S. economy is small businesses, or those firms that employ 500 employees or less. Small business also represented 65% of job growth from 1995-2011.[i] Starting or managing a small business can be a grind, and the experience of small business owners appears to be unique.
Many small business workers describe themselves as “workaholics.” Interestingly, academics have recently honed in on workaholism as a concept. In a recent summary of previous work on the concept, work psychologists found that “workaholism is related to many negative outcomes such as burnout, job stress, work–life conflict, and decreased physical and mental health.” In clarifying the definition of a workaholism, the authors found “solid evidence that workaholism is best conceptualized as an addiction to work that leads to many negative individual, interpersonal, and organizational outcomes.[ii]” An alternative approach taken by Dutch human resource management researchers conceptualized workaholism as “as a compulsive inner drive to work excessively hard.[iii]” Their approach highlighted that certain personal beliefs contribute to exhaustion and workaholism. The study followed academic staff members over time, finding that workers’ performance-based self-esteem (self-esteem derived from performing well on the job) and a predisposition to working until “enough work was done” contributed to exhaustion. Ouch.
The Real World Experience
But what is it like to be a self-confessed workaholic? Enough of the studies, let’s here some experiences!
Enter Dani Sage. Dani is a small business owner, friend, and fellow blogger (who, by the way has her act together MUCH more than I do on this blog thing…). Her blog is The Stay at Work Housewife, which is an apropos title, considering the work-life balance series I’ve been writing. Dani follows my blog for some reason (I’m honored) and has submitted ideas for previous posts. One day she sent me a long message about technology, etiquette, the work/life “line,” delegating decisions, and other topics. To her, and many small business managers, unplugging from work a) isn’t an option, and/or b) needs to happen.
Sooooo, I’m not sure I have a direct answer to Dani’s question. (I’ve tried to elaborate about general balance here and workplace practices here) So, instead of hitting her with even more theories, I thought I’d ask her about her experience, and then offer some reflection:
s.o.c.: What does work-life balance mean to you?
Dani: Finding the right work-life balance to me means not letting my career ambitions affect my personal relationships and vice versa. At this stage in my life I feel like it is easy to let my career consume most of my time because I don’t have kids, and most of my friends are at the same place in there career, so they are very understanding if I cancel plans because of something work related. My biggest challenge with work-life balance is trying not to feel guilty, or less hard working, if I take time away from work (even after work hours) to socialize, or do something for myself.
s.o.c.: What are your biggest passions in and out of the workplace?
Dani: My biggest passion in the workplace is employee development. I feel that as a manager, you measure your success by the success that you create for others. I love developing talent in my industry and watching my employees’ career grow, and as a result, their personal lives.
My biggest passion in my personal life is cooking, I really enjoy trying new recipes and entertaining my loved ones. It is important to me to keep myself and my family going with healthy, fresh meals.
s.o.c.: What is your biggest frustration with work demands? With home demands?
Dani: As the manager of two busy salons, my biggest frustration with work demands is the expectation to be constantly available. All of my employees know that I have a cell phone, and they don’t hesitate to get ahold of me with questions (questions that could easily be saved for the next business day), I think this problem stems from how casual text messaging feels. Although answering a text doesn’t take much time or effort away from my day/evening off, it is still my work life spilling in to my personal time.
My biggest frustration with home demands is that there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. I am usually too tired at the end of my workday to get anything done around the house, so my days off are filled with to-do lists.
s.o.c.: What techniques do you use to help with balancing work and life demands?
I mostly use my two days off during the week to balance out my personal life. On Sundays I take care of my “Have To Do’s” (cleaning, laundry, prepping meals for the week ahead, grocery trips) and Wednesdays are reserved for my “Want To Do’s”; I decompress, catch up on reading, hit up happy hour and I treat myself to a massage every 3 weeks. On my days off my phone is on silent and I only check it every few hours.
It is one of my “work rules” that I leave my home life at home, everyone is human and allowed to have bad days, but no matter what is going on in personal life, it is unacceptable to let it effect my job.
s.o.c: Do you find keeping home issues from affecting your work difficult?
Dani: My team knows that even though Dani as a person has sympathy for [home related] problems, business doesn’t have sympathy, especially in this industry. People come to us to feel better and they aren’t paying you to have a bad day.
Dani isn’t alone in her struggle to balance work and life demands. Actually, she pretty much sums up the whole discussion. Where does one draw lines? How does one maintain relationships and obligations across work and non-work domains? This experience seems to fit very well into the previous discussions in this series, and in academic study in general (what we in academia call external validity!). Leaving work and home separate is a messy business, perhaps especially in small business.
My questions to you:
- What does balance mean to you?
- What do you think about the term “workaholic?”
- How separate are your work and non-work domains in life?
- What is a small business owner/manager like Dani to do?
[i] Nazar, J. “16 Surprising facts about small businesses.” Forbes.com. September 9, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/09/09/16-surprising-statistics-about-small-businesses/ accessed 4/3/14 SOURCE: uses US Census data
[ii] Clark, M. A., Michel, J. S., Zhdanova, L., Pui, S. Y., & Baltes, B. B. (2014). All Work and No Play? A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Correlates and Outcomes of Workaholism. Journal of Management, 0149206314522301.
[iii] van Wijhe, C. I., Peeters, M. C., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2014). Enough is Enough: Cognitive Antecedents of Workaholism and Its Aftermath. Human Resource Management.