How to maintain your work-life balance as a startup founder

If you’re a startup founder, you’re probably passionate and committed to your job. It’s not like you just let the business take care of itself.

It takes ambition, grit, and determination to create a business plan, find funding, and then take the actions required to realise your vision. Whilst these are positive and necessary attributes for a startup founder, there’s a point where they actually come to the detriment of yourself and your business.

Without proactive care and attention, your job can easily become all-consuming. Before you know it, you’ll start to see personal relationships starting to suffer, hobbies and passions outside of work fall by the wayside, and, worst of all, negative consequences to your physical and mental health. Here lies the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

We’re not saying it's easy. The failure rate of startups is well known. We’ve all heard statistics about how 90% of startups fail. Even outside of a startup context, hustle culture, cost of living, and societal pressure are pushing all of us to prioritise our careers above all else. It's still important to make time for our personal life, though – probably more important than you think.

In this article, we’ll explain just why work-life balance is so important. We’ll outline the benefits of a good one and the risks of a bad one as well as suggest a few actionable tips on how to maintain yours.

The importance of work-life balance

Work-life balance. It’s the relationship between the roles we play within our profession and in contexts outside of work. It describes how we determine the time and effort we dedicate to our job in relation to other aspects of our lives.

The important thing to remember about it is that the responsibility to maintain them is ours alone. Alas, there’s no function in ESG softwares to measure how many hours of sleep employees get each night and whether they call their parents on a regular basis. There are fewer services designed to help streamline our personal obligations than our professional ones.

What are the benefits of a good work-life balance?

It’s all well and good talking about the importance of self-care, but to many, it just seems like a luxury they can’t afford. This is especially true for those in high-pressure, demanding jobs which they care deeply about – startup founders, for instance.

What people often overlook is how a healthy work-life balance benefits not just your personal life but your professional life too. The point of work-life balance is they allow you to enjoy an ambitious, fruitful career, only without sacrificing personal relationships and self-care.

These are just some of the benefits of keeping a well-maintained work-life balance:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease and an increase in general health
  • Less risk of mental illness
  • Better job-satisfaction
  • Increased productivity and enthusiasm at the workplace
  • Improved people skills and communication
  • Greater ambition in the workplace

What are the risks of a poor work-life balance?

That’s right, people who neglect their own self-care can end up having all sorts of issues both inside and outside the workplace. Yet it’s common for us to neglect personal obligations for work's sake. You might start spending less time with friends and family, taking work home with you, or simply being too tired to properly unwind at the end of the day. Then, before you know it, maintaining your performance at work comes to rely on your continued over-commitment.

Whilst a healthy work-life balance can be difficult to achieve and maintain, there are dire consequences of overwork for your mental health, physical health, and more. Really, self-care is something you can’t afford to go without.

Here are some of the potential risks of a poor work-life balance:

  • Stress
  • Heart conditions and poor physical health
  • Higher incidence of mental health issues like depression and anxiety
  • Damage to personal relationships
  • Burnout
  • Decreased productivity in the workplace

How to maintain a healthy work-life balance

So, now you know the importance of maintaining a work-life balance, here are some actionable tips on how to do it, specifically for startup founders. As mentioned, there are a number of factors that make overwork particularly common in this line of work. So, for the entrepreneurs out there, these tips are tailored to help you keep an even keel.

Set boundaries

Learning to set boundaries is simply part of the art of growing up. At the end of the day, if you don’t respect your boundaries, no one else will either.

This is difficult – especially for the founder of a startup. If there’s still work to be done at the end of the day, it's easy to take it home with you. You may start as a one-off, but it's a slippery slope that leads to your lunch hour becoming a part of the work day. Then your evenings. Then your weekends.

Set clear expectations for colleagues and clients regarding what work you're willing and able to take on. Then, be the one to enforce these boundaries. Don’t be afraid to turn your work phone off in the evening, leave emails unanswered until the end of the weekend, and even turn down new prospects if your plate is already full.

A top tip from us: use 8x8 IVR technology or similar to screen calls out of office hours. This means you can keep on top of incoming opportunities without being tied to your phone 24/7.

Lead a healthy lifestyle outside of work

This isn’t just a lesson founders need to learn. We could all do better at this.

Who actually has the time and energy to go to the gym after work? Who hasn’t been tempted by a drive-through on the way back from the office? Still, this is one of the best tips we can give for improving your work-life balance. Leading a healthy lifestyle will make you more energised. You’ll be more productive at work and more active in your personal life.

Our advice here is don’t go overboard. Being healthy and active doesn’t have to mean running marathons and smashing your PB each week. If that’s what floats your boat, then more power to you. If not, then start small.

Try taking a walk before work or finding time for a healthy breakfast. First, make sure these things are part of your daily routine, and then find new ways to up the ante. Find what works for you and focus on enjoying it. That’s how you’ll make a sustainable change in your lifestyle as opposed to a fad you’ll give up on.

Use technology to make your life easier

AI, time-management tools, and collaboration platforms. You’d be a fool not to use the wonders of the digital age to make your life easier.

Technology can be a powerful ally in maintaining a work-life balance. Primarily, there are a number of software and online services that can help streamline workflows and even take on tasks. Next, there are a number of time-organisation tools to help maintain order in the office and in your personal life. Then, there are possibilities for remote work made available with digital communication methods like project management software, a digital office suite, or an iPhone fax app. The possibilities are endless.

Delegate tasks properly

If you’ve got a team around you, make the most of them. Simple as that.

Well, no, it's not quite that simple. Of course, you have to provide your team with proper training, identify the areas each member excels, and then – this is the hardest part – trust them enough to hand over the reins. Yes, it will be challenging at first, but leveraging your team's skills and expertise is vital to ensuring your business’s scalability, work efficiency, and employee job satisfaction.

You can also make a few adaptations to your office infrastructure to help with this. For instance, using a call routing service to direct calls to the right department can stop it all from landing on your desk.

Take care of your team

If you want the best out of your team, give them the best conditions to deliver.

This isn’t just about being fair; it will help you too. Having a happy, comfortable, confident team around you will help you to feel more supported in the workplace. You won’t just be getting the optimum performance from your employees. Their good mood will rub off on you too.

Try socialising with your team, incentivising good performance, or offering support for mental and physical health. Also, find ways of checking in on employees’ wellbeing. Formal check-ups are one way of doing this, but there are informal methods too. For example, monitoring calls isn’t just about keeping customers and clients happy. It can be a great way of tracking your team's mental and emotional state too.

Finding a work-life balance that works for you

For startup founders, in the first few years, it will likely seem impossible to maintain a work-life balance. Moreover, as your business grows, finding time for your personal life could actually become more challenging.

Ultimately though, it is foundational to your company lasting and succeeding. It’s counter-intuitive, but the best way to ensure a prosperous worklife is to step away from it every now and then. Following these steps is a good start to ensuring that your job doesn’t get in the way of the rest of your life.