work life balance

The Importance of Work-Life Balance for Small Business Entrepreneurs and Employees

Ezra Cabrera | May 31, 2024


    Work-life balance can seem like an unattainable luxury to many early-stage entrepreneurs and small business owners. Go to any of the top U.S. cities for startups, and you’ll see offices lit up deep into the night and even on weekends as founders and owners grind out another hour of productivity long after most others have headed home.

    Their urgency is understandable. Many entrepreneurs and small business owners used to work at unfulfilling jobs they quietly tolerated before finally submitting their resignations, moving across the country, and founding their own firms. If this is their one and only shot, it might seem like it makes sense to work around the clock.

    But the reality is that an endless grind offers steeply diminishing returns. People with poor work-life balance risk burnout, bad physical and mental health, and a host of other negative consequences. Meanwhile, most successful businesspeople carefully maintain a healthy work-life balance. They know that a well-rested, satisfied worker gets more done in a few short days than a burned-out, frazzled worker can in many long ones.

    So what exactly is work-life balance, and how do you maintain it?

    What is Work-Life Balance?

    There’s more to work-life balance than there might initially seem. Plenty of people leave the office at a reasonable time but don’t actually leave their work behind, checking their email every few minutes and thinking about tomorrow’s meetings. The opposite can be true too. If you’re spending long hours at the office but using that time to daydream and plan your vacation, you have a work-life imbalance in the other direction.

    True work-life balance is about achieving a sustainable equilibrium between work and life so that one sustains and enhances the other physically, financially, emotionally, and intellectually.

    What Are the Risks of Poor Work-Life Balance?

    A work-life imbalance has many negative effects, some of which can literally be life-threatening.

    • Ill Health

      According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, workers who burn out from overwork were found to have a significantly increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, poor sleep quality, and increased drug and alcohol use. Poor mental health was also common, particularly depression and anxiety. These issues can not only decrease your quality of life, but threaten it entirely.

    • Emotional Exhaustion

      Working too much without taking time to recharge and recover can quickly drain your emotional reserves, too. Work that you used to enjoy becomes a slog; your focus and people skills begin to suffer, and soon your measurable output declines. Seeing your work suffer even though you’re putting in long hours can lead to feelings of futility, and if you respond by working even more, you simply compound the problem.

      This is especially true for younger workers. Studies have found that Gen Z struggles with stress at work more than other generations, which has led to over 80% of Gen Z workers placing a high importance on mental health days.

      In addition, studies have found that burning out from too much work can actually hurt your interpersonal relationships outside of work, and emotional exhaustion is likely a big factor in that.

    • Disengagement

      Working too much can paradoxically lead you to pull back from work, even if only on a subconscious level. If you’re unhappy and unwell, and you see that your results are declining, many naturally pull back from their work or put in less effort. This can be devastating to a new startup or a struggling small business.

      This means the reality is that working sixteen hours a day, seven days a week might feel like you’re grinding toward success, but you’re likely going backward professionally instead.

    How Do You Maintain Healthy Work-Life Balance?

    It’s clear to see why a work-life balance is so important. Luckily, there are some easy ways to achieve that balance while keeping up with your professional and personal responsibilities.

    • Maintain Firm Boundaries

      Allocate time for work and for your personal life, and stick to these boundaries. When you’re at work, focus on work. But when you go home, leave your work behind. Resist the urge to check your work email or ruminate on work projects or upcoming deadlines.

    • Use Your Time Wisely

      One under-discussed cause of a poor work-life balance is the inefficient use of work time. After all, if you don’t utilize your workday well, you may have to stay at the office longer just to get your required work done.

      Use time management techniques like “swallowing the frog” (completing the most difficult task first) or “deep work” (designated time set aside for uninterrupted work on important projects) to set concrete goals and timelines for your work projects and devise strategies to cut down on distractions.

    • Delegate As Much As Possible

      Many founders and entrepreneurs tend to try to do it all themselves, which can easily lead to burnout. Resist this impulse; instead, delegate tasks to coworkers and employees and let them handle it. Don’t micromanage or watch over their shoulder; not only will you not save yourself any time, but micromanagement is one of the most disliked qualities of a bad manager.

    • Use Technology to Your Advantage

      Advances in fields like AI mean you can cheaply and fully outsource tasks like transcription, while apps like Slack and Zoom allow you to quickly and painlessly collaborate. Even something like setting up an online store can save you a ton of time and work compared to a real-life brick-and-mortar shop.

    • Schedule Downtime

      One thing to remember about work-life balance is that you’re still allowed to work a lot and work intensely — as long as that’s balanced out by adequate recovery time. This can take the form of a long, once-a-year vacation during which you don’t check your email or shorter breaks scattered throughout your workday. A walk to the corner for a cup of coffee will sometimes help you break through a problem much more effectively than just sitting at your desk for hours at a time.


    Ultimately, every person needs to find the ideal work-life balance for them. For many, it’s not an exactly equal split. More important is a division that’s sustainable for you and, most importantly, one that allows you to consistently be present and flourish in both your professional and personal spheres.

    About the Author

    Ezra Neiel Cabrera has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a major in Entrepreneurial Marketing. Over the last 3 years, she has been writing business-centric articles to help small business owners grow and expand. Ezra mainly writes for SMB Compass, but you can find some of her work in All Business, Small Biz Daily, LaunchHouse, Marketing2Business, and Clutch, among others. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in bed eating cookies and binge-watching Netflix.