Work-life balance has become a common buzzphrase, especially with the ongoing Tube strikes, supposedly sparked by the changes the Night Tube will cause to Tube workers' home and social lives. Like all clichés, it has its roots in something really crucial – but it is my belief that the concept is becoming redundant.
Simply Business has today published research into the work-life balance enjoyed (or, perhaps more accurately, endured) by sole traders and small business owners. The results are a startling reminder of the lengths that these individuals go to in order to help keep the economy afloat.
We’re well into summer holiday season – but for small business owners, that means business as usual. Our research found that 750,000 people are missing out on summer holidays with their families because of the pressures of their work. A fifth can’t afford to take a single day off.
A quarter of those surveyed said they take less than 10 days’ annual leave from their businesses – just half the statutory holiday given to employees.
But the problems aren’t just limited to the summer. Every day, sole traders and small business owners make social sacrifices in order to keep their businesses running. Almost half of those we spoke to said they cancel plans with friends and family at least once a week because of work, and over half a million small business owners simply don’t make social plans because they know that work is keeping them too busy to commit.
This stress also takes a toll on mental and physical health. A quarter of those surveyed said that they had fallen ill because of overwork and stress.
Successive governments have pledged support for these individuals, but in real terms the returns have been slim pickings. If they are to survive and thrive, small businesses need real, concrete measures to help them navigate the realities of entrepreneurship. This means better tax treatment of employees to allow them to delegate more efficiently, better support at a local government level to help them find the help they need quicker and more effectively, and more tax breaks to stimulate growth.
We’ve been pushing for better recognition of sole traders and microbusinesses in particular, as it is these individuals for whom the pressures of self-employment are most acutely felt. Now, it’s time for politicians of all stripes to get behind the entrepreneurs on which the UK relies, and to show them that they are not alone.
Above all, the self-employed need to keep sight of the fact that work isn’t everything. There is no wealth but life – and work needs to fit in around that.