SMEs struggle with work-life balance

Start-up business owners not taking holidays

The Duke of York on the StartUp Britain tour
The Duke of York on the StartUp Britain tour

New business owners are sacrificing holidays as they struggle to find a work-life balance.

One in three new business owners have not taken a holiday in more than two years and a third (34%) say they do not have one planned this year or beyond.

New insight from Lloyds Bank shows that small business owners are working up to 20 hours more a week than an average UK employee.

A third of female start-up owners (36%) admit that they haven’t been able to take a break of ‘more than a few days’ during the last 12 months, instead choosing to focus their time and energy on running their business.

Male business owners follow a similar trend with 57% stating they haven’t had a break in the same period.

Even those that do get away suffer from an ‘always-on’ working culture, with eight in ten (79%) of start-up owners checking-in with work at some point during their holidays and one in three (34%) getting in touch with colleagues or clients every day.

Although owners of start-ups are putting in long hours, many are seeing the benefits compared to their previous roles as employees.

Work-life balance

Female entrepreneurs, in particular, appear to be striking the right balance between their home and work lives with the vast majority of respondents (70%) saying their work-life balance was better after starting up a business. This is in contrast to just over half of men (55%) who thought the same.

Almost twice as many women than men said they were ‘very satisfied’ with their work-life balance (41% compared with 21%). Female entrepreneurs were also twice as likely as men to say they see more of friends and family after they started a business than before (19% of womn compared to 8% of men).

However, four in ten female start-up owners (44%) predicted that their working hours would increase in the next year while only a quarter of men (25%) thought the same.

Despite having greater satisfaction with their work-life balance, it is not necessarily easily achieved. Women were twice as likely to cite work-life balance as a major challenge when starting their own business than men (37% compared with 18%).

No rest for millennial entrepreneurs

It’s not just gender where differences in working habits are evident – the survey also analysed variations across generations and found millennials are losing out. 

Only a third (32%) of 18-34-year-old new business owners thought their work-life balance was better than when they were employed, compared to two thirds (65%) of those aged 35-44.

Life experience looks to be standing older entrepreneurs in good stead, with those aged 45 and over the most satisfied with their work-life balance. Two-thirds or 67% said that it was better than when they were employed.

Jo Harris, managing director, Lloyds Bank Retail Business Banking, said: “Many entrepreneurs make the leap into business ownership full of promise for more control and flexibility – getting away from a 9-5 desk existence.

“Being your own boss delivers countless benefits, but the responsibility that comes with it can make it harder to switch off and go on holiday. This drive and determination is the lifeblood of start-ups, but it’s important to seek out ways of getting support to allow you to take a break.”


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