Guest blog: is work-life balance more than just a media buzz word?

Winweb chief executive Stefan Töpfer asks whether work-life balance is as important as we make it out to be.

The term "work-life balance" has come to be a bit of a buzz phrase of late but what do we actually mean by it? And why is it so important?

Talking about a work-life balance has come to symbolize a problem many of us face; increasing work pressures mean we neglect our families, friends and hobbies as they pale in to insignificance with the pressures put upon us to climb the corporate ladder.

I have been there. I worked in an office, not seeing enough of my children and spending a considerable amount of my precious time commuting. When I left the world of the office to focus on my company, WinWeb, in 1999 I switched to working from home, enabling me to see more of my son and even pick him up from school.

Despite building a growing company my work-life balance was better than ever. But did only my family reap this benefit?

It is my belief that increasing work pressures have led to detrimental trends being established within society over the last 150 years.  Many problems within our social fabric can be attributed to too much focus being placed on slogging on the working treadmill and our eyes being diverted away from our health, relationships and families.

Working from home when building a business allows people to work from anywhere, and can help build a sense of local community that many of our small towns and villages now lack. Most members of my team work from home and during their lunch hour regularly visit the local coffee shop, bakery or corner shop, building a sense of community around them that would be lacking if they traveled to an office in a city each day.

The implications of working flexibly, either for yourself or within an organisation, cannot be over looked when considering both mental and physical health. Being given a certain level of autonomy over the completion of tasks and being able to fit around the needs of your family reduces stress, anxiety and makes employees happier. And in my mind a happy employee is a productive employee!

With this in mind it is no wonder that now there is an ever-increasing and encouraging trend of people breaking out of the 9-5 stereotype and instead starting their own small businesses.  

Starting a business is hard work, I know that as well as anyone, but the flexibility it brings can suit a family's needs better than many roles within a corporate environment.

Technological developments have meant that virtually anyone, anywhere, with an idea, drive and passion can start a small business. Determination to succeed means that this can be achieved whether you work 9-5 or 5-9! In my experience more demands are actively pursued within a home working or small office environment to maximize financial results while maintaining the optimum work-life balance.

So is work-life balance an unobtainable dream? Is it a buzz phrase that will just disappear? I don't think so, and I certainly hope not. In my mind the definition of a work-life balance is different for us all. But I know that by finding your own satisfactory work-life balance you could not only increase your happiness, but also your productivity.

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