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Small-Business Managers Skew Work/Life Balance, Survey Says

Ian P. Murphy |

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Almost half of small-business managers in the U.S. use family time for work, according to a survey sponsored by Staples Inc. assessing the state of life/work balance among today's business operators.
The national survey polled more than 300 owners and managers of companies with less than 20 employees, a group that represents nearly 90% of U.S. businesses, including most drycleaners. Respondents reported long hours, decreased vacation time, and blurring the lines between work time and leisure time.
"Time is a critical resource for companies of all sizes, but it's of even greater importance to small-business managers, who possess a larger stake in their company's success and often lack the support infrastructure of bigger businesses," says John Giusti, vice president of Staples Business Delivery division. "The results from this survey reflect what we regularly hear from our small-business customers, who say a lack of time is a constant challenge."
The survey reveals startling work habits. Almost one in five managers (18%) admitted reading work-related e-mail and documents in the bathroom and almost half (49%) perform work-related tasks while driving.
A 40-hour workweek does not apply for 62% of survey respondents; one-fifth (21%) work a double week of 80 hours or more. Participants cited growth (9%) added responsibility (7%) and "trying to keep up" (5%) as reasons behind their heavy workloads.
Some managers deal with work's increased demands by letting it encroach upon personal time. For instance, 21% work while eating dinner four to five times a week. What's more, 37% couldn't remember their last vacation, and nearly half of those who did take a vacation say they worked during part of it.
Mobile communications media have only added to the long hours, the survey says: More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents work on days off, checking e-mail, voicemail or making work-related calls. Two-thirds (66%) work after hours and at night; half (51%) work on holidays; and almost half (47%) work during "family" time.
Newer and smaller companies tended to have the most lopsided work/life balance, and the vast majority (92%) of all respondents characterized their workload as "about the same or heavier" than it was a year ago.
Work has even invaded sleep for many managers, the survey says, in a phenomena Staples calls "sleepworking." More than half (51%) of managers say they dream about work, and 70% of the "sleepworkers" say they wake up and act upon their dreams.

About the author

Ian P. Murphy

American Drycleaner

Ian P. Murphy is a freelance writer based in Chicago, and was the editor of American Drycleaner from 1999 to 2011.

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