Leadership & Productivity

No pain, no gain: 2 in 3 UK entrepreneurs say work-life balance is overrated

4 min read

05 August 2019

Editorial Director

Two in three UK entrepreneurs think work-life balance is an overrated pipedream, going so far as to see it as a necessary sacrifice for success. Is this sustainable?

Throw a stone in any of the UK’s vibrant entrepreneurial cities and you’re likely to hit a small business owner. The UK’s entrepreneurial streak is what makes our economy so resilient, yet attitudinal shifts can stymie growth in the least expected ways. New research into what makes UK entrepreneurs tick reveals that most of them aren’t in it for the money.

For business leaders, success is more likely to involve making people happy than personal goals such as retiring early.

When asked how they define success, ‘creating a business with a happy workforce’ scored higher (39%) than any other answer. But are small business owners all that altruistic? Surely there’s a catch.

The research led by Investec Private Bank listed the main motivators for business owners in order of importance as financial security (38%), being able to manage their own time on their terms (31%), being independent and free to follow their own ideas (25%) and being able to give back to the community (22%). Only 9% said success is defined as making as much money as possible and 8% said it was being able to retire early.

However, while they are committed to looking after their employees, the research suggests that entrepreneurs are not always committed to looking after themselves.

Success, but at what cost?

Over half (59%) of respondents admitted to regularly feeling stressed, rising to 67% amongst business owners of small or medium sized businesses.

61% stated they never stop thinking about work and another 41% claimed it is all they have.

Although entrepreneurs appear to be more resilient than most when it comes to work and stress, everyone needs sleep. The basic human requirement for sleep is 8 hours and a study by the Royal Society for Public Health found people in the UK sleep for an average of 6.8 hours per night.

Investec Private Bank’s research reveals that 42% of business owners are getting six hours sleep or less each night.

68% admitted their work and personal lives are completely intertwined and just under two-thirds (64%) said poor work-life balance is the sacrifice leaders must make to achieve success. A further 18% said a work-life balance is simply not achievable.

“The hallmark of the entrepreneurial mindset is curiosity. The entrepreneurial mindset may seem overwhelming to those who are working with and for them,” says Dr Helena Boschi, psychologist, educator and author.

“Managing this is a fundamental aspect of how to stay healthy and happy in today’s workplace. For entrepreneurs themselves this means paying attention to their own stress levels and ensuring their body and brain’s basic needs (sleep, exercise and nutrition) are met.”

“For their people it means creating the right culture where people can feel productive and be the best they can be. Given the right environment, even the smallest seed may have the chance to flourish and grow.  A happy brain is a learning brain.”

What is success?

The definition of Success %
Creating a business where people are happy 39%
Financial security 38%
Being able to manage my own time in my own way 31%
Being independent and free to follow my own ideas 25%
Being able to give back to the community 22%
Being able to turn my ideas into a profitable business 20%
Being able to discover my true purpose 19%
Success is constantly goal and difficult to define 18%
Achieving my businesses strategic aims and goals 15%
Making as much money as possible 9%
Being able to retire early 8%