Using the Right Approach, Small Teams And Leaders Can Establish — And Maintain — Work-Life Boundaries

08/18/2017 09:26 am ET

When working with a small company or team, there are always more things to do than there is time. It's remarkably easy to let the day slip by, working an extra hour here, three there, all while trying to get ahead of the tasks before you. But falling into that temptation leaves employees — and leaders — with too little time for home life and personal pursuits, which can quickly lead to burnouts or fuzzy thinking. To make sure your work-life boundaries stay intact, remember these tips:

A. Set Expectations Through Your Own Actions

In any organization, the leader's actions will set the expectation. Telling employees to take time off, take vacations, or go home early doesn't work if they see you working 24/7. Periodically, I ignore team correspondence late at night (even if I'm working and reading their messages). This gives them the impression that I've taken some time for myself and makes it OK for them to as well. - Brennan WhiteCortex

A. Use Online Tools

Creating a work-life balance as an entrepreneur is very difficult. If I am up working late at night, I use a scheduling tool to send my emails out later. Using a scheduling tool helps get rid of any expectation that employees need to be glued to their phones or computers. We also respect paid time off. We work hard and we play hard. When employees take personal time, we limit calls or emails. - Jason KulpaUnderground Elephant

A. Practice Self-Care

Understanding the importance of self-care will help strengthen those boundaries so they are never broken. Everyone knows you put on your mask first before helping others. Taking good care of yourself will help you keep your mind clear, and improve your ability to weather the intense demands on your time. Be practical too: Set boundaries around checking email at home, work hours limits, etc. - Marcela De VivoBrilliance

A. Consistently Use One Channel to Communicate

Whether you use email, Slack, a group text or Skype, choose just ONE way to connect with your team, especially in times of growth. Employees can't fully relax when they're off if they're constantly monitoring all the new ways to check in waiting for a SOS. We've banned Facebook messenger, Skype, social media DMs and most email, and use Slack and Asana to communicate. - Kelly AzevedoShe's Got Systems

A. Be Vigilant

Working people into the ground isn't good for them or the business. Entrepreneurs must be vigilant, or work hours will creep ever upwards, becoming new norms that are far from ideal. Be strict about boundaries and time off, and if you need more productive hours, hire more people before you ask too much of current employees or yourself. - Justin BlanchardServerMania Inc.

A. Form an Agreement and Schedule

Find a schedule that works for the team and employees that will give them each time to themselves, and then stick with and respect those guidelines. It's important to have discussions and put these agreements in writing to make them stick, so no one tries to veer from that course and slow productivity during rapid growth. - Murray NewlandsSighted

A. Rotate Personal Time

Sign up and select key times each week to go spend personal time away from work, which sets boundaries on the amount of time, but empowers people to select different times each week that might correspond to a particular event in their life. For example, those with kids might choose a time that coordinates with a sports event, so they can enjoy the time or when they need to schedule appointments. - Drew HendricksButtercup

A. Encourage Breaks

Make it a priority to tell your team that time off and breaks are necessary. By no means should they feel bad about only working 40 hours, nor taking their appropriate breaks. The last thing you want is a burnt out staff, especially in times of significant growth. - Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

A. Outsource and Automate Your Paperwork

How much time do you spend on admin, paperwork, data entry and shuffling information from one system to another? Most of that can be automated and if it can't be automated, it often can be inexpensively outsourced. If you automate and outsource, focusing your attention on the most important parts of running your business, you'll be surprised by how much time is left for a personal life. - Vik PatelFuture Hosting

A. Provide a Health Club Membership

Show your team that you value their health. Offer to subsidize or cover the full cost of a gym or exercise classes. This is a great way to let your employees know that you care about work-life boundaries and you want them to be involved in activity outside of work. A healthy team is a happy team, and you need that while experiencing rapid growth. - Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

A. Let Them Work From Home

If your employees are producing high-quality work, why not reward them with the opportunity to work from home? Keep communication high and goals clear to ensure standards are met. - Syed BalkhiOptinMonster

A. Stick to Your Schedule

Decide what is time for work and what is time for family, and stick to it — even if it means putting family time on your calendar. Make sure you know when your co-leaders are focusing on rest and quality time, and respect that for them. Email, but don't text or call unless it's an emergency: They'll pay you the same courtesy in return. - Kevin ConnerBroadbandSearch

A. Stick to Your Guns, But Be Open to Different Needs

If you need boundaries, establish them. Different people have different needs. I don't mind working at all different hours, but my business partner uses weekends to spend time with his family and is only available for an emergency. We are both happy with how this has worked, but also take the responsibility to put up and reinforce that boundary. - Erik HubermanHawke Media

A. Find Your Standards Early

As a company, it's important to find your standards early and retain them whenever possible. Set boundaries ahead of time, so when growth happens — and even becomes difficult to manage — your team isn't suffering. Growth should be a rewarding thing for everyone; pushing team members to work longer hours, or give up their weekends, will only lead to long-term failure or employee burnout. - Blair ThomaseMerchantBroker

A. Give Them Freedom

If everyone is 100 percent sold on the company's vision, give them freedom. I don't mean that in the "Braveheart" way, but you should allow for your employees to be treated like adults. If they want to put in a 14 hour Monday, let them leave early on Tuesday. With so many random tasks to accomplish, it's going to be hard to be a traditional company. Give them freedom and you'll be rewarded. - Bryce WelkerCrush The CPA Exam

A. Reduce Distractions at Work

It may seem outrageous, but not every startup office needs to be filled with ping pong tables, toys, and kegs. In fact, one of the best decisions we made early on was to create an office atmosphere where our employees could focus on the tasks at hand, allowing us to experience rapid growth while not working our employees to death. - Stan GarberScout RFP

A. Think Strategically and Limit the Workload

It's difficult to keep the work-life balance when the company is growing at a rapid pace. One thing that helped me is understanding how unsustainable the shift toward long work hours is. Putting few more hours here and there is helpful, especially when the team is small, and the amount of work is staggering. But a leader should think strategically and limit the workload for himself and employees - Andrey KudievskiyDistillery

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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