While small business owners may be working harder than ever, a survey suggests mobile technology is helping them balance their lives.
Mobile technology is advancing the cause of mixing business and
pleasure, or at least providing small business owners with the
opportunity, according to the fifth Annual National Staples Small
Business Survey. The online survey found 60 percent of small business
owners admit to spending more time holding their mobile devices than
the hand of their significant others. While this new "phonemance"
phenomenon, as Staples terms it, would seemingly have the potential to
overtake family time, the survey indicated the increasing popularity of
virtual offices illustrates how technology is enabling small business
owners to achieve both increased productivity and a better work-life
The Internet poll explored the use of technology and social media, and
its positive and negative effects on productivity and work-life
balance. The results found that the unpredictable economy, continued
downsizing and increased responsibilities have pressured U.S. small
business owners to mix business with pleasure: 43 percent of small
business owners reveal working during hours spent with family, and 68
percent who own a mobile device rely on just one for both personal and
business use making it difficult to "switch off" during family time.
Seth Meyers, a licensed clinical psychologist, relationship expert
and author, said this increased dependency on technology also comes
with benefits as it allows small business owners the ability to bring
their office anywhere, from home to the Little League field. The
virtual office now allows them to stay plugged in providing many small
business owners the flexibility they haven't achieved in the past.
"Technology and mobile devices, in particular, can actually be good for
family relationships, allowing Mom or Dad to stay plugged in with work
while simultaneously attending events - ball games, school events -
that were historically only possible for the non-working parent to
attend," Meyers said. "Though the small business owner's attention may
be divided in such contexts, it allows for greater balance than life
before such technology allowed."
Other survey findings suggest that technology is actually enabling
small businesses owners to achieve a better balance: 56 percent of
owners and managers are taking advantage of the virtual office spending
less time working at their desk with the help of technology. When asked
whether they would feel greater withdrawal to go a week without their
significant other than a day without their smartphone or mobile
device, 63 percent said they would miss their partner more than their
Just more than half (52 percent) of respondents said they now feel more
comfortable taking a vacation because they can stay plugged-in versus
just 35 percent last year, while 40 percent of significant others don't
seem to mind the new behavior and support the small business owner's
need to work more to help make ends meet, even if that creeps into
"This survey reflects the constant challenge for small business owners
to adapt to the nonstop demands of the job and the technology that make
it easy to always stay connected," said John Giusti, vice president of
small business marketing at Staples. "Staples keeps a pulse on the
changing needs of small business owners and managers, and will continue
to provide products and services to support these evolving trends."
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.