Small Business Owners Obtaining Better Work-Life Balance: Report

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 balance.

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 phone.

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 relationship time.

"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."