A decade ago, my friends would complain about how work often conflicted with their little ones activities. One close friend cried to me for 20 minutes on the phone when she had to miss her son's first day of kindergarten because of business travel. At the time, all I could say was, "That really stinks!"
Through the years, I've discovered that work life conflict continues, regardless of your stage in life.
Now, as I approach 50, some of my friends are balancing different work life conflicts. Unfortunately, they are juggling their jobs and cancer treatments. What may make this work life conflict different is that often continuing to work isn't optional. They need to keep working because they need the health insurance and/or income to cover medical expenses.
Earlier this week, I received an email from Jackie Velazquez, a reader and business owner who faces this work life conundrum.
As a reader of you articles & blog, I thought of you this morning. Today I scheduled to have a double mastectomy due to having previous pre-cancerous lumps removed and now testing positive for BRAC1.
Being a business owner the first thing that goes across your mind is how can I accomplish this and not miss work.
Well, the answer is pretty simple...I can't.
I run a direct mail company, which my clients never know if they will need to get a mailing list all of a sudden, so trying to prepare for the workflow is completely impossible. Trying to balance work out, is almost like saying will have a baby when we can afford it. There is never a good time to be gone from work when your a business owner.
Some of the work I do for my clients is so hands on, trying to get someone to do it while your gone is impossible to teach in such a short time.
So here I sit saying ok, I can do this on Friday, will I be able to check emails by Monday?? Its difficult to say you have to put yourself/health ahead of business. That's hard because in our business, if a client calls and can't get what he needs, it puts everything behind and the mailing can be very time sensitive.
Also, being a business owner you juggle with the fact of do you even tell your clients?
Looking for any thoughts you may have on this one.
By now, I have a little more experience under my belt and can offer a little more advice to Jackie than just the sympathy I offered my friends years ago. The biggest lesson I've learned is there will ALWAYS be work life conflicts. The solution is rearrange your schedule when you can and let go of the guilt when you can't.
I also learned there is ALWAYS something you can take off your plate to help with the juggling act. If you have limited time and energy, focus on what absolutely can only be handled by you. There is no shame in delegating. Sometimes you just have to think more broadly about who can take over a task. Most business owners feel the need to do everything themselves. But if you physically can't, accept it. Consider hiring a virtual assistant.
Remember, customers, clients and bosses may be sympathetic but they are more concerned with how their needs will be met. When my friend cried to me on the phone about business travel, I listened. But if she went to her boss, do you think he would care?
What co-workers, clients and bosses respond to is solutions. I think Jackie should be honest with her clients and let them know that she will try her best to handle their concerns despite the fact that she may need some time off. She can let them know that her assistant will take over some tasks and she will handle the high level matters as much as possible.
That's my thoughts. Readers, Jackie and I would love to hear yours. What advice would you give someone who owns her own business and needs to take time off for personal reasons?