The Blurring Line Between Business and Leisure

The line between our business lives and our personal lives keeps blurring. A recent survey by AT&T of over 1,000 business owners found that 56% thought it was important to be able to mix work and personal business into our daily routines. 

Here’s the chart (click chart for larger image):

AT&T survey shows work/life lines blurring

One of the attractions that entrepreneurs see in running our own businesses is the perception that we can get back control of our lives and our time. We want to be able to arrive at work a little later so that we can drop off the kids at school. Or take a long lunch break so that we can check in on an elderly parent. Or take a few long weekends a year.

Part of the reason for this trend is that we CAN blend our personal and business lives each day.  Technology enables it.  Wireless technologies in particular, such as cell phones and PDAs and WiFi make it possible to work while out of the office.

The question becomes: does it add to our sense of balancing life and work to be able to mix business and pleasure into each day? Or does it just mean that business is encroaching ever more deeply into our personal time?

UPDATE OCTOBER 16, 2007:  AT&T was kind enough to send me a link to the survey data online.  You can find an Executive Summary as well as the full PowerPoint slide deck and some other materials about this survey, at a special Web page they set up for the purpose. 


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

10 Reactions
  1. Maybe I’m overoptimistic, but I see it as my personal time encroaching on my business time. (I guess when I say it like that, encroaching might not be the right word.) I definitely work far longer hours now than I did back when I worked outside the home, but the difference is that I really enjoy those hours.

    I think when we work outside the home, it’s almost necessary to take three hours a night to just decompress – reading, watching TV, whatever. Now I find myself spending that time responding to reader’s emails or catching up on things. I think it’s worked out that way because I feel consistently refreshed – I’ve spent much of the traditional work day going to the library or hanging out with my family.

    I guess it’s all very personal. Some people like strongly segmented days and get both the work and life parts of their work/life balance in large chunks. Other people like their parts to come in 10-minute chunks.

    As always, great article!

  2. Anita,
    I think about this subject all the time!
    I live it, too. As an entrepreneur, I am constantly thinking about how to improve my business, and how to add innovative new dimensions to it. I find myself thinking about it during the times I shouldn’t be, though. Example; I am having an important discussion about schoolwork with my child {After picking her up from school}, and my cell phone is ringing. Of course I gave my cell phone number to my receptionist, so she could have folks contact me, when I am not in the office. While I am on the phone with this person, I fire up my laptop, because I need to send this caller some info he or she requested..via e-mail, of course. I won’t rant on and on about this topic, but for me, as cool and efficient as technology is, it does blur the lines between business and leisure..or in my case, between business, and quality time with my child. It is a problem. Of course the choice to change the way I do things is on me. Am I ready to step up? Are we all ready to step up and say, “Enough is enough. I will get back to my potential customers/clients at MY convenience.”

  3. Interesting article on the subject of workers who get the job done…just not necessarily between 9 and 5.

    The crux of it is this: If you get the results, it doesn’t matter when or where you work.

  4. On that scale from 1-10, I’d say 11. I’ve been full time self employed now for about a month, and It’s fantastic! For instance, this morning, I went to the Georgia Aquarium with my wife. Then I got home and from noon til just now, I’ve been uber-productive. I’m taking 15-30 minutes to read some blogs, play with my dog, and have a beer, and I’ll be back at it until my wife gets home around 6 this evening.

    I will get much more done in the 5 1/2 hours I work today than I ever would have in a 10 hour day at my job (with a soft “j”)

  5. Hi Anita:

    I’m much rather work the 12-15 hours in a day that I pick than the 8 hours a day that someone else picks.

    Two important factors here are that I work from home and I love what I do. Those are very important in this discussion. I used to work an 8 hour day, but commuted 70 miles each way to do it (I know, I know, insane). Now that my commute involves getting up from a chair, I’m happy to spend that formerly unproductive time being productive.

    But I have kids… a 3 year old and a 3 month old. Why would I work from 9-5? Those are their key awake times. For the most part, I take afternoons and evenings off and simply just pick up and work at night (sometimes into the early morning).

    Working on my own terms makes me far more productive.

  6. I think things goes around and come around. when I read these, and noticing how people hav eevoled, we say we’ve been there, done that.

    As an Asian with Chinese descent ( same as overseas Chinese all over Asia and even in most foreign countries) I was used to the discipline that many chinese ( who were owners of small businesses and known entrepreneurs) especially during the 1950s , 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s, where they migrated, but not being able to find employment decide to go into their own micro businesses.

    Many of them have a small shop, and that served as their house too. My family is also that, and I remember playing around the shop and learning the ropes of the business at a young age.

    My whole life has been involved in business, and as an entrepreneur, i have found several. I coined my life as the bizdrivenlife, which incidentally became my blogs name too.

    For me, business is my life, and that is where I find friends, fulfillment, satisfaction.

    there is no distinction between business or personal life. when I go to trade exhibitions, or conferences, I take a day off to see the city. when i take a vacation with my family, i check the email, and respond to business calls…

  7. Hi Wilson, thanks for adding your perspective about seamlessly weaving business and personal lives together.

    Your comments remind me that in history, there never really was a separation between business and personal lives. That is a modern invention. Centuries ago you had a family farm, worked the farm and lived there. Or you ran a blacksmith shop or a grinding mill, and it was out back of your home.

    So perhaps the ultimate sense of unity comes from combining your work and personal lives just the way our ancestors did.

    Perhaps we should think of that unity of personal and business lives as the ideal, instead of bemoaning that work is encroaching on our personal time.


  8. Nice comment, Wilson!
    Maybe now I won’t feel AS guilty,checking my e-mail, while on a family vac on a beach in North Carolina..
    The internet has made is easy to seamlessly integrate business and personal.
    But is it really good?
    Joel Libava
    The Franchise King Blog

  9. I have struggled to find balance between my career and family for a decade. Without finding any consistent balance I can only conclude that I am an addict hooked on the challenges ar work. While I love my family and I spend quality time with them I find the challenges at the office to be my motivation.