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5 tips for retailers to improve work-life balance

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We all need—but seem to struggle to find—balance between work and personal life. Or, because work is part of life, a better-stated search is to balance work and "non-work" activities.

5 tips for retailers to improve work-life balanceMany studies show that balance has become more blurred over the last decade. As workers are "wired"—able to receive work emails and phone calls on computers, tablets and smartphones while away from the office—it’s difficult to keep work separate. In fact, 37 percent of people take a personal computer on vacation to check work email.

Small business owners, in particular independent natural products retailers, struggle the most to find balance. Many years in retail—in a store early in my career and in an office later on—have taught me that retail means long days, with the store owner putting in the longest ones. After all, there are a number of things that only the owner can do; and if things are left undone by staff, it may be only the owner that notices and stays to correct things.

How do you spend more time relaxing and less time working? Sara Sutton Fell, a married entrepreneur with young children who has founded several businesses, offers these tips at

1. Delegate and trust your team.

If you can’t trust staff to work without micromanagement, why are they on your payroll? If you have hired and trained them—and then observed them—why are you still doing everything yourself? Maybe you do it best, but how are they ever going to learn if you don’t delegate? You can follow up to ensure it was done right, but check in tomorrow after you’ve gone home to enjoy dinner with your family.

2. Check in mindfully.

When you're away and call to check in, have an agenda. Deliberately touch on the matters at hand and then get back to whatever leisure time you were enjoying. This ties into another great point... 

3. Work or be with your family, but not both.

Given how many stores in the natural industry are multi-generational efforts, I'm not going to fully endorse this concept, but it does hold merit. When at work, focus on work and vice versa.

4. Set schedules and stick to them.

Anyone who has not worked in retail may not understand how a late truck, a product recall, a hot tip from Dr. Oz, one staff member calling in sick, etc. can completely trash your plans. Even if you can't keep fully on schedule, having your kids' activities on your calendar, along with visits with your CPA, and dinner with your significant other will help you keep your life on trackt when life and your store throws you a curve.

5. Take vacations and really unplug.

I have seen more store owners struggle with this tip than any of the others. Because of limits in  time and budgets, it seems that many retailers take “vacations” to go to trade shows. (Check out how many folks attend Natural Products Expo West with their kids in March!) It does offer time away from the store, in a different city, hanging out with people that you like and can relate to—but it’s still work. This doesn't strike me as necessarily a "bad" thing. If you can, however, find a way to take time completely away to truly unplug.

What are your tips for work-life balance? Share below!


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