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Op/Ed

The liberating truth is that so-called ‘work-life balance’ is within yourself

(EDITORIAL) Sure, external factors can be a huge part of finding work-life balance, but the liberating truth is that sometimes, it’s up to you.

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Two women looking at a laptop representing leaders talking about work-life balance.

We need to talk about work-life balance. And, no, this isn’t going to be way too over-used, “Wake up 20 minutes earlier than normal and do yoga and your life will just fall into place.”

There are plenty of articles out there trying to solve the true meaning behind work-life balance. The true meaning is that it’s different for everyone – that’s just it.

There’s no recipe or method that will work for every single person because everyone leads different lives. The thing with work-life balance is that you need to find a method that works for you, and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

Sure, you can look at Sheryl next door and say, “Wow, she has time for everything and looks amazing. She must have it all figured out.” Sheryl has likely just figured out what works for her, and that isn’t going to be what works for you.

This is the same as looking at someone’s general path of life. We all have different advantages and disadvantages, and no two stories are the same.

Because most days of our lives are different (though many feel the same), there are different curveballs we’re thrown in our schedule, and we have to be open-minded to be flexible about the way we handle all of our tasks. The only advice that will work for every single person is to be sure to take time for yourself, or you might go bananas.

Carve out some time in each day to collect your thoughts and just breathe a little bit. Know that there will be days when things get chaotic and you feel like you can’t keep your head afloat, but don’t confuse that with how the rest of your life feels.

Sometimes we’ll look at Facebook during work hours, and sometimes we’ll answer a work email on the weekends. That’s just how it is.

Anything past this that may be causing you stress is necessary to define, and then find a way to combat the stress. No one knows you better than yourself, so it’s up to you to find your own kickass means of work-life balance. Trust me, you’ve got this.

Staff Writer, Taylor Leddin is a publicist and freelance writer for a number of national outlets. She was featured on Thrive Global as a successful woman in journalism, and is the editor-in-chief of The Tidbit. Taylor resides in Chicago and has a Bachelor in Communication Studies from Illinois State University.

Op/Ed

Overemployment: What are the pros and cons to having more than one job?

(EDITORIAL) Hustle culture is the highlight of the American workplace culture, but there are both pros and cons to overemployment.

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Man with face in his hands representing overemployment.

Simple truth. It costs a lot to get by today. And the extras? Whew.

Vacation? Side hustle.

Those cute shoes? Sell something.

New car? Wait a year until there are more cars on the lots, but while you’re waiting, make some more money.

Overemployment enters the discussion, and it’s something business owners and employees need to understand.

Side hustles aren’t new. Working multiple jobs to pay down debt or just get by? Also not new.

Overemployment, according to those who engage in the practice, isn’t a side hustle at all. It’s a completely different mindset. A second (or third, fourth, and fifth) job.

And the explosive growth in remote work has helped lead to more overemployment.

Back in the olden days, aka a decade ago, overemployment meant you were working more hours than you wanted in the one job you worked.

Today, not so much. Today overemployment can mean the side jobs you work for the extras you want or the debt you’re paying down or just to make ends meet because living expenses are high right now.

Or as overemployed.com says,

“a community of professionals looking to work two remote jobs, earn extra income, and achieve financial freedom.”

This new somewhat norm of creating multiple streams of income has both pros and cons. Regardless, experts say it’s here to stay.

The pros of overemployment for companies are self-evident.

In a world where jobs are plentiful but the workforce isn’t necessarily, knowing you can hire someone who already has another job is helpful. If the job you offer is more of a side hustle scale, even better.

There’s also the added benefit of employees learning skill sets in their second jobs that they can bring back to their first employer.

Then there’s the specialty skill job force like tech where demand is high, but available skilled employees are not. That’s changed, though, with remote. Suddenly skilled tech workers can work for multiple companies, sharing their expertise and earning more.

Which brings us to the pros for workers. Suddenly you have options when it comes to work. You have multiple streams of income and can look for others if some aren’t working out.

Getting that email that your department is closing and there won’t be a place for you isn’t as rough when you have another source of income.

Liquidity is nice and with overemployment you have an opportunity to live that life.

Paying down debt, investing, increasing savings, all of that is easier when you have a second job.

But it’s not all roses in the overemployment world.

A lot of people are taking second and third jobs because they have to pay the bills. Child care expenses are thousands a month. Food, fuel, housing, everything is more expensive. The one paycheck that covered your lifestyle before suddenly doesn’t and you’ve cut corners until there are no more corners to cut, so a second job isn’t an option. It’s a must.

And when that happens, the positives of overemployment suddenly turn negative. Stress and mental health issues increase, and with that, physical health is at risk as well.

And employers bear the brunt of those over-worked employees with absences and less than stellar work.

Overemployed people who love the OE lifestyle say the key to making it work is working multiple jobs at once. For those earning the paycheck, that’s nice. For the employer paying, as long as the work is solid and done, also nice. But multitasking has its pitfalls.

A 2021 Cleveland Clinic article showed,

“When our brain is constantly switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks – especially when those tasks are complex and require our active attention – we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.”

Something both employees and employers must keep in mind.

Overemployment isn’t going away. Employers need to know where they stand. Are they okay with employees working other jobs at the same time they’re working for them? Employees need to know if their employer has a problem with that.

The workforce is changing. Overemployment is one more way.

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Op/Ed

How can a small business beat a large competitor moving in next door?

(EDITORIAL) How do you stand out when a big competitor moves to your neighborhood? Reddit has a few suggestions – some obvious, some not so much.

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Man talking on virtual meeting about a competitor moving close next door.

Small businesses, especially restaurants have been hit hard by lockdowns. Many closed for good this year, and those that are still hanging on are in a precarious position as their local economies shift. So how can a small business beat a large competitor moving in next door?

A user on r/smallbusiness asked a timeless question that is especially relevant right now. Reddit user longbottomjr writes:

“We have a strong competitor moving in next door in a few months. Our restaurant is one that pays the bills but […] I feel that if this new competitor takes up enough market share we will lose our restaurant. Can anyone chime in with resources/ideas I can use to help put together our plan of action?”

Comments quickly pointed out what common sense would dictate.

First, ensure the basics are covered. Being clean, quick, friendly, and high quality will take you far, no matter what competition you’re up against. And as u/horsemullet said,

“Customer service also happens before someone walks through the door!” So make sure that your online hours, contact info, menus and social media accounts are up to date and accurate.

Another point emerged that is less intuitive: Competing businesses will naturally gravitate towards similar locations. This is a well-established phenomenon known within game theory as Nash’s Equilibrium. In the restaurant industry, this is actually a good thing. It brings entirely new customers to the area and ultimately benefits all the other nearby businesses, too.

Take advantage of the attention by offering something other spots don’t, like loyalty rewards, specials, unique offerings, or meal deals.

Speaking of the area, a great way to stand out from larger competitors is to build relationships with the community you serve, as u/sugarface2134 emphasized,

“In my city there are two Italian restaurants in the same location – just across the parking lot from each other. We always pick the smaller one because the owner truly makes you feel like a member of the family.”

That’s an advantage of being a small, local business that all the money in the world couldn’t buy. Get to know your customers personally and you will not only create loyal regulars, but friends as well.

One of the top-rated responses, from u/seefooddiet2200, made an often overlooked but critically important point.

“Talk to your staff and see if they have any ideas. These are the people that are working every single day and may know one or two ‘annoying’ things that if they were switched would make things easier. Or maybe they see that there’s specific things people ask for that you don’t serve. Every single [one] of your employees is a gold mine of insight, you just need to be open to listening to them.”

That is applicable to any business owner who wants to improve their practices.

Ask employees what they think, especially the ones who have stuck around a long time. Not only do they know the ins and outs of their jobs, but this builds rapport and trust with your staff. A good boss realizes that employees are more than their job descriptions. They have valuable thoughts about what’s working and not working, and direct access to customer’s opinions.

Good luck, u/longbottomjr! We’ll be rooting for you.

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Op/Ed

How much minimalism is enough to succeed?

(EDITORIAL) Nobody starts a business praying for failure and debt, but if we don’t identify how little is too little, we not know when enough is enough.

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Enough peace

You’re scrolling on Facebook when you notice your friend’s feed, and the most recent post says, “You are enough.” You may recoil and think to yourself, “blech” what does that even mean? Touchy-feely crap. I am “enough.” Ha! I’ll show you enough.

While exploring the concept of being enough may make some folks queasy. Asking the question: How does “enough” translate from our lives to our business? is it relevant and can help us get to our raison d’etre, our sweet spot, our perfect pitch, our business manifesto. And, what is “enough” for us in planning our life and business goals.

Recently, I was watching a British show on Netflix. The gist is an “expert” who goes around to businesses to help them update their brands and improve business. In one episode, the host walks into a man’s clothing shop and asks the owner about his wares. He explains in one section he has clothing for the “fat bastards” (I am not making this up – he literally says that), in another section he has styles for the “trendy” kids, and in another section, clothes for the businessman.

The owner thinks he’s doing great, but his sales suck, his customer service sucks, and he doesn’t understand why.

From the outside looking in, it seems pretty obvious, that the guy is trying to serve everyone and in doing so, he’s doing a crap job of serving anyone. Plus, he was rude and literally didn’t understand that calling customers fat bastards wasn’t good customer service.

From a business point of view, this guy had no concept of what it meant to be “enough” because he was trying to serve too many potential customers and it was a very disjointed effort.

His problem is not unusual. Think about it. Haven’t you gone into a locally owned business to find it selling too many items that make no sense? Kind of like a gift shop gone wild. You look around and see things you like, but you get confused and leave without making a purchase. Instead, you walk a few doors down to the store that specializes in jeans or shirts or cool shoes and you drop some virtual Benjamins.

In his blog, Paul Jarvis expounds on the idea of being enough. He says, “In order to be more aware of what makes sense for our lives and businesses, we need to be aware of what enough means.”

And, that my friends, depends on who you are. Enough to me may not be enough for you. But, Jarvis explains is that it can’t be minimalism for Instagram’s sake. Meaning, that we aren’t truly living in an enough “state” if we are trying to be what we think others want to see.

Let’s not get caught up in the “yeah, but it’s Paul Jarvis.” Cuz, he also states this isn’t about judging others, because if you ain’t got much, it can seem pretty patronizing for someone to tell you to live with less. And, that isn’t what we’re talking about here.

If we go back to the business concept, consider Apple. The company started off building computers. It veered into phones and watches, but still tied to the idea of smaller versions of its computers. It stayed pretty true to itself. The concept was built around one product. The stores make that product shine. And, we as consumers feel we aren’t enough until we have the newest gadget and gizmo they sell. Brilliant.

For you, having the latest gaming system or all the streaming channels may be the thing. For me, I get by with basic cable and Netflix. My enough isn’t yours.

So, if we are truly cognizant of what we want in our business and lives, we need to understand what enough is for us. Not what is enough based on someone’s feed on Instagram, showing them with the Lambo (rented) and fancy clothes (rented) and fancy location (maxed credit card). We need to consider where we, from a truly authentic space, can live enough.

Per Jarvis:
“Enough is the antithesis of unchecked growth because growth encourages mindless consumption and enough requires constant questioning and awareness. Enough is when we reach the upper bound of what’s required. Enough revenue means our business is profitable and can support however many employees/freelancers we have, even if it’s just one person. Enough income means we can live our lives with a bit of financial ease, and put something away for later. Enough means our families are fed, have roofs over their heads, and their futures are considered. Enough stuff means we have what we need to live our lives without excess.”

One way to think about enough is to sit back and consider what would be your perfect day. If you were doing what you wanted – no holding back – what would your day look like. Imagine it. Are you really shopping and dropping $1k on a pair of shoes? Maybe. Or, are you hanging out with someone you love, doing work the way you want, having some food, walking your dog, doing yoga, CrossFit, etc., enjoying dinner, and heading to bed?

If you think about business in the same way, what would your business look like? Would it be like 7-Eleven with Slurpee’s, Slim Jim’s, lottery tickets, and birthday cards? Or, would it look more refined? Because Target and Walmart have a lock on mega shopping experiences. 7-Eleven has a lock on, it’s 4 a.m., and I’m wasted and need crap food.

Consider, how does your idea of equilibrium impact the outcome of your business, your work, and your idea of success?

Most of us would love to be wealthy and that is our guidepost when it comes to the idea of business success. But, when evaluating it from the perspective of “enough” our viewpoint might change if one considers debt load to profit or unsold, stolen, or damaged goods to profit. If you have more debt than cash, are you enough?

“Where things can go awry is when we never consider what enough is as a marker,” Jarvis says. “When this happens, we don’t solve for enough or optimize for it, we just keep going and going with more and more.”

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