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Updated: June 10, 2024 Ask ACE

Ask ACE: How do I achieve work-life balance while working in a family business?

ACE advises: I grew up in a family business. Both my husband and I now own small businesses. We do not have work-life balance — we have work-life agreements. Sometimes we work non-stop, agreeing that we are both responsible for making sure that the rest of life goes on. We maintain sanity by letting go of the expectation of perfect balance.

What experts say:

“While working for family can offer many benefits, it’s important to recognize that it also comes with its own set of challenges, such as navigating complex family dynamics and maintaining boundaries between work and personal life,” says Catherine Wygant Fossett, executive director of the Institute for Family-Owned Business.

“By acknowledging and addressing these challenges proactively, individuals can cultivate a supportive and productive work environment within their family business.”

What IFOB members recommend:

  • Set boundaries: Agree that business is discussed during working hours, and family matters are discussed at home. Define working hours, expectations and responsibilities clearly.
  • Stay in your lane: Define roles within the business, train and trust workers and resist the urge to micromanage.
  • Enjoy family time: Families can spend all of their time together at work during busy periods. It is important to allocate leisure time for family activities outside the workplace.
  • Prioritize and delegate tasks: Categorize tasks based on urgency and importance, allowing family members to allocate time to meet personal commitments. Delegate tasks according to individual strengths, to foster collaboration and prevent burnout while allowing meaningful contribution.
  • Seek outside support: Family businesses are vulnerable to tunnel-vision and isolation. Remain open to external resources like coaches, consultants, mentors, and advisors.

Achieving work-life balance in a family business requires clear communication, boundaries, mutual respect and understanding. By defining roles, respecting boundaries and seeking external support, family members can navigate the challenges of blending work and personal life.

Priscilla Hansen Mahoney, of Blazing Trails Coaching, is the next-gen affinity group advisor for the Institute for Family-Owned Business and business coach specializing supporting small contracting businesses. She can be reached at

To learn more about the Institute for Family-Owned Business, visit its website at

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