Originally posted on LinkedIn by Richard Branson

Before taking off on Virgin America’s inaugural flight from San Francisco to Honolulu to work hard and Hawaii hard, I took some time out to answer your questions on work-life balance.

My first answers were to questions all about taking a step back, convincing management to allow working from home and encouraging leaders to take time off. You can watch them all over here, and read some tips on how to be a better boss too.

Next up, I answered some questions about how technology has affected down-time, how to deal with guilt about flexible working, and how to educate youngsters about work-life balance. Watch the video below to see my answers.

There will be some more video answers on the way soon, but in the meantime I thought I would answer some questions in writing too.

Kayode Osokoya asked me: “Work-life balance is easy after the businesses are properly structured. Did you really have such balance at the start of your entrepreneurial pursuit?”

It’s true – it takes hard work, persistence and long hours to start any new business. This was certainly the case for many Virgin companies, particularly when we were entering highly regulated industries and up against competitors that didn’t want to see us to succeed. The only way to get through those long hours is to love what you do. You have to be passionate about what you are creating and believe in the impact it will have on the world. I have always felt this way – even as a 16-year-old starting out my own magazine, Student, with just a few pennies. It didn’t really feel like work to me because it was fun and I truly believed it would have a positive impact on youth culture. When we were working out of a basement, I would always urge the team to join me outside for a walk in the park in the afternoon. We’d often come up with good ideas out in the fresh air — and sometimes end up jumping in the fountains! My advice is that if it feels like stressful, hard work, and your heart just isn’t in it, it may be time to reassess your business plans.

Edwin Almonte asked: “How did work/life look when your family was young? A father of three, the “balance” is focused more on ensuring I’m present in my young family’s life as much as possible.”

My family means the world to me, much more than business or anything else. I know what it’s like when work commitments take you away from family. I have never worked from an office, and worked on our houseboat in Little Venice in London when the kids were young so I could be with them. What’s more, when I travelled — whether for an inaugural flight or a meeting — Holly and Sam would often join me. Being able to spend as much time as possible with your loved ones is absolutely vital, especially early on when you have children — and it’s very promising to see more and more companies recognize this as being central to workplace wellbeing. My advice is to make spending time with your family a priority. Focus upon time management. Schedule dropping your kids at school or family dinnertime in your calendar, just as you would for a meeting.

Dayna Kovacic asked: “Sometimes, even when I feel I’ve done a great job managing work-life balance, I come out the other end exhausted. There are still so many crazy dreams I want to realize and breathe life into. However, after budgeting time for all my extracurricular life activities and rest, which are super important and fill me up outside out of work, I still don’t have any energy to focus on innovation for my personal brand. I totally agree with your statement “there is no separation between work and life — it’s all living,” but do you ever turn off from work and non work activities completely to recharge or is it a daily practice you fit in? What’s your strategy and how do you execute it?”

Don’t worry Dayna, I get tired too! There are some days where I step off a long flight and then go straight to back-to-back events, only to get on another long flight the next day. We aren’t the only ones — Virgin America recently ran a promotion in Silicon Valley, one of the hardest working regions in the world. We received an overwhelming response from more than 65,000 people who told us they desperately needed a break too.

Try to get plenty of exercise. I find my nothing recharges my mind better than getting out onto the ocean and kitesurfing. I come back from the waves ready for anything. Even though I am known as Doctor Yes, it is sometimes necessary to say no in order to be more productive. Rather than join an unnecessary meeting, schedule a walk, take a yoga class, or do helps you unwind personally. I also think there’s an unnecessary reluctance to delegate tasks, which leads to people working long hours. Delegation is a great skill to have because it gives you more time to think about the big picture, while allowing someone else to grow and gain new skills in your place.

Heidi Hanson asked: “I work from home in the wedding industry, so I have a hard time with both my family understanding when it is work time (not interrupting me when I’m in the computer or phone calls with clients); and also with clients not understanding I’m not available 24/7. How can I communicate that to both my family and clients without upsetting everyone?”

Hi Heidi – well firstly, I think it’s wonderful that you have the opportunity to work from home. Flexible working, whereby you have control over when and where you work, can be highly effective, but I can understand your situation. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should be expected to work every hour of the day, but I also don’t think you should tell your clients that you’re only available from 9-5 p.m., as this is rather outdated. Instead, my advice would be to take advantage of the freedom that you have to create a schedule that works best for you. It could be that you dedicate yourself to phone calls/emails in 30-minute blocks.

I put on my out-of-office alert when I am having family time — and leave my phone in another room. It also helps if you can keep your workspace separate from the family areas of your home — it doesn’t matter where — in fact, I’ll often catch-up on emails in a hammock, but it will help you to give your full attention to your work and ultimately be more productive.

Do keep the questions coming, and look out for more answers soon. In the meantime, head over to Virgin America for more inspiration to Work Hard, Hawaii Hard.


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