Ideas, Information & Inspiration

Keeping Your Personal and Professional Life Separate

20 mins
What You Will Learn
  • Importance of Keeping Your Personal and Professional Life Separate
  • Benefits of Separating Your Personal and Professional Life
  • How to Keep Your Personal and Professional Life Separate
  • Tips to Keeping Your Personal and Professional Life Separate
by Marcus Business Team

You’ve probably heard the famous tagline, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” And while that’s winking at a possibly rowdy weekend, it also hits on an important idea: The ability to separate two worlds. Now, think about that same concept when it comes to your personal and professional lives.

Here’s a tip for small businesses
When you find a healthy way to separate business from personal life, you'll be happier.

When you find a healthy way to separate business from personal life, it’s exactly that: healthy. You’ll be happier in your free time if you set a few boundaries with the office. You’ll also set yourself up for success at work by removing all the distractions. This article teaches you a process for doing exactly that. And from there, as Marcus Lemonis would say, all you have to do is “Trust the process.”

Separating Your Personal and Professional Lives

When you separate business from personal life, you avoid a lot of self-imposed challenges. Marcus ran into a great example of this when he visited a trailer company in the southeast.

Image of the word “job” crushing someone underneath it.

The two founders started a company together while they were married. In other words, they mixed their work and personal lives. But eventually they broke up, which had a toxic effect on their business. Their communication grew volatile and unprofessional. Although they were business partners, sometimes they wouldn’t share important information regarding the company just to avoid dealing with each other. They even talked about turning away business if it meant dealing with the other one’s new love interest. The turbulence ended up costing them a deal with Marcus, but also teaches you an important lesson. If you don’t separate business from personal life, you could be introducing unnecessary hurdles that could have easily been avoided.

The great thing about creating a little separation is that it’s equally valuable in both directions. Has your job somehow taken over your life at home? If you’re enthusiastically nodding your head, you have plenty of company. Deloitte conducted a survey on workplace burnout, and out of 1,000 respondents, 83% said that burnout from work negatively impacts their personal relationships. Maybe you’re answering emails while you’re supposed to be on your honeymoon. Maybe your work is renting too much space in your head and you’re never fully recharging. Or maybe you’re waking up to the buzzing of work emails at 2 AM. Whatever the cause, when work contaminates your personal life, that can hurt productivity, damage morale, and increase turnover.

Reasons to keep your personal and professional lives separate.
Reasons to keep your personal and professional lives separate.

You Can Still Be You

In a smartphone era when everyone’s always connected, it might seem a little daunting to separate business from personal life. But Marcus has some encouraging words: “It’s okay in business, no matter what anyone tells you, to be yourself.” Creating a healthy separation doesn’t mean leading a double life. You just have to know which part of you to engage when. Take the example of a car. Whether it’s in first gear, reverse, or neutral, it’s still the same car. Think of your personal and professional life the same way. You’re still you. You’re just shifting gears and knowing which gear each situation calls for. Because using the wrong gear at the wrong time can take a serious toll.

Let’s say your neighbor runs a small landscaping business and it just went under. That’s obviously devastating and you’re a supportive friend who wants to help him get back on his feet. So, you hire him to run the operations department of your $50 million fashion company. That’s coming from a good place, but you’re also failing to separate business from personal life. Your team might question your leadership. Your investors might think it’s nepotism. You yourself might even be in for a pretty rocky year because he’ll be learning on the job. You set out to do a good thing, but since you mixed your personal and professional lives, you ended up complicating things.

Image of two people standing by a coffee machine.

You’re better off solving personal problems with personal solutions. Think about slipping his resume to one of your old college buddies instead.

There’s always going to be some fluidity between your personal and professional lives. So, when you try to separate business from personal matters, just use some discretion. If a bunch of you are by the coffee maker and start to make fun of Gary’s shirt behind his back, that’s an example of something personal that can toxify a workplace. Now, imagine you’re talking about Gary with that same group of people, but this time, you’re excited that he’s buying a new house. That’s still personal, but in this case, it’s positive and great.

A Gallup report called The State of The American Workplace stated that “when employees possess a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they’re driven to take positive actions that benefit the business — actions they may not otherwise even consider.” So, as you work towards a world where you separate business from personal affairs, ask yourself this: “Am I creating a bond? Or am I introducing complexity?

4 Tips for Preserving Your Work Life

Image of two people sharing a drink.

1. Have a “No Fraternization” Policy

This basically means you don’t date your co-workers. It gets a little tricky to make this an official company policy, because you’re trying to tell your team how to live. But you can definitely hold yourself to this standard. It just helps keep your working dynamic crystal clear and prevents choppy waters. Be sure to separate business from personal matters when it comes to your love life and you’re in for some pretty smooth sailing.

2. Steer Clear of Office Drama

A small business in Oklahoma City called PaceButler buys and resells old cell phones. They also had a brilliant policy for snuffing out workplace drama. They invited employees to wear different colored bracelets, each corresponding to a different goal, like “no complaining,” or “no gossip.” The employees self-policed, and every week they met their goal, they put a star next to their name on a chart. A perfect month meant a $500 bonus, which got participation up to 75%. Their CEO, Tom Pace, explained that he noticed employees thinking more before they spoke, which improved communication, productivity, and corporate culture.

Image of two people sitting on large message icons while on their phones.

3. Create Two Social Media Accounts

You might want to connect with your colleagues online for a ton of reasons. That’s how people send invitations to happy hours, share pictures from community service days, and keep in touch after they’ve changed jobs. But they don’t need to see the same diaper-changing video that you share with your immediate family. So, think about setting up your social media to separate business from personal accounts. That way, the right post always ends up in front of the right audience.

4. Set Boundaries

Have you ever heard the old saying “No” is a complete sentence? Think about cordial ways you can use that mindset to set boundaries with colleagues. If you’re trying to make a deal, but someone keeps ordering beers for the table, it’s okay to say that you don’t drink at work. The earlier you put that out there, the more people understand your dynamic. Give some thought to what’s right for you, and think of friendly ways to draw a line in the sand.

List of tips for preserving your work life.
List of tips for preserving your work life.

Tips for Preserving Your Personal Life

1. Create Work / Life Balance Policies

Take some time off and encourage your team to do the same. That’s exactly what Dropbox did, clearing the way for their employees to have both personal and professional priorities. They offer unlimited vacation, telecommuting, and even a compressed work week. They’re giving people the flexibility to live their lives, and in doing so, created a culture of balance. That landed them on Fortune Magazine’s “Best Companies to Work For” list and can help improve retention in your neck of the woods.

2. Think About an Answering Service

Whether your calls are routed through a personal assistant or a virtual assistant, consider having someone else answer your phone. It ends up creating a nice buffer between you and the caller. This reinforces that you’re not always available, and of course, helps separate business from personal life. Here and there, time actually is of the essence. And being responsive is important. But if you’re at lunch with your parents, it’s okay to set up those calls so they forward to your assistant.

Image of someone holding up a large phone.

3. Manage Notifications

You might work with people overseas, on the other side of the country, or maybe someone on your team pulled an all-nighter. But one way or another, you’ve definitely woken up to 40+ emails. Think about limiting the notifications on your phone, or better yet, setting it to “Do Not Disturb” when you feel the need. Maybe it’ll help you sleep through the night, or even just enjoy some time with friends. Either way, use this hack to help you recharge when you need it the most.

4. Create a Dedicated Work Space in Your Home

Sometimes you just have to knock out a few emails on a weekend. That happens. But consider doing that in a dedicated area. The last thing you need is to be working from bed, checking your phone while you’re cooking, or texting your CFO during family movie night. Setting a physical boundary for yourself helps separate the personal and professional. Shopify helped their employees do exactly that during the pandemic. They gave employees a $1,000 “home office stipend” that allowed them to set up shop in a formalized part of their home. That stipend covered everything from desks, to chairs, to lamps… everything they needed to create a more functional workspace. But most importantly, Shopify gave them the physical tools they needed to separate business from personal life.

List of tips for preserving your personal life.
List of tips for preserving your personal life.

You might’ve heard the term “ice cream pizza.” It’s a term that people in creative fields use to acknowledge something really important: Just because you have two great things doesn’t mean you should start mixing the two. Keep that in mind when it comes to your personal and professional lives. Separating those two helps both shine a little brighter, but mix the two and you end up with a pretty weird pizza.

  1. How do you currently keep your personal and professional life separate?
  2. Which tips from the above can you leverage to further keep your personal and professional life separate?
Photo of Marcus Lemonis