Feeling overworked? Why finding work-life balance is ever elusive

Discover how your peers feel about this universal challenge, and what they’re doing about it, in Mailchimp & Co’s 2023 Benchmark Report.


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The search for a strong work-life balance is a longstanding one for many of us. From those who work in large companies to those who work for themselves, progressing in our careers while at the same time focusing on things other than our jobs isn’t always easy. We’re told from an early age that if we want something, we have to work for it, and whilst that is mostly true, many of us end up falling into the more toxic side of hustle culture. Ambition and productivity become important values to us, and we see these as diametrically opposed to rest and relaxation. But, the truth is, to be in it for the long haul, and to see real progression over the course of our working lives, we have to create a sustainable work ethic – one that prioritises rest as much as it does productivity.

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Certainly, establishing this balance is a constant work-in-progress, and debate still rages across many different industries on how to go about doing this. Nowhere else is this clearer than in Mailchimp & Co’s recent Benchmark Report 2023, where it was revealed that interconnectedness and work-life balance were two of the most salient themes among workers. And while 49 per cent of responding agencies believe that they have a good balance, 39 per cent say they only experience this sporadically, while 12 per cent say that they lack it entirely. Which means that more than 50 per cent of those who responded are struggling in this area.


Copyright © Espen Friberg, 2023

These statistics show a worrying tendency for overwork, as well as a common thread of day-to-day stress among agency workers.

The 2023 Mailchimp & Co Benchmark Report

Furthermore, nearly a third (28 per cent) of responding agencies told Mailchimp that they feel worried and anxious about their business at least once a week, nearly half (48 per cent) say that they work more than the standard 40 hour week, and the majority (33 per cent) report only taking a maximum of 10 days off work last year. Together, these statistics show a worrying tendency for overwork, as well as a common thread of day-to-day stress among agency workers.

With this in mind, we can dig deeper into Mailchimp’s report to find out what others are doing to address these issues and get the balance right. Firstly, and this goes without saying, it’s important not to work around the clock. Compared with 32 per cent of respondents who work over 61 hours per week and report having “no work-life balance”, only 2 per cent of those who work under 40 hours per week say the same thing. Secondly – and equally unsurprising – of those respondents who did take more than 10 days off work last year, a whopping 80 per cent report having a good work-life balance. Clearly, some of the steps needed to improve in this area are relatively simple in theory, and while they’re not always easy to put into practice, it will pay in the long run to work less and relax more.

In the report, Mailchimp partners also share what this looks like in reality. Speaking on her own routine, Alessandra Farabegoli, co-founder of Palabra says “I do yoga and walk every day, spend weekends in nature, stop working for 2-3 weeks during summer, and also rest during school holidays and the remainder of the year. I read and listen to audiobooks: narrative and topics other than marketing.”

For Bushra Sheik, co-founder of BKS Consultancy, her schedule is similar, balancing a productive work period with lots of rest. “[It’s important to have] clear boundaries with work time and home time,” she explains. “I also only work a four-day week, reserving one day to enjoy my free time, whether that’s by relaxing, spending time catching up with friends or doing stuff around the house. I also have a great support network and team who I can delegate work to when needed.”


Copyright © Espen Friberg, 2023

"It’s important to have clear boundaries with work time and home time"

Bushra Sheik

The final piece of the puzzle is another simple step: open up to those around you. Much like the findings in the Benchmark Report for freelancers, having a supportive network is imperative. Beyond simply helping you with the work itself, these people can talk to you about your business, help you think through it, and share their own experiences. But who should these people be? Well, anyone – but the agencies report found that of the groups respondents were opening up with, the most common were other business owners (53 per cent), life partners (48 per cent), business partners (44 per cent) and friends (36 per cent).

That last point is particularly crucial, with many people finding themselves doing work that they don’t really want to do. The answer, of course, is either to delegate those unwanted tasks to other team members, who can help share the load, or find a way of restructuring your workflow so that you can spend more time on the parts of your job that you like, or on things other than work. Tools such as Mailchimp’s QuickBooks Online helps users achieve this by giving them a way of outsourcing their work and offering them more control over the various processes involved. In fact, 34 per cent of agencies reported that QuickBooks was their go-to finance software, showing just how popular it is with teams around the world.


Copyright © Espen Friberg, 2023

Much like the findings in the Benchmark Report for freelancers, having a supportive network is imperative.

The 2023 Mailchimp & Co Benchmark Report

And the most amazing thing about this notion of sharing your troubles is that, for those who do so, the benefits transcend even just a healthier relationship with work – speaking to those around you can actually provide financial benefits as well. Summarising their findings, the Mailchimp team write: “Feeling heard, seen, and understood can make a world of difference. Our data suggests that respondents who say they speak to their peers about their business challenges are more likely to grow their revenue compared to those who don’t confide in their peers – that’s the power of community.”

To explore more of Mailchimp & Co’s findings, and to download the report, head over to the website to sign up.

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About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.

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