Juggling Work and Family During the School Holidays
If you run your own business, the school holidays can mean you have a challenge on your hands. Are you ready to face the challenge?
The key to managing the summer holidays is all in the planning. It may sound a bit tedious, but it is important to have a plan of action to ensure that you continue to work consistently (albeit with reduced hours), spend quality time with your children and above all, keep your sanity. Before you start filling your diary with lots of pursuits let’s look at some of the key factors.
Paid for Childcare Providers Our children are home throughout the holidays, but if you really need to dedicate lots of time to your business it is worth considering childcare options and weighing up the cost of childcare with the amount of money your business could potentially lose if you are not putting in the time needed. Many nurseries, schools and sports centres run clubs during the summer holidays, so get in touch with your local Family Information Service (FIS) to find out what’s available.
Consider using the services of a local babysitting company as they may be able to offer you discounted rates if you are booking their services frequently throughout the holidays. Always ensure any service you use can provide CRB paperwork.
Enlist free help from family and friends where you can. A trip to the park with the Grandparents, lunch at Auntie’s, cinema with Niece or a sleepover at a friend’s house can help ease the burden and provide you with some dedicated work time. If you network locally with other business mums work out ways you can help each other by swapping childcare i.e. you have little Johnny and Amelie one day and then you swap over another day so the other mum has your little ones. This can work really well but make sure you know the person quite well before you entrust them with your children.
Things to do
There are loads of things you can do over the summer holidays but again ideally you need to incorporate your activities in your 6 week plan so everything isn’t crammed into the first couple of weeks. Check out the internet to see what’s on in your local area or to get some ideas and inspiration for at home activities. You may have a budget you need to stick to, so mix up paid for activities/days out with the free stuff such as beach trips, picnics, park etc.
Making time for work
Finding time for working is crucial as obviously you can’t let things slip for the whole six weeks. However, it is also worth remembering that you aren’t going to be on top form! Lengthy daytime phone calls, meetings and large projects are going to go out the window, so now is the time to tie up any loose ends and complete those projects you have been working on. Any new projects or business ventures are going to have to wait, so plan these for September/October when things are back to usual routine.
Here are some tips and ideas for making time for work:
- Get up earlier than everyone else: Set your alarm for 6am and try and sneak in an hours work before the children wake up (painful, I know, but you could do this a couple of times a week rather than every day).
- Work in the evenings. Record or Sky+ your favourite television programmes and get your head down between 8pm and 10pm. Remember to have some wind down time (maybe watch those programmes you recorded earlier).
- Make a deal bargain: This is dependent on the ages of your children, but you might be able to bargain with your children i.e. “Mummy is going to have to work for an hour or two this morning whilst you watch a movie but we will be going out to >>insert activity here<< this afternoon”. Invariably though you will be interrupted due to arguments and snack requests so it’s not the time to get involved with something that requires a lot of concentration!
- Work and play: Visit play centres with WiFi. Provided your children are old enough without the need to constantly supervise them, you can check and reply to emails and update social media whilst at play cafe’s.
- Be a smarty pants: Invest in a smart phone such as iPhone or Blackberry. I know this can be a huge expense but having a smart phone means you can work on the go – enabling you to do some basic work tasks such as checking your emails, updating your business Facebook page or viewing your analytics. It is well worth investing if you can as you will find there are lots of applications which are aimed specifically at business.
- Enlist the troops: Ask your parents/husband/partner/significant other to take some time off work to give you some dedicated time to your business.
- Office tots: Think about little jobs your children might be able to help you with – stuffing envelopes, labelling brochures/literature or sitting next to you whilst you work in their own ‘mini office’. Children love stapling, hole punching and sticky taping!
Dealing with phone calls
Telephone interaction with your clients, colleagues and customers will be limited so try and deal with as much as you can via email, but if you do need to make or take calls here are some tips:
- Schedule calls via email for times you know will be quiet.
- If you need to make a call when the children are around use the bargaining technique as mentioned above (beware though mine use this as an opportunity to hand me bags of crisps to open as they know I am distracted!).
- Quietly go to another room whilst the children are playing or watching TV.
- If you get a call when doing an activity with the children, ignore it – you can always phone back if it’s important.
- Be honest. If you are in a telephone conversation and you get interrupted by the children just tell the caller that you are working from home during the holidays, apologise for the interruption and ask if you can re-schedule the call for a more convenient time. Most people will understand – there are so many people who work flexibly due to childcare/health etc.
Helping your business run by itself
There are some things you can do to help your business run steadily whilst you are off enjoying spending time with your children.
- Employ the services of a virtual PA: A virtual PA can take calls for you, reply to emails, update your social media and even research holiday destinations for you and it doesn’t cost the earth. Search the web for Virtual PA services and ask for recommendations on social networks.
- Schedule your social media updates: A VA will be able to help you do this, or you can use scheduling tools such as BufferApp or Hootsuite. IFTTT.com is also good for creating automated recipes.
- Schedule blog posts on WordPress: You can start planning blogs now and set them to publish at various intervals throughout the holidays.
- Set up your out of office on your email: You don’t have to say you are out of the office until September (although that does sound tempting…) rather “I am working from home during the school summer holidays. I will respond to your email in due course but if you require a response urgently, please text me on 08900 123456?
- Outsource work: There are many companies offering services for just about anything, some good examples are Elance and oDesk.
Now that you have lots of ideas it’s time to make a plan…
The Summer Holiday Action Plan
The first thing you need to do is put pen to paper. I use a Phoenix Trading family organiser but you can use plain A4 paper and just do a ruled grid. If you prefer use MS Word or Excel – make sure you print it off though as you will need to refer back to it over the holidays.
Now it is time to have a good think about what blocks of time you can realistically allocate to your business during the week. You can do a new sheet for each week depending on how busy your schedule is, or just have one sheet which you use as a guide for each week.
Preparation Check List
- Complete your weekly activity and work planner
- Hire your VA services/outsourcing
- Book childcare and/or activity clubs
- Write blogs to be scheduled over the 6 weeks
- Schedule social media updates on your business accounts
- Get networking with other mums to see if you can help each other
- Update your online grocery shopping list and schedule your deliveries up to 3 weeks in advance
- Go through your diary and buy or order any greetings cards you need throughout the 6 weeks. Write them out ready for posting
The rules are there are no rules. The action plan is to provide you with some structure over the holidays but don’t get stressed if you aren’t able to stick to it religiously. There is one ‘must’ though and that is to have fun! Summer holiday memories are one of the main things our children remember when they’re older, so make them as memorable as possible. Involve them in your planning and let them have one day per week when they get to choose the activities.