As the summer holidays start, you may be wondering how to balance taking care of your children and taking care of your business.
Juggling childcare with work is something that affects all working parents, but it can be all the more difficult when you run your own business.
Finding a strategy that works will depend on you, your children and your business. Some people need absolute quiet to work, while others can happily sit on their laptop in the park. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it, but what is important is that you find a system that works for you.
We’ve put together some suggestions for surviving the summer with your business and your sanity intact…
1. Streamline your work
There are a number of hands-free tools that can be used to keep aspects of your business ticking over while you’re busy with the children. You can keep your social media sites up to date by using apps to schedule tweets, Facebook posts and blog posts to go live in the future. Options include Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Buffer.
Offload the admin
If you can already feel the admin work building up, consider hiring a ‘virtual assistant’ who will complete the tasks set from a remote location. They can deal with everything from answering incoming calls to paying bills, and from conducting research to booking travel, and can be more flexible and inexpensive than hiring staff.
Be clear about contact
There are some quick fixes for keeping added hassle to a minimum, such as setting an auto-response to emails and a specific answerphone message. Tell callers or email correspondents that you’re working limited hours during the school holidays and that you may take longer than usual to get back to them, and you’ll probably see your inbound contact drop.
2. Find a childcare option that works for you
Sometimes, streamlining your workload just isn’t going to cut it. If you need someone to take care of the kids while you’re running your business, there’s a range of solutions to fit different budgets, time constraints and work schedules.
One of the simplest solutions is to hire a childminder. Some have their own premises or will take your children out for the day, whereas others will look after your children at your own home while you get on with work. Check for a registered childminder in your local area, and check the government’s advice for employing someone to work in your home.
If a childminder isn’t feasible for you, there may be summer schemes that you can register your children for which will get them out of the house for a day or two. Older children could attend residential schemes, which will free up your evenings and stop you from losing time to taxi duty.
Friends, family and your wider network
In an ideal world, you might have friends or family who are willing to help out with child care. However, if this isn’t an option for you, there could well be other working parents who are in a similarly sticky childcare situation. Consider pooling resources and looking after their children alongside yours in return for them taking your children for a few hours to give you the chance to catch up. If you know any other entrepreneurs or parent business owners then this network could be a good place to start.
One solution that is starting to gain traction is working spaces with crèches designed specifically for parents of young children who work out of the office or manage their own business. These child-friendly work hubs include Officreche in Brighton and Third Door in South London, with payment options including pay-as-you-go and monthly contracts. Facilities typically include wireless internet access, printers, and meeting rooms, while the crèche rooms are staffed by nursery professionals. There is even a free scheme running in London as part of the entrepreneurship-encouraging Library Lab project.
3. Be realistic
Unfortunately, even if you find a few hours during the day for work, it may well work out that a lot of it has to take place during the time you’d normally have for yourself - after the children have gone to sleep. While it’s not an ideal solution, if you need the quiet to get things done, evenings might be your best bet.
Keeping clients in-the-loop
Even if you plan ahead, even the best laid plans can sometimes fall through. If your childminder cancels, or a client has to arrange a meeting, you may find that you have no choice but to meet them with your child in tow. If your clients know you’re a working parent they could well be sympathetic to your circumstances and won’t mind the odd disruption that comes with children.
As much as you try to juggle work and kids over summer, it’s always going to be more of a balancing act than it is while they’re at school. Be honest with your clients - and with yourself - about how things may be a little different during the six week holiday.
And of course, there’s your children. While you have to think about fitting in work around your children, you also have to think about fitting in your children around work. When spending time with them, try to avoid anything work related - if they have your undivided attention when you’re able to give it, they’ll be more understanding about the time you need to take for your business.
How do you manage childcare whilst running your business? Tell us in the comments.