Whether you’re used to working from home or not, if you run a small business, it can be especially challenging to have a partner and children home with you, as well. With school closures and remote work mandates in place, you’ll need your home to function as both a work and living space over the next several months. Depending on how large your family is, the ages of your children, and whether or not you have a spouse who is also working, the challenges will vary.
Here are some general tips on how to schedule your day so that you can keep your business going, while simultaneously helping your family adjust to a new normal.
Make time in the early morning to set everyone up with what they need for the first half of the day. Depending on the dynamics of your household, this could mean making breakfast and prepping a snack for later or getting school assignments listed out and making sure your kids have the appropriate books, technology, and supplies they need. Ask everyone to hold any minor questions that come up (such as being stuck on one math problem or having trouble uploading an assignment) so you can go over everything at once when you have some downtime. For younger children, you may have to work alongside them and be “on-call” to guide them. Try your best to be patient.
Try to block out a period of the day for calls and meetings. Video conferencing, calls and web meetings can be a challenge when there is background noise and interruptions. If possible, choose a specific time window (say, 10:00 am-noon) for regular client/team-facing work to coincide with when the family is preoccupied with school assignments, nap time, or chores. Let everyone know that there should be no interruptions during this time (except for emergencies).
Set up a quiet, no-interruption zone. If you don’t have a designated home office, you’re probably going to be sitting around the dining room table with your family, which can work for certain types of tasks. However, you should also create a space for whoever needs a place to focus, whether it’s an intense project or your teen is writing an essay for global studies. Pick a bedroom, the basement, or the garage, and hang a “do not disturb” sign.
Take family breaks. Maintaining a schedule is important, and it should include time to refresh, stretch, and check in with the family. Keep a set lunch hour, which can include a meal with everyone and a 15-minute walk outside (making sure to social distance from others). Before you go back to work in the afternoon, see if anyone has schoolwork questions leftover from the morning session. Then, plan another 15-minute break in the late afternoon – crank up some music, make some coffee, or do something that makes you happy.
Delegate responsibilities. If you’re running a business, everyone can pitch in to take care of household matters – and maybe even some work tasks, depending on your work. For example, if you run a small accounting firm, teens can help with social media updates or mailings to clients, with your guidance. On the home front, some ideas might be asking one child to go through the pantry and come up with a dinner menu for the week. Another can be in charge of picking a fun activity to do together in the evening. You and your spouse can take turns with cooking, cleaning, and laundry (with age-appropriate assistance from the kids).
Make time for fun and family every evening. It’s okay to loosen up the rules a bit and give everyone something to look forward to after a long day of school and work. Be silly, play games, have movie nights, sit in your yard if the weather permits, and set up a virtual hangout with the grandparents or friends.
Be flexible. As much as having a routine is important, you might find that you get more done working for an hour before the kids get up in the morning or after they go to bed at night. Don’t burn yourself out by working too many hours, of course, but it’s okay to stagger or change up your own work hours during weeks when you’re swamped.
Take advantage of downtime. On slower days or weekends, make sure you practice some self-care and give yourself time to relax and recharge. You can also use the opportunity to get a jump on other things so that you’ll be free when the work starts rolling in again. That might mean prepping some meals for later in the week or catching up on your business bookkeeping.
Take care of your “employees.” There’s no doubt that running a business from home can be stressful, but don’t forget that everyone in the family is dealing with uncertainty and cabin fever. Try your best to have patience when things don’t go as planned, and give out lots of compliments for their cooperation.
Look to your small business community for support and ideas. There are numerous Facebook and LinkedIn groups where other local business owners can network and bounce ideas off of each other since they’re all in the same boat. For instance, you might learn about a tech trick for scanning documents with your phone or apps that let clients virtually sign contracts. You might even be able to barter services.
Learn from the experience. This is the perfect opportunity to develop a formal, strategic contingency plan so that your business doesn’t miss a beat during future emergencies. If you have employees, and you’re figuring out which tools are most helpful to you during this time, make them part of your best practices. Take note of the equipment and technology that everyone needs to stay connected, and allow this time to make your business more resilient.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.