I remember when I had my first child I asked whether I could work more flexible hours, so I could spend time with my baby. I was literally laughed out of the office.
Now, I’ve set up my own business. My clients communicate with me via email, skype and ‘phone and my office, in our Yorkshire home, overlooks some of the most glorious countryside in the country.
Flexible working. Work Life balance. Telecommuting. Call it what you will but how we work has changed significantly over the past 25 years.
I know I won’t be the only parent wondering how I’m going to manage running my business in conjunction with keeping the kids entertained and occupied during the long summer holidays. Having only set up my new business in January this year, I’m over the moon that I’m so busy and keen to keep the momentum going.
However, being with my family is number one favourite pastime. So here are some of my ideas for juggling the work life balance this summer:
One of the great things about running your own business is the freedom to set your own schedule. I’m quite traditional and keep to boring office hours of 9-5! However, I love being up before everyone else and so, during the summer months I’m going to redefine my office hours. I’m setting out to open the office in the early morning time, catching up on emails and client work rather than be drawn into the Facebook or Pinterest time vortex! You might be an night owl. Either way why not schedule in ‘office time’ so everyone knows when you’ll be at work?
Manage everyone’s expectations
Why is it the moment you pick up the phone to talk to a client some sort of family crisis breaks out and kids MUST speak to you right there and then? Thankfully my daughter is old enough to understand that when I need to work, the door is shut and she’ll have to wait ‘till I’m done to speak to me. This, I know, is not the case for everyone (believe me I’ve been there: talking through a huge National Lottery bid on the ‘phone whilst the kids battered down the door).
However, managing everyone’s expectations is vital if working from home during the school holidays is successful. Along with setting special office hours and space in your home, friends and family need to know that you can’t just drop everything to ‘pop over’ for a quick coffee or play date.
For clients and work colleagues including your office hours on your email signature or automatic replies with your availability will let them know when you will back in touch. Check in with them on a regular basis to keep them up to date on ongoing projects.
Manage your own expectations
We may all feel like we should wear super-hero underwear but take it easy on yourself! You do not have to be perfect! Bin the guilt and take a reality check during the holidays. You don’t have to continually check your emails or be available every minute of the day and night to be productive and effective at your job. You’ll only end up putting pressure on yourself, working longer hours and never relaxing.
Aim to realistic but clear about what you need to achieve and plan how to fit it in around your other commitments.
Build a supportive team
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that without a network of friends, family, cleaning ladies, childcare and holiday clubs I wouldn’t have survived 25 years of parenting!
This summer our holidays include some pretty extensive travel so I’ve enlisted the help of a young marketing graduate to help me out. Keen, creative and eager to build his experience Harry is going to be keeping an eye on my business whilst I’m away.
You may be able to hook up with other parents to organise childcare between you. Clubs, holiday activities and playdates can give you a couple of free hours to concentrate and get stuff done. If they are old enough why not draw up a ‘challenge list’ with prizes to get kids involved in household chores whilst you work?
Remote working is nothing without technology! Wi-Fi, super quick broadband, laptops and smart phones have revolutionised the way we work. We can stay in touch with clients and colleagues where-ever and when-ever. Coffee shops and play barns have become the new office space as more of us ‘work from home’ and embrace the remote working ethos.
There are plenty of courses, workshops or consultants who will help you make the most of new technology in your business, helping you make the most of truly flexible working in the 21st century. If you don’t feel confident in using technology to schedule work, social media or manage projects why not ask for help?
You could always ask your tech-savy kids and combine work and family in one big learning experience!
This summer I’m embracing technology, redefining my workspace and creating my own working hours as I travel for 8 weeks around Europe. Our specially built VW campervan Myvanwy is going to be home, office and holiday villa as my family and I explore the cities and countryside between Amsterdam in the north and Dubrovnik in the south, and everywhere in between!
Let’s hope my work-life juggling skills are up to it!