This is part 1 of a 2-part mini series around the subject of taking time off and achieving the perfect balance between work and family life.
It can be really challenging to keep your business running during the school holidays with the sudden addition of lots of extra childcare to account for thrown into the mix. This is especially true if you’re a freelancer and even more so if you work from home! What was once your peaceful haven of tranquility during the day is probably now full of screaming, messy children playing and generally having fun – which is great, but not ideal for creating a well-functioning working environment and definitely not somewhere you’ll want to answer the phone to new and existing clients when it rings.
One solution to this is to join a co-working space, like Avenue HQ, so that you can get out of the house and into a professional working environment (assuming it’s not your day to have the kids, of course).
However, you won’t be able to spend the entire summer holidays hiding away in a hip and trendy co-working space, so what else can you do to survive the school holidays as a small business owner or freelancer?
Make sure you take some time off yourself, too.
Firstly, ensure your strategy isn’t all about how you can do as much work as possible and be with your kids as little as possible. Don’t be one of the 76% of small business owners and entrepreneurs/freelancers who never take time off. It might feel like there’s never a good time and you can’t afford to, but how productive and successful will you be if you’re stressed and burnt out? Think about how time completely away from it all can really benefit your business, and you!
Life isn’t all about work – you should work to live, not live to work.
The second post in this series will contain lots of tips on how to be able to take time off from your business – this can be especially if you’re a freelancer or if you’re the boss of a small business. Tricky, but not impossible. Make sure you follow us on social so you don’t miss that one!
Second, you need to get organised. Know what days you’ll be free to work and what days you won’t, so you don’t end up double-booking yourself for meetings and other things. If possible, share this with your husband/wife/partner so you’re both doing your equal share of taking time off work. Depending on your business and how things work with your clients, you might also want to think about giving them advanced notice that you’ll be a little less available than usual during the school holidays – it’s all about managing expectation, and communication is key.
Don’t be afraid or apprehensive about “admitting” you’ll be taking some time off. It’s not something shameful to be “admitted” – your clients understand that you’re a human being, not a machine, and they should even respect and admire you for it!
How to Work Flexibly and Remotely During School Holidays
Third, there’s no reason you can’t mix going away with still keeping on top of things, as long as you’re also having a good break and holiday at some point. With phone services like Vonage you can divert calls to your mobile or use the mobile app (or even just take your box with you and plug it into the router where you’re staying) and as long as you’ve got WiFi or a laptop with a SIM card you can still get some work done. That might mean doing work in the evenings, or maybe you’ll go and stay with the grandparents for a bit and you can do a couple of hours’ work whilst they take the kids out.
Holiday Clubs and Sharing Childcare with Family & Friends
During the school holidays there are often holiday clubs and other activities put on in the local area by churches and other organisations. What’s going on in your area? Some events might be something you can just take your kids to, which makes a nice change from your garden and the same parks and play areas. Other things, like holiday clubs, might cost money but will be somewhere you can leave your kids for a few hours. They’re usually not all day, but it will give you a break and a chance to catch up on emails, or maybe do the grocery shopping or even run the hoover over the carpets!
For other days, make sure you join forces with your friends and the parents of your kids’ friends. Let your children have friends round to play – not only will it occupy them for the day, but it’ll also give their parents a break and some time off… a favour which will hopefully be repaid so it’s a win-win for everyone.
If you’re lucky enough to have siblings, parents or in-laws who live near you, or close enough, then that’s another option to consider; it’ll add some variety and excitement to the summer holidays for your children, too!
It’s a balancing act – you need to be a good parent (that’s the most important of the two) but you also need to be a good business person – for your clients, and also for your children as you’re earning their living!
Teach Your Kids to Let You Work as Well as Play
If you’re able to get some work done on your laptop whilst the children play in the garden or watch a film for some downtime, great. But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t; there’s always the evening to get stuff done, and as long as you’ve suitably managed expectations with both clients and yourself beforehand, that shouldn’t pose a problem.
If you struggle to get work done on your laptop sitting in your garden on a summer’s day because your home WiFi doesn’t reach into the garden very well, find out how you can extend your WiFi’s reach into the garden. I’d recommend the Netgear Orbi Outdoor Satellite.
If your children are old enough, teach them to leave you be while you’re working. In return, though, when you’re with them then you must completely forget about work. Don’t be “just quickly checking something” or “just sending a quick reply” when you’re meant to be playing with them – you don’t want your children’s childhood memories to be of a parent staring at a phone screen.
Think about this: if part of the reason you started your own business or decided to work for yourself was so that you’d have freedom and flexibility to spend time with family, why would you go and sacrifice family time for extra business time?! That would be madness! You’d effectively be “taking back control” only to relinquish control with seemingly no say over how your time is spent.
Develop and Practice Good Habits
It’s also important to develop and maintain good habits during “normal” (ie. non-holiday) seasons, too. Don’t stay in the office working late every night of the week. Don’t check work emails after tea. Go for a walk on your lunch break and have half an hour or so where you’re not thinking about work. You’ll feel so much more refreshed and will work better and more efficiently because of it!
Remember, if the mental health of the business owner is in good shape then the company’s financial health is far more likely to be in good shape, too!
Next up on the blog: how to actually take time off and go on a proper holiday – without your entire business falling to pieces whilst you’re away!