COVID-19 has caused everyone’s home and work lives to collide. A few months ago, we found ourselves suddenly juggling our work, kids trying to learn to divide fractions via Zoom, and a working spouse, all while worrying about aging parents. That door we had at the office? It isn’t there anymore. You might find yourself yearning for the good old days when you could go to the office, shut the door, and just think about work for eight hours. Wouldn’t that be great?
My own personal perspective is that of a working parent with young children so I can speak about the struggles I am seeing. I’ll admit it: this is not easy.
In the ordinary course of events, parents get breaks. Whether it was school, after school activities, babysitters, camps, playdates, visits to grandparents, etc., there they were–times when other people supervised our kids and we had the luxury of focusing on work.
We are now in July. We have been in this for a while. Most likely your strategy so far has been one of two options: Let the children do more or less what they want—even if it means sitting in front of the television or playing video games for hours. Or, allow your business to suffer from benign neglect while you tend to your children’s needs. Or, in my case, a bit of both.
But here’s the thing: whichever strategy you’re using, the shelf life is limited and time is running out. It worked in the short term for a crisis that we believed might last a few months. You’ve probably felt the growing pressure, knowing that the house of cards is about to collapse. You need to approach the long-haul with a new strategy for the new normal.
Now is the time to admit that (at least for the foreseeable future) work and home lives aren’t separate after all and view them holistically. This doesn’t mean you need to visit a new age life coach, but you should look at work and home in relation to each other.
First, take stock of your resources–both work and personal. What can you draw on in terms of talent, personnel, equipment, space, etc.? What resources do you have for childcare, teaching, tutoring, or even keeping kids busy with the television or computer? It’s possible you might be able to combine these resources in new ways. Second, re-examine your business and home budgets with the current challenges in mind.
Do you need to redeploy resources and reallocate budget? Consider what you want (for the sake of your sanity) as well as what you need.
It’s okay if you need to budget more of your time to childcare so they don’t grow up to be barbarians or fail out of the third grade; just make sure your plans take into account your reduced hours. Work can get done that is not done by you. Outsourcing bookkeeping work is a great way to add hours to your day. What about IT work?
It’s also okay if you’d prefer to be on weekly Zoom calls rather than playing a billionth game of bingo with your four-year-old. I don’t blame you. Maybe you need a babysitter a couple of hours a day. Have older kids? Consider hiring a tutor before you strangle your son over unfinished biology coursework.
“But, Mallory,” you say. “I don’t need to make any changes. I’ve been muddling through the summer just fine and our schools will open full time.” Lucky you! Gold star! But nobody knows what will happen in the future. Not you. Not me. Not the president. Not Dr. Fauci. Nobody. 2020 has taught us to expect the unexpected.
Prepare your home and work life for different contingencies. What if schools go online in October? What if a spouse suddenly isn’t available? What if your daycare closes? The more prepared you are for various scenarios, the more easily you can pivot in different directions when something unexpected happens. Which it will. That’s the one thing we can count on.
Need some help planning for the future? Contact Office Accomplice and learn what we can do for you!