The crisis has been tough for everyone, but working parents in particular are under enormous pressure. Against a backdrop of global uncertainty, parents everywhere have been left to juggle jobs, childcare and schooling. This is hard enough on its own, but entrepreneurs and business owners face a special set of difficulties. Already unpredictable and maxed-out schedules have been pushed to new limits by unexpected challenges.
While there’s no easy fix, we’ve collected top tips from five business leaders who have found ways to help balance running a business and parenting during the crisis. Below, these founders, executives and managers share experiences and strategies learned on the frontlines in the WFH era. (Responses adapted for length and clarity.)
1. Share your calendars with partners: Matt Erhard, Managing Partner at Summit Search Group
As we are both working from home with a new baby, we’ve found the need to set specific times aside to work. In the past, being a business owner, our work happened throughout the day and merged into personal life, which is common and worked fine for us. We’ve found it more important than ever to share our calendars with each other to know when each of us are busy and to define our work time more so than before. This allows us to balance parenting and getting our work done.
2. Establish different mental and physical zones: Phyllis Reagin, Co-founder of CSRH Consulting
We have a “work/school zone,” “entertainment zone,” “workout zone,” and “nutrition zone.” The purpose of these zones is to stimulate our brains with variety and scenery changes. We do not mix up what we are doing in each zone, such as eating lunch while in my work/school zone. The discrete zones provide variability that helps prevent our work and personal lives bleeding into each other.
3. Get your kids’ buy-in on the day’s agenda: Dr. Sharon Jones, Founder & CEO of Dottie Rose Foundation
The day before we launched our first day of school, my children and myself sat down to discuss what was ahead. We laid out their days based on the schedule the school provided, the after school activities, and then something to look forward to each week. In addition, planning out their daily schedule provided me with an outline for my own work. I have worked diligently to plan my day around their work and when they are engaged, I do my calls, and when they have a break, I am able to interact with them with more presence.
4. Be deliberate about being “present” — even in short spurts: Keith Phillips, CEO of realLINGUA
You have to “be there”, be it virtually for your team members or in-person for your children as a leader. And this is way more than just physically present, but present in the moment, focused on those you are serving with your leadership so much so that they sense your support without you even having to verbalize it (although a “I’m here for you!” is a good thing to say once in a while) — this is presence.
5. When all else fails … just breathe: Jessica Mann-Amato, Principal at Mancini Duffy
When I really feel like I’m being pulled in too many directions I have a little mantra I repeat to myself … things my mother use. to say, and things I tell my daughter … words I live by. I take a few deep breaths and remind myself to just breathe, keep your chin up, smile (because it’s infectious), be kind, find joy in little things, laughter is good medicine, and tomorrow will be a better day. It helps to reset your mood, gather your resolve, and move forward!