And so Work-From-Home parents up and down the country are facing the barrel of the Easter Holidays.
I read this week that 70% of new businesses are started by women – and I suspect most of that is driven by the need to find an income that fits comfortably around family life.
It’s exactly why I started LittleStuff fifteen years ago – I had been made redundant, and could not find a job that would pay enough to cover soon-to-be three children in childcare, and actually allow me to see a little of them too. So I made my own (and if anyone calls me a mumpreneur I will not be held responsible for my actions…).
Working from home is a fabulous thing to be able to do; I have all the flexibility I need, I have no one telling me what I should do when, I can take the afternoon off to head to the beach and work until 2 in the morning if I so choose.
As anyone self-employed person knows, it’s also downright scary to be responsible for your own pay cheque, it’s occasionally tedious to never be able to walk away, and it takes a lot of personal training to just stop for the day and not reply to the one-last-email.
It’s okay when you’re alone, and no one’s trying to take a piece of your time – I know that my most productive time of the day is after everyone’s in bed, the house is quiet, the phones have stopped, and it’s just me and the gentle tap of the keyboard. Getting Stuff Done.
And I know I’m not alone
– I get an inordinate amount of response to my mails and on social media after 9 at night – we’re all there, the secret CEO’s at the heart of the UK’s booming home business community. Around 70% of new businesses start off in the home – it is now the most popular place to start and grow a business. One in 10 domestic properties are now home to at least 1 business, and they already contribute £300 billion to the British economy.
We are not people starting businesses out of necessity through lack of jobs; we are part of a growing movement that is responding to the new opportunities technology brings us, and actively taking control of our own destiny by starting out from home.
But there is work that has to be done during the day – we can’t operate solely in the quiet of the night. And when the school holidays head our way, things can change. For most of us, working form home was a conscious decision – and one of the driving reasons is to allow the flexibility to work around our families. And new research from Direct Line for Business, Small Business Insurer found that 60% of UK home business owners with children steps away from their business to be with their kids during school holidays. This is estimated to cost home businesses in the region of £220 million over the Easter break and around £658 million during the six week summer holiday.
But I’ve done it. I know that when my kids were in school (and it was working from home that allowed me to withdraw them to be homeschooled almost three years ago) during the long summer days I had to be far more disciplined than during term time. Naturally they were there, wanting my attention, wanting to DO stuff… and I wanted to be with them too. So business slowed down – I didn’t instigate new work, responded slowly to what came in, and missed any number of opportunities as I did so.
By the way – useful tip. FOLK2FOLK offers short-term, flexible business loans to British businesses when access to funding from traditional sources is blocked. If you’re in the Leisure & Tourism industry – whether you run a camping site, holiday park, visitor attraction or golf course – they’re probably worth a call.
Now they’re home all day, it’s like a perpetual school holiday from that point of view – they’re ALWAYS here. Direct Line’s research shows that parents estimate they lose 4hrs of the working day during school holidays – and I’d say in our case that’s bang on accurate. We generally split the day in half, mornings we’re all working together and the afternoons are their free time while we do our own work. But it’s a constant battle to maintain that balance, and there’s probably a day every week where one side or the other loses. Working at it has made me a better business person as a consequence – and also a better mother, I think.
My husband and I both work our businesses from home – and over dinner every night we’ll talk about them. He’ll talk about his own work and clients to keep us informed and entertained, but LittleStuff is run by the whole family, really, and we discuss it together; they’re as involved as they want to be, and they enjoy the ownership. They suggest campaigns and projects, people to work with and products they’ve seen. The youngest takes pride in seeing her writing online, and I always check with them all before I publish photographs or stories about them (or to them). The smartest business move I have made so far was to put the 16yr old in charge of our YouTube channel and tech reviews.
They understand the need for quiet during calls, and we shout a warning when they’ll be taking place (thankfully the noisy toddler stage is long gone). They review products and write the results up for me, understand the difference between a review trip and a personal one (basically I’m allowed to get my phone out if we’re working), and they simply get to see the work that happens to earn the money.
Because they see how busy we are when working, they respect the working space – but also demand our full attention when not working. And we have to carefully demarcate the day to ensure everyone’s needs are met, theirs and mine.
And they all seem to have absorbed the life lessons through their pores – they all talk about the future holding opportunities, and envision working lives that I would never have even thought about at 8/10/13yrs old. I see the negotiation skills occurring in their private conversations, the trades they offer and the value they place purely on time and effort. And I bless the thoughtfulness in the hot cup of tea that magically arrives at my elbow on a stressful day.
How about you – do you find yourself less productive during the school holidays? Let me know any tips that make it work for you.