Leadership & Productivity

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Balancing motherhood and business leadership during lockdown

10 Mins

Gayle Carpenter is the ceo and founder of Sparkloop, a UK based creative agency. Amid the COVID-19 lockdown, she finds herself facing the challenge of running her business from home, managing her team and home schooling her nine-year-old…

I never thought I would say this, but I miss Brexit, school runs and my daily commute. The COVID-19 crisis is global, unprecedented and unlike anything we have faced before.

Working from home during lockdown can certainly feel isolating and overwhelming at times. However, if we focus on controlling the ‘controllables’ then there is a good chance that we will be able to navigate it with a sense of calmness and empowerment.

Here are my top survival tips:

1. Look after your staff wellbeing

If your staff aren’t happy, your business isn’t happy. However worried you are, think about your team and their concerns. Do I still have a job? Will I be put on furlough? How will I function without my team around me? Reassure them, make yourself fully accessible and open.

Make sure they have the right equipment to function effectively and comfortably. Try to keep to your usual working hours to maintain a sense of normality but be flexible where you need to be.

Set up a morning check in on zoom/google hangout or similar to give them the inspiration and direction for the day. For a more personal and one to one communication, create an open slack channel for each employee to direct message any concerns and to encourage them to openly discuss things.

And you can still do ‘Beer Friday’ – just with a virtual CHEERS instead!

2. Reach out to clients

Workplace wellbeing in business

Once your staff are happy, it is essential to not only keep in touch with clients, but even ramp up the usual contact with them. They are feeling this too and the earlier you act, be proactive and look for ways to collaborate, the stronger your relationship will be for it. Google hangouts, Teams or Zoom are also a lifeline with clients.

Turn attentions to the here and now. How can you better adapt your time, and fees towards something that will benefit your clients – from crisis communications to getting their brand fundamentals right. This is the time to reflect on what is most important and shows them how adaptable you can be as a business.

3. Set some boundaries and routines

While your business life has to carry on, there is no escape from ‘mum duties’. As you have set a routine and open communication with your team and your clients, you also need to apply this to daily life. Your child has suddenly lost a very rigid timetable, a group of friends and a focus so it is your job to try and re-create something similar in your home.

Your home is now your office but try not to make your office your home. Design a rota for the wall so everyone can see what the new ‘normal’ will be.

We have all been forced into this lockdown but try and see this as an amazing time to spend time with your family. Stop for mealtimes together, create work zones, separate the weekend from the week – remember to have fun together too!

4. Remember, we are NOT teachers

You are now responsible for your child’s education, so career woman, mum and wife is now also a teacher! But remember, stressed adults can’t teach stressed children. It’s a scientific fact. Don’t beat yourself up about not completing all the school assignments and concentrate on constructive time between the work calls and to do list.

If we do 2 things each day, then we are doing well. Create a folder, collate all the work they have to do and encourage them to dip in and out. Give your child the option (age dependent!) to choose what they want to focus on and let them enjoy a little bit of autonomy. Introduce a rewards chart and the more self-initiated work they get through the more stars. It’s a win win.

5. Get technical

Tech has really come into its own and now is the time to maximise how we use it. From a ‘house party’ with friends to video work meetings and even exercise or cooking – it seems anything is still possible.

Celebrities are offering fantastic options and support for kids online; English with David Williams, cooking with Jamie Oliver, PE with Jo Wix, the list is endless. Make the most of these free resources while they are on offer.

We set up a WhatsApp group for our kids’ class and have a golden hour from 5-6pm as well as a Zoom session every couple of days so they can all chat about schoolwork (or not). It helps them to stay connected and maintain their friendships.

6. Look at virtual babysitting

If you know you have an important work meeting and you really need your child to be occupied, don’t overlook that grandparents, relatives and childminders around the land will be at a loose end. Get them set up on a compatible platform and get them involved in sharing some of the schoolwork load as well as staying connected. It will benefit children and relatives alike.

7. Don’t be a fridge raider

Whilst we may be turning to drink, the kids are raiding the goody jar, fridge and the cupboards. To reduce this endless grazing, create a ’tuck shop’ poster listing all the naughty snacks such as sweets, cake, juice… and Wine (for Mum). Give everything a value and allocate a £1 a day spending limit. This makes us a little more conscious of what we are consuming and is educational too!

Of course fruit, nuts and water are FREE.

8. Take time out

Make sure you take time to do things together – time away from the schoolwork and the business. Build exercise into your daily routine – cycle, run, make an assault course in the garden (or your living room) and if you can exercise together, all the better. We may never get this kind of opportunity again so make time to chat, do puzzles, watch a film, bake, even to clear out those cupboards which have been groaning for years.

9. Don’t feel guilty

As a mum, juggling your work and your family is always tricky never more so than now, but try not to feel guilty about the times you have to work. If you have balanced your activities and spread your time out, then give yourself a pat on the back instead.

Your children will learn important life lessons having to understand that Mum is working.  Your business is a big part of the home you live in and the life you have and if children see you working hard and being passionate about something, this will inspire a work ethic in them too.

10. Keep calm and design on

That’s our company motto through this. Timelines are still as they were before and it’s important to keep the momentum for general morale. It’s better to be busy than worrying about things beyond your control.  You have new responsibilities in your home and family life and it’s important to strike the right balance.

Manage your workload expectations within the boundaries that this new situation has dictated and remember, we are all in the same boat. We must keep rowing together, so we have the best chance of making it to the other side.

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