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COVID-19 and running a business as a woman

Women can often face additional challenges over and above the ones that men face when starting up our businesses, such as getting enough money at the right time and having access to a variety of helpful business people to ask for some advice.

These challenges can mean that our businesses may grow a little slower than men’s… but the good news is that research shows women-led businesses can be more sustainable in the long run. In other words, it might take us a bit longer to reach the same levels of growth as a male-led business, but we tend to successfully stay in business for a longer time.

Right now, many businesses, both small and large, are struggling due to COVID-19. You may be home-based and, like all of us, from time to time finding it hard (although not impossible!) to work. Remember though that you are not simply ‘working from home’ – you’re at home, in the middle of a global crisis, trying to work. It’s quite a different thing! But unfortunately, you may be finding this home-working even more difficult than men.

And, if you are, what’s the main reason for that? Well, despite all the progress made in recent years, women are still far more likely than men to take on the ‘second shift’ of care at home, particularly if someone in our family is sick or has to be isolated (either young or elderly) and we are more likely to be affected by nursery and school closures.

Accepting that many men do indeed pick up their fair share of the domestic work, it is we women who are most likely to be home-schooling our children and checking up on other people. With social distancing measures still in place, getting extra care support from family and friends is almost impossible and this can be even more difficult for lone parents.

Evidence is growing from countries all across Europe that women’s domestic workload (i.e. the very important but time-consuming home-schooling and caring) during lockdown has almost tripled.

Evidence points to experiences such as children will interrupt more whilst women are working; women being the family member most likely to change the structure of their working day to get everything done; women doing the bulk of the shopping, cooking and cleaning. It can all add to your stress and leave far less time to work on your business. No wonder it takes us longer than men to grow our businesses, even in better times!

If you are feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to be done and keep working on your business at the same time, you are far from alone. But even knowing that other women business owners are facing the same challenges and feeling the same way can help a bit and perhaps reduce the pressures you are piling on yourself.

So, what can you practically do to work your way through all this?

Firstly, if you are facing financial issues, make sure you investigate all the financial support available to you personally (e.g. mortgage holidays) and for your business – have a look at our article on financial support for businesses here.

Secondly, you can find some tips here on juggling home and work with a wee bit more balance here.

Finally, at an emotional level, there are some things ways of thinking that can help reduce the pressures you are placing on yourself, giving you some time to relax, think, plan and work, and look after your own emotional well-being.

  1. Put your own oxygen mask on first. If you are tired, stressed and worn-out, you won’t be able to do anything for your business, let alone look after others. It’s really important to take time to look after yourself first with sleep, fresh air, exercise and healthy food.
  2. Cut yourself, and your employees and co-founders, some slack. They will be struggling too. Not everything will be done when people say it will be done. Not everything will be done the way you want it to be done. Build in a lot more flexibility around all the work that is to be done.
  3. Accept that what you do just now, in both work and at home, won’t be perfect. Some standards will have to be lowered (and there are probably a lot that can be lowered without causing any real issues!).
  4. Apply the 80/20 rule everywhere: research shows that 80 % of your results come from 20% of your actions. Think carefully about what 20% you need to focus on in your business right now to get those amazing results. Everything else can wait.
  5. Think about your circle of influence. We spend an amazing amount of time worrying about things that we have absolutely no control over. Think about what you can influence and focus your business efforts on that. Mentally box up the other worries and put them away in the back of a cupboard or at the bottom of the sea!
  6. If you are still worried about some things, ask yourself if they will still worry you in five years’ time. If you think they will, then do something about it. If not, pack them away in that mental worry box at the back of the cupboard again for a while.
  7. Many people talk about a lack of control just now making them feel quite uncomfortable. A routine can be helpful for bringing back a sense of control. Think about a simple routine for your day, with time for both work and home, and plenty spare time allowed for unplanned activities.
  8. Do your best to get one or two hours focused work a day, with no distractions. If you apply the 80/20 rule above, what could you get done in those two hours? A lot!
  9. Talk to your partner at home and really explain why you need some focused uninterrupted time alone every day for your business. If you don’t have a partner at home, talk to a friend in business, even just sharing your feelings can help you cope a bit better.
  10. Above all, remember what is truly important in life: your health, your family and friends.

 

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