According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, thirty-nine percent of all privately held businesses in the U.S. are run by female owners—more than 11.6 million companies. Many women start and run companies in addition to managing families, caring for parents, volunteering, and/or attending school. Most become expert jugglers, able to shift quickly from one role to the other to ensure that everything is done and everyone is taken care of.
It's a challenge under normal circumstances, but during a pandemic, it's even harder. The pressure to generate business revenue and a desire to keep your family and employees healthy may be overwhelming.
To prevent those feelings from becoming paralyzing, here are steps female business owners are taking to juggle their many roles during COVID-19.
Buying Back Time
With so many demands on your time, one way to reclaim some of it is to pay for services. Amber Artis, CEO of Select Date Society, a boutique matchmaking firm, pays to have groceries and takeout meals delivered a few times a week, eliminating the need for her to spend time shopping and cooking.
"It's costly to pay for these conveniences, but the time that it frees up for me is more valuable than the cost," she says. "Using services that make my life more convenient allows me the time I need to help my daughter with her schoolwork and work on my business."
Attorney Maria Barlow of the Barlow Law Firm also works to reduce the amount of time she spends on meal preparation. Instead of paying others to cook for her, however, Barlow cooks multiple meals at a time, such as making breakfasts and lunches that last for a couple of days.
"When I have a busy day, I either cook two dinners the night before or I make something in the Crock-Pot," Barlow says. "This has helped tremendously. I have been able to still make full meals and work."
Creating Dedicated Workspaces
Artis has found that assigning family members their own separate work areas "has allowed each of our family members to stay organized."
Artis has a home office, while her significant other uses the dining room table for meetings and projects, and her daughter has a desk set up in the basement so she can attend virtual school undisturbed.
Asking for Help
Jorden Roper, CEO of WritingRevolt, says: "This year more than ever, I've asked my husband for more help with household tasks. We usually split chores pretty equally, but since I've been working on my business model and adapting to being a CEO in the time of coronavirus, I've asked him to take over some small household tasks, like ordering groceries, caring for our pets, and cooking."
Fortunately, he was more than happy to do so, she says. "This has taken a huge mental load off of me, allowing me to gain the focus I need to continue running and growing my business as the breadwinner for our family."
Mom of three Jennifer Yco, founder of ShopARLi, says, "involving my kids in my day to day has been exciting for them. My children write/draw thank you notes for my ARLi customers. They help me take packages to the post office, and they will sit on my lap for some of my Zoom calls."
Building in Forced Breaks
Many entrepreneurs would work 24/7 if they only had the energy, but some are starting to recognize the need for downtime.
Shriya Sekhsaria, who runs Lumhaa: The Memory Jar Company, says, "One change I've made since the start of the pandemic is to only charge my devices at night. When the boundaries between work and home blurred, I found that I needed to be forced to stop working." That means that when her phone or laptop battery dies, she's done with work for the day. "I work as long as the battery lasts and then take a forced break to cook and clean and be a real human being."
Automating Repetitive Tasks
Tami Rose, owner of adult boutique Romantic Adventures, has been outsourcing more of her administrative duties as she realizes, "It's getting harder and harder to hold all the details in my head."
She's also reducing her workload by automating inventory reorders, making "arrangements with distributors and manufacturers for auto-orders of basic things to arrive every two weeks without me generating a new purchase order every time," she says. That one change she expects will give her an extra four hours a week.
The coronavirus has made us all dependent on technology for work, communication, and school. Kristen Bolig, founder of SecurityNerd, says: "I've found it incredibly beneficial to carve out time to unplug every day. I make a concerted effort to stay away from all technology for at least one hour a day."
During that time, she goes outside for a walk or reads a book "to unwind and escape from the stresses of my day."
Rarely does your workload decline with success or a pandemic, so finding ways to reallocate your workload, batch tasks, hire help, and make time for yourself are some ways to improve that elusive work-life balance.