We are one month deep into the COVID-19 pandemic and many businesses are feeling the strain of mandatory closures, reduced foot traffic and the prospect of a recession if we’re unable to stem the financial bleed. All these factors can create an underlying and unrelenting amount of stress. But as some business owners know, stress has many negative impacts–psychological, physical, and even financial.
Stress Management Tips for Small Business Owners
Stress can make it harder to think clearly and to strategize a way forward but it can also weaken your immune system making you more vulnerable to illness. This is why we want to offer you a few stress management tips for small business owners to maintain calm and order while wading through this pandemic’s river of chaos.
1. Create A New Routine To Match Your New Life
If you were thinking about “getting back to normal” that is simply not possible right now. Nothing is exactly normal as this novel coronavirus sickens thousands and workers are forced to do business from home as they maintain physical distance between themselves and other people. During this time, having a routine is more important than ever for reducing stress but you will need to create a routine that takes into account how your situation has changed. If you’re working from home this is especially important. You will need to coordinate your routine with your spouse, children, and other housemates. Ask the following questions:
• Where will I and my spouse/partner work during the day? You both need to agree on how you will share the space. Having a clear understanding will reduce the number of arguments you have about how the home is being used.
• When will I work? Decide what “office hours” you will keep and stick to that schedule daily. Sporadic or excessive hours can exasperate your anxiety about being productive.
• How will I interact with my kids? It can be a shock to the system to have your kids suddenly at home all of the time. You need to decide when you will spend time with your kids and when they will need to entertain themselves. Don’t feel obligated to fill all of your free time with your children. It’s healthy for everyone to have some “me time.”
• When and where will I get physical activity? The gyms are all closed so you need a new exercise routine. Determine now which days/times you will work out and make sure you have a dedicated space where you can do that.
2. Maintain Strong Boundaries
If you’re working from home, you need to maintain strong boundaries with your family and your job. Here are a few tips:
• Create a dedicated workspace. Your designated workspace should be off-limits to others. When people “borrow” and lose the tools you need to work, it can be infuriating. Don’t get your blood pressure boiling, get everyone in your household on the same page now. Everyone must be informed about what they can and cannot access in your workspace. Ideally, you should have a room or desk that is a “no-go” zone for others. If that’s not possible because you have limited space, you should have a list of items that people cannot touch such as your computer, phone, and work files.
• Don’t tolerate interruptions. As mentioned earlier, you must maintain a work schedule but you should also have no tolerance for interruptions during work hours. Think about it, would your kids call or show up to your job to ask what you’re cooking for dinner? No? Then don’t tolerate these types of interruptions when you’re working from home.
• Clock-in and clock-out promptly. Keeping good boundaries around your work hours is critical to reducing your stress levels. If you sit around and procrastinate all day watching cat videos or following the latest COVID-19 news, you will never get anything done and you will be stressed about it. Don’t do that to yourself, keep to your schedule, make a list of critical tasks to complete and do your job just like you would if you were at the office. On the flipside of that, don’t do a lot of 14-hour work benders that will just stress you out, burn you out, and send you to the hospital because you’ve become sick. Stick to your schedule and do your job in an efficient manner.
3. Care For Your Physical and Mental Health
Maintaining a healthy exercise routine, a nutritious diet, and a relaxation schedule is critical to reducing stress. Healthy habits help to keep your immune system strong. It will also give you the physical and mental stamina to deal with the chaos and small ‘dumpster fires’ that are inevitable when in the middle of a pandemic. It’s up to you to keep yourself in the best physical and mental condition.
4. Don’t Allow Short-Term Chaos To Create Long-Term Failure
Don’t allow short-term chaos to create long-term failure by failing to stick to your long-term business plan. If you did your proper planning, your business should have some protocols for dealing with emergencies, this is the time to implement those protocols. This is not the time to panic and start making decisions out of fear. Stay the course and make adjustments as necessary but don’t abandon your long-term vision.
Best Practices For Creating A Successful Home Office
As governors require non-essential businesses to close their doors, many workers are being forced to work from home. At home, many workers are finding all kinds of challenges—rambunctious kids, bad internet connections, and a simple lack of space that threatens their productivity. In this short and simple guide, we will explore some of the best practices for creating a successful home office.
If you are not living alone, having strong boundaries with your family or housemates is critical to working out of a home office.
• Create a dedicated workspace. Your designated workspace should be off-limits to others. If you can put your home office in a room that no one else has access to, that would be ideal. If you have a lock on the door, use it. This is not about not trusting your family or housemates but it is about protecting your business from people who may do unintended harm by borrowing your tools or damaging equipment. If you don’t have a separate room, cordon off a space that will be designated as “the office.” If this space is in the open, consider locking your computer and sensitive business files in a cabinet when not in use. Everyone in your household must be informed about what they can and cannot access in your workspace.
• Don’t tolerate interruptions. You should have no tolerance for interruptions during work hours especially when on Zoom or telephone calls. Nothing is more embarrassing than having your toddler wandering into your office talking about inappropriate things while you are in a Zoom business meeting. If you have small children, there should be someone supervising them while you work—we will discuss more about that later.
• Coordinate with your spouse. If you and your spouse are both working at home, you need to talk with them to come to an agreement about how this will work. The last thing you want is a bunch of arguments about space, internet bandwidth, noise, and access to equipment. You need to iron all of these details out right now. For example, who will get access to the one private room in your home? When possible try to share prime space so that neither of you is feeling left out or disrespected. When coordinating how you will set up your home office workspace, compromise is the most important thing to do.
• Manage your children. This is a big issue for many people working from home, especially if you have small children. If your children are under the age of 10, you might consider hiring a digital babysitter. Some child care providers are taking their services online. Many of them have age-appropriate activities that can keep the child occupied for about an hour. Do not expect your children to remain engaged with a babysitter via zoom for 2 or 3 hours, it’s not going to happen in most cases if they are young. Consider hiring digital babysitters for when you need quiet time for business meetings or some concentration heavy task. When looking for a digital babysitter, you should first check in with your current child care service and ask if they have digital babysitters. If not, reach out to your personal or professional network for recommendations only as it will be difficult to verify the quality of the babysitter if they have not been recommended by someone you trust.
Here are some other tips for keeping your kids occupied:
• Create a homework schedule. Schools are closed but most students are still expected to study and complete assignments. Make sure that your kids are working on schoolwork during your work hours and consider hiring digital tutors for subjects where they struggle. Once again, if you’re going to hire a digital tutor, get recommendations from your personal and professional network or from the school.
• Let them play videogames. Yes, it’s preferable for them to go to the park or play outside but if you can’t supervise them, consider allowing them some game time during the day. Age-appropriate videogames will keep them preoccupied for hours, just make sure that they complete their homework first.
• Fun hobbies. If there are things that your kid likes to do such as draw or read, consider giving them projects to do while you work and then reward them for completing those tasks without interrupting you.
When you create your home office workspace, you need to pick the right location and make sure that it is set up for maximum comfort and efficiency. Here are a few things you should consider:
Whatever location you choose for your home office, it needs to have enough room for all your tools, at least the things you will use daily. You can always store less frequently used items in another room.
• Noise level
While it’s probably impossible to get a location that has no noise, it’s important that your workspace have relatively low noise levels especially when doing work-related phone/Zoom calls.
You need enough light to read your papers and find the things you need. But you also don’t want to get so much sunlight that you are squinting for half the day. If you work near a window, make sure that you can lower light levels when it gets really bright outside. You should also have lamps that you can easily reposition and turn on/off. If possible, install dimmers so that you can have as much control over your light as possible.
Who has access to this location? Is it a high traffic part of your home? If possible, choose a location where you can keep others out or an area that has very low foot traffic.
Have you been having more internet connection issues lately? It’s not your imagination. Some households are experiencing a lot of latency issues, dropped Zoom calls and even internet outages. Here’s the thing, if your kids are playing Fortnite, your spouse is streaming a Zumba exercise, and you are doing a Zoom call it may be too much for your internet service to handle. You may experience very slow internet connections, dropped calls, and even an outage. You need a backup plan. Here are some tips:
• Purchase the best home internet you can afford. You won’t regret this investment as it will reduce the amount of latency issues you experience when everyone is using the internet.
• Consider purchasing a Wi-Fi hotspot. This will allow you to have a dedicated Wi-Fi connection just for your home office.
• Consider using your cell phone as a WiFi hotspot if you have a temporary home internet outage. But only do this if you have unlimited data, otherwise, you may end up with an unpleasant bill next month.
It can be easy to fall into the rut of spending your workday in your pajamas or workout clothes. Don’t do it. Each day you should get dressed as if you are going to the job. No, you do not need to wear a formal business suit every day at home but you should consider it for Zoom calls if that’s what you would normally wear in the office. As for your everyday home office wear—go business casual. Wear something clean and comfortable, something you wouldn’t mind your coworkers seeing you wear.
As you confidently set up your home office, don’t allow fear or panic to guide you. Make sure that your home office serves your business needs and create a household agreement with our family that respects the important function your work provides.
There are some things you simply cannot control. But one key way to manage stress is to take action to organize and calm a stressful environment. Our stress management tips for small business owners, best practices on creating a home office and tips for keeping the kids occupied while social distancing can help you maintain calm and order.
Contact the franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.