It’s looking increasingly likely that some childcare centres and schools will shut down over the next few weeks following incidents like this where staff tested positive for Coronavirus at Banksia Cottage at Macquarie University.
Some workplaces have already enforced a ‘work from home’ policy for employees who have travelled overseas in the past month, and the next few weeks could see more offices shutting their doors for days, if not weeks in order to protect staff.
So what is this going to look like for your household?
There are 345,000+ business women with dependent children in Australia. The Mums & Co Australian Mums in Business Report reveals that the average mum in business has two kids. Half of all business mums are between 30 and 39 years old. One in ten are single parents, nearly a third are born overseas and one in four have more than one business. Support with childcare is found in a number of places — the majority have the support of a partner in looking after the kids (60%), while four in ten call on family members, and business mums also heavily rely on schools and childcare centres.
Working women still take on most of the household responsibilities and mental load of caring for a family. In a recent survey by SBS and Macquarie University, 86 per cent of women said they do the majority of the housework.
How is this going to work when everyone is home and both parents are trying to work?
The key word here is flexibility.
If one person needs to work specific hours, the other parent will need to work outside those times.
If both parents need to work at the same time, this is when families are going to need to look at childcare options from outside the home. Now is the time to discuss who will look after the kids if both parents need to log on concurrently.
Beyond that, what will happen if the kids get sick?
Who is doing the caring?
Who is taking time off work to look after them?
This all becomes even more complicated for single parents, and those who are unable to work from home. Who are you going to call upon if you urgently need help? And can you afford to pay someone to assist? Now could be a good time to scope out pricing and availability in your local area.
The coming weeks could present real challenges for families so here are five things you can do to alleviate conflict and get through this time with your team spirit intact.
- Talk to your partner about work schedules
Now is the time to talk through what it will look like if you both have to stay home. Discuss things like income protection insurance and whether either of you will still get paid. Will this period be classified as sick leave, enforced leave or leave without pay? How is this going to impact your finances?
Now is also the time to discuss household chores and childcare. If you are both home, who is cooking, cleaning, washing and changing nappies? In a lot of cases, women will automatically take on these tasks but that’s going to get old, really fast, if the woman in question is also trying to keep up with her regular workload.
Allocate tasks, do up a roster, or alternate days. Whatever you do, don’t try to do it all yourself.
- Get your prescriptions and medicine cabinet in order
Refill all your scripts for your regular medications, stock up on paracetamol (children’s and adult), ibuprofen, allergy treatments and other first aid essentials. Make sure you have plenty of soap and tissues in the house, as well as things like hydrating icy poles and stock to make soups.
Teach the kids to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, to avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes, and to cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve. For younger kids, turn it into a game that you repeat daily so by the time they need to do it, they are already familiar with the concept.
- Talk to your support network about possible childcare options
Have you spoken to your daycare centre, school or extended family about what will happen if COVID-19 disrupts normal operations? Do they have a plan? Will daycare payments still continue?
Arrangements involving grandparents will need to be reviewed as older people are more susceptible to the virus. Now is the time to consider alternatives.
- Prepare a strategy for your clients and customers to implement if you need to shut down your business
In the event of a complete shutdown wherein you can’t work at all, ensure you have a plan for how you will notify your clients and customers and who can possibly take over from you if there are urgent tasks that need to be completed.
Do you have a business partner who can assist? Are there trusted people in your network who you could hand over to while you’re offline? Is anyone across what you’re working on and trained in your process and systems?
How will you cope if you can’t work for 14 days? And how will your clients and customers cope without you? Now is the time to do some planning around this.
- Get your finances in order
Do you have enough money saved to cover your mortgage or rent if you don’t have any money coming in?
Many Australian households are two weeks away from the threat of homelessness if they lose their regular income.Speak to a trusted family member, your bank or your creditors now if you think you could lose income in the coming months. It could simply be a matter of credit extension or a loan from a family member.
Having a financial plan will significantly reduce the stress of two weeks off work for both parents. It’s a potentially volatile year ahead. Get organised now.
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