Many summers, I would scramble to leave the newsroom by 4 p.m. to pick my kids up from summer camp. Still, I would be one of the last parents in the camp pickup line. When my kids complained, I wondered how other parents made their summer schedules work.
For working parents, summer can be one of the most challenging and expensive times of the year. The free and low-cost day camps usually fill up quickly. Most camps end at around 3 or 4 p.m., and aftercare programs charge an additional fee — if they are available at all. At the same time, these slower months hold promise as a time to learn a new skill, spark innovative thinking, launch marketing initiatives or re-energize your outlook.
Memorial Day means summer is almost here, and some planning can lead to a better work/life balance in the months ahead.
Flexibility: Take stock of your work schedule and, if needed, think about whether and how it can be adjusted. If you have built up good will, you would be surprised at how many bosses understand the need or desire for summer schedules. At Lynn University, employees are fortunate to have summer hours — 9 to 4 rather than 8:30 to 5. Barbara Cambia uses the summer schedule to her advantage by heading to the gym before home. “I can exercise and still get home early enough to do stuff around house that I normally do on weekends,” she says.
Costs: For children, summer represents a time to explore interests. But summer programs aren’t cheap. Gauge the cost against your salary. Can you really afford it? What’s the toll on your work life? Does the camp offer before and aftercare, and if so, what is the cost? Karen Meister of CampExperts in Miami helps parents with their summer camp search. For most parents, there is a lot to coordinate; there are about 14 weeks they have to cover. Finding child care coverage for the full work day might require before- and after-camp care programs that could run as much as $500 for eight weeks, she says. Even sleep-away camp sessions fall short of the entire summer, which means working parents must take time off or find one- or two-week camps to fill in gaps. Those camps run the gamut of interests, but can cost as much $350 per week. Meister advises getting your child enrolled as early as possible: “There are camps less expensive than others but those fill up fast. When you wait to the last minute, you pay for it.”
Outside help: Do you need to hire a babysitter, nanny or driver to help this summer with childcare? When my children were younger, I organized with friends to carpool and take turns picking up the group after camp and bringing them to our homes one day a week. It cut down on the after-camp care costs and the interruption to our work schedules. Some of my friends use grandparents or teens to pitch in over the summer. At Care.com, Katie Bugbee noticed a rise in nanny summer job postings as early as mid-April. She sees interest from parents looking for part-time nannies or sitters from 3 to 7 p.m. “College students make fantastic summer nannies,” she says. “This is a great time for parent to post a job and expect to find someone willing to start in next few weeks.”
Greenberg Traurig attorney Sabrina Ferris, a single mother, has a trial set for summer. To make her summer schedule work with her two young sons, she has pieced together a mix of camps, a nanny, help from her ex-husband and grandparents. She also works from home when possible. “I will fully utilize my network of help,” she says.
Business owners may want to hire too. A report by CareerBuilder shows seasonal hiring is expected to take a nice jump this summer and a wide majority of employers hiring this summer —77 percent — say they will consider some summer hires for permanent positions.
Time off. Certain summer weeks are in high demand for vacations. Camps typically end a week or two before school starts. Now is a great to figure out logistics and get time off on your office calendar. If you are single or childless, plan your time off wisely because many parents will ask off in August, before the school year starts, when camps have ended.
A movement is underway to encourage American workers to take their vacation days. Small business owners report they will take time off this year, with 59 percent of them planning to take at least one full week of time off this summer, well above the 49 percent in 2013, according to the American Express OPEN Spring 2015 Small Business Monitor. “They need a break to recharge and to boost their problem-solving capabilities,” says Alice Bredin, small business advisor to American Express OPEN. Bredin says most will try to check in with their offices at least once a day; that will help them worry less about their businesses, she says.
At Rivergate Companies in Miami, a property management firm, CEO Jay Massirman will encourage his staff in Florida and North Carolina to take vacation time. He already has begun looking at which senior managers, particularly property managers, will fill in for each other. Massirman says in the past, he would thank staff for giving up their vacation time because they were too busy: “Now, I say we will cover you. People need downtime. They need to recharge.”
Productivity, creativity: Summer is the time to master efficiency. If you can get more done in less time, you might be able to make those early pickups from camp, leave early on Fridays and make the most of your summer. Bredin encourages starting the day with the most important tasks. She also encourages business owners to set a stop time. “The power lies within you. Are you going to build in time to refresh and do a great job tomorrow? Or, are you going to kill yourself and do a so-so job tomorrow?”
Because summer can be slow for some industries, it can be a time to put your marketing hat on. Sarah Davidoff, owner of Fare to Remember, a Miami catering company, used to close for the summer — until she realized she was missing out on business. Earlier this month, she sent out a newsletter, encouraging customers to use the slow summer months to plan their next event — even if it’s a holiday party. While she tries to make time for her son, she allows her staff to get creative. “They request how and when they do their hours,” Davidoff says.
Learning: School may be out for the kids, if the but adults will find summer is an opportunity to take courses for career advancement or enrichment. It also can be a great time to obtain a certification or improve skills. Davidoff has enrolled in Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a business education program for entrepreneurs that will meet weekly at Miami Dade College over the summer.
Columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman writes regularly on workplace and work life topics. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or worklifebalancingact.com.