Happy holidays...or not as the case may be. The holiday season may be upon us, but large numbers of entrepreneurial small business owners won't be taking a break. It is not they don't want time off - they simply don't feel able to step away from the business.
In research published in the UK recently, nine in 10 small business owners admitted to working on holiday, while many entrepreneurs say they never take time off.
That's a mistake -and not just because it's a shame to miss out on a break, even if it's just time out of the office rather than a trip away.
Not least because there's a clear link between overwork and stress, says Dr David Bull, a doctor who advises on corporate health and well-being. Having time out and ensuring that you take holidays is an important step towards combating stress", he says, which is important for the health of both you and your business.
Chronic stress can lead to burnout and mean business owners cannot perform to their optimum", Dr Bull adds. Their decision making processes become impaired, leading to poor management and consequently businesses could suffer.
The key for entrepreneurs worried about how to take a holiday is to plan ahead. Consider the following thoughts in order to make time for a break that you can really enjoy.
Get the business ready
Plan for holidays in advance. If you’re going to be away, make sure customers aren’t left hanging – even if that’s a simple out-of-office message on email and phone systems. Tell them when you’ll be back and what to do if they need help in the meantime. Also think about your business’s finances, suggests Clive Lewis, head of enterprise at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. “Make sure your business has a cash buffer in place,” he says. “Your customers are also likely to have finance staff on holiday and that could lead to delays in them settling their bills, negatively impacting your cashflow.”
All breaks are good breaks
If you really feel your business can't spare you for, say, a two-week holiday abroad, don't give up on vacation altogether. At the very least, schedule a long weekend, take a day off here and there, or even play truant for an afternoon. Switching out of work mode will pay dividends whatever you do with your time and however long you take off.
Set limits while you're on holiday
Standard advice is to completely forget about work when you're off, but if you really feel that not checking in on your business will prevent you from relaxing while on holiday, be disciplined about what you do. One option is to have a time each day when you will spend half an hour reviewing emails and responding if necessary. That way, you can relax the rest of the time, safe in the knowledge that there isn't an emergency back home and particularly urgent issues have been dealt with.
Look forward to some thinking time
Holidays can be a fruitful time for thinking about the strategic issues your business faces - the sort of time that gets squeezed out by the day-to-day realities and practicalities when you're in the office. Some of that thinking can be very creative. A survey of entrepreneurs published by Sandler Training found that one in five had had an idea for a new startup business while on holiday.
"Having a rare moment to unwind can actually be the perfect time to think up a winning concept for a business idea," says Shaun Thomson, the boss of the firm.
Don't apologise for taking time out
Clients can be demanding, but don't feel you have to apologise for having a holiday - chances are that they'll be taking a break too. As long as you explain clearly when you'll be able to meet their demands, you have nothing to say sorry for. And you'll do a better job for them if you return to work refreshed and re-energised.