Once upon a time, the business owner who bragged of being too busy to take time off was considered a great success. Not any more! These days, taking a break from the business is recognised as vital for ongoing success.
Why are so many of our lifestyles crippled, rather than enhanced, by our businesses? The 2012 MYOB Business Monitor survey revealed that 53 per cent of owners of small and medium businesses took fewer holidays than they could have and 29 per cent said they took no holidays at all.
Holidays aren’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ – they’re a necessity for happiness, wellbeing and nurturing relationships with family and friends. Recent research by recruitment psychometrics firm Onetest found that people who hadn’t taken annual leave in the previous 12 months were less satisfied with life. The report also quotes an academic study (Matthews, 2000), which discovered that those who do not take holidays experience more health problems.
The business case for holidays
One of Australia’s bestselling small business authors, Andrew Griffiths, who has written a book on the topic called 101 Ways To Have A Business And A Life (Allen & Unwin, $24.95), says the reality for small business owners is that there is never a good time to take a holiday.
“The problem is that holidays are essential to keep you sane and to prevent burnout,” says Griffiths, who presents to and works with businesses around Australia. “Every business owner needs to plan regular breaks from their business, and they need to be good breaks.”
Here is what Griffiths recommends.
Think of a holiday as an investment
If you’re a business owner, then you are your business’s biggest asset, says Griffiths. A holiday is an investment in your biggest asset. The longer the list of reasons you can’t take a holiday, the more important it is that you take one.
“Small business owners traditionally have not tended to look after themselves,” says Griffiths. “The problem is that when we are fried, we stop being creative and energetic in our businesses and simply go through the motions. I think the business actually starts to look tired and fatigued as well, which is not a good way to attract customers.
“When we are recharged, feeling good, feeling healthy, have caught up on sleep and so on, we are in a much better state of mind, and this revitalised energy is reflected in our business. And, of course, we come up with the best ideas for our business when we’re lying on a deck chair under a palm tree – not at midnight when we’re exhausted from working 30 days straight.”
Give everybody plenty of notice
In order to protect your supplier, client and customer relationships, start telling them at least one month out that you’re going to be away. Then reiterate the point again when you’re one week out. “There’s nothing worse than getting a last minute email for an urgent job just as you’re walking out the door,” says Griffiths.
Avoid the “crazy last day”
It’s easy to make the last day before a holiday a lot more bearable, says Griffiths.
“That last day before a holiday is like the world is ending!” he says. “Many years back, I realised how much I disliked this ‘day before leaving’ insanity, so I told everyone that I was leaving a day earlier than I actually was. This gave me a day when everyone thought I was gone to do those final few things in a calm and leisurely way, maybe even have a relaxed lunch and generally get excited about the holiday ahead. I always start my holidays in much better shape this way, certainly more relaxed.”
Build in a day before your return date, too!
“Just like I do with the day my holiday begins,” says Griffiths, “I tell everyone it will be a day later than it actually will be. This means that when I get back, I can pop into the business, say hello, make sure everything is still there, go through the mail, maybe catch up on a few emails and generally get ready for the first real day back at work.”
Why a holiday makes you a better manager
- Managers who model good work / life balance will likely see their behaviour reflected in their staff.
- When you go on holiday, it gives your best staff a chance to step up and impress you with their abilities.
- You’ll be happier, more relaxed and more driven, and consequently a more inspirational manager.
- From a distance, you’ll develop a clearer view of where the business should be going and what changes must be made, which will likely lead to more growth opportunities for staff.
Make sure the holiday really is a holiday
If your employees are overly dependent on you, you need to clearly define the only circumstances that warrant contacting you when you’re on holiday, advises Griffiths. In fact, this type of thinking should be encouraged all year long.
“Make it very clear to your staff what is an acceptable reason to contact you and what is not,” he says. “Even better, make yourself uncontactable. Give staff the name of a trusted friend or adviser, maybe your accountant, who could help if there is a crisis. A holiday is not a holiday if you’re constantly responding to stressful emails.”
And the same is true in reverse – hard as it might be, says Griffiths, try to disconnect. “I know your hands will shake, your eyes will cross and you will be tempted to sneak outside at 3am for a quick email fix, but try to avoid it. When I need a holiday to recharge my batteries, one of the things I look for is lousy internet cover – the worse, the better!”
Useful tools and resources
- If you’re going away, Australia Post can hold your personal or business mail and deliver it the next business day after you return.
- Australia Post also offers a range of travel solutions, including travel insurance (international, domestic & multi-trip plans), travel money (including foreign exchange and traveller’s cheques), passport and ID photos, prepaid SIMs and more. View our full range of travel services.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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