Charlie Mullins: We are not machines and so deserve a little time out

Of course, different firms are affected in different ways by Christmas. While some businesses stick on the “out of office” email on 23 December (or sometimes sooner) and lock the doors until the New Year, there are others where the wheels can’t stop turning.

Pimlico Plumbers is very much in that latter camp – after all a pipe won’t wait to burst until after the turkey has been served! Although we do operate an emergency call out rota and give our engineers the option to work as much as they want over Christmas.

In addition, there are departments across the business, which can operate on a skeleton staff during the holidays. It’s important that employers supporting their teams’ work-life balance to help maintain a happy and healthy workforce. And, after all, no one wants to be seen as a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge!

The challenge for entrepreneurs and business owners is to not forget about themselves when it comes to taking a break. 

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Some pre-Christmas research by Zurich reckons that decision makers and business owners in SMEs are missing out on festive moments with one in five having to go into work on 25 December and nearly a third have sacrificed the festivities to check and send work emails.

The study also revealed that some of those questioned missed out on things like their children’s nativity play and putting up the family Christmas tree. Some ten per cent also missed out on the office Christmas party for work reasons, which is strange when you consider they’ve probably put their hand in their pockets to pay for it!

While you can take this type of survey with a pinch of salt, there was one set of statistics that stood out for me. According to Zurich’s SME Risk Index, one in ten hadn’t taken any annual leave this year and almost one in five hadn’t taken more than ten days off in 2015.

Some may be shocked by those numbers, entrepreneurs will see them differently. Yes, of course, we all need a break and we all want holidays and time with our families, but, to entrepreneurs, a business is like one of the family. It has been born, nurtured, grown and hopefully flourished and succeeded. 

This makes it very hard for entrepreneurial business owners to truly switch off, whether it’s while they’re on a beach in the summer sipping cocktails or in front of the fire at home with the mulled wine and mince pies during the Christmas break.

However, we are not machines and we all deserve a little time out. Most SME owners and, particularly start-up entrepreneurs often work all the hours God sends. But no one will benefit from a burnt out business owner. Follow your staff out the door and recharge your batteries.

It’s good for the soul, it’s good for your family and it really is good for your business.

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