With the summer holidays upon us, a report from business bank Aldermore found a fifth of British SME bosses failed to take any time off last year, while a third had under five days away from the company. And for those leaders who did manage to remove themselves from the working environment, a quarter still plough through calls and emails. Even when time off is booked, a fifth have admitted cancelling their getaways. The bank’s group MD, Carl D’Ammassa, called the findings “worrying”, suggesting that they risk burnout if they don’t take time off and enjoy moments such as the summer holidays. “It is crucial they take proper breaks to achieve a good work life balance and avoid burn out. Enjoying well-earned time off to recharge their batteries could bring a fresh perspective to their business thinking,” he claimed. Elsewhere, office design firm Peldon Rose revealed that businesses should be keeping staff motivated as they work during the period of summer holidays or risk losing productivity as the sun beams through the windows. As the summer holidays are such a hot topic – sorry, couldn’t resist – we rounded up leaders of SMEs to find out how they will spend their time throughout the season. (1) Seaside retreat Neil Westwood, MD of Magic Whiteboard, said: “I used to find it very difficult to switch off. I still don’t relax completely. I find it takes about one week to relax and wind down. I have discovered that you might as well go on summer holidays when everybody else does. “This year I am going to Cornwall – I have bought a house there to go on holiday and relax throughout the year. I have also started kayaking and paddleboarding. It gives the mind something else to focus on other than work. I have also bought a hot tub which calms me down.” (2) Au revoir Ruth Wilson of Ruth Wilson PR, said: “I set up my business five years ago and sadly never completely switch off – I can’t, as it’s just me! I’m a PR consultant and my clients rely on me to be available as well as proactively working for them. “I’m going to France with the family and I’m telling clients that I would like about four days where if they need me urgently they can call me, but my phone will be mostly on silent. I’ll be checking emails but trying to switch off in between. After that I’ll be doing a bit of work before breakfast and after lunch. I’m fortunate as my clients do understand – and are happy, as they know the work will get done.” (3) A liking for hiking Richard Stewart, founder of employee benefits provider Untangl.co.uk, said: “I’m looking forward to a week off in Wales at the end of July with the family and the dog. “Beach walks, hikes in Snowdonia, and time spent with family and friends is, for me, the best way to unwind. I will need to respond to a few emails and queries, but a week is short enough that I should be able to get away with having a proper break. “If you’re struggling to commit to summer holidays, look at it in terms of ROI if you must. You will be more productive when you arrive home refreshed, which will have knock-on effects for your business and your team.” (4) You live and learn Helen Wang, director of Abakus Foods, said: “Last year during the summer holiday, we went on a holiday in Mallorca in August, but I pretty much worked through the entire period, and afterwards felt like I didn’t have a holiday at all – I was not relaxed. “So, for this year’s summer holiday, I am determined to have a work-free break in August. I’m planning to go on a road trip in Scotland where I will be driving, which I enjoy, so this will force me to take a break from my mobile phone and emails, and disconnect. At least, that’s the plan.”(5) Party in the city where the heat is on Danny Toffel, director of Watches2U, said: “I’m going on a family break to Miami this month to spend some time with my wife and two daughters, aged 11 and 13, for a two-week cruise on Harmony of the Seas. Part of the attraction of this holiday is the number of physical activities that are available including rock climbing wall, sports courts and swimming pools. “Not only does staying active help me to unwind from work, but it’s also part of an important lifestyle change that I have embraced following health concerns that were highlighted last year. I have now lost over eight stone thanks to the adoption of a better work-life balance and healthier lifestyle. “The business has ambitious targets to achieve £20m, and summer is a busy season for us, so inevitably a little work will always creep in. However, I’ve built a strong team around. My holiday plans now involve weekly check-ins, rather than daily, just to make sure I am kept in the loop on the business performance. Cutting down my contact time means I can properly focus on enjoying my holiday with my family.”
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