An AXA PPP survey found that 86 per cent of bosses, employing up to 30 people, still stayed in contact with their workplace while allegedly pursuing rest. Nearly two thirds said they dealt with important phone calls and emails while on holiday, while 41 per cent phoned the office while they were away.
“Our research tells us that small business owners are positive about growth in the next five years,” said Glen Parkinson, SME business director at AXA PPP healthcare, “But this survey highlights just how little time off these owners are giving themselves – it’s understandable that owners want to keep an eye on their businesses, even when they are on holiday, but it is concerning that they take so little time off and that they view their break so negatively. We know the importance of downtime, not just for wellbeing but also for ensuring productivity and good mental health.”
In fact, prior research suggested there is a clear link between people failing to take sufficient time out of work and mental and physical health problems. One study, from the CIPD, concluded that companies which had noted an increase in the number of people working when they should be on holiday or off sick were more than twice as likely to have reported a rise in stress-related absences.
AXA PPP Healthcare said its research suggested small business owners were being affected by some of the same issues. In revealed that 47 per cent said they felt stressed some or all of the time. Half of the small business owners in the research also said they were just as likely to feel stressed when at home as in the office.
Parkinson warned that this level of stress suggested serious problems ahead. “Small business owners have to combine leading their business and securing its future with ensuring the business-essential activities are also well managed – this degree of responsibility is therefore leading to longer working hours and higher levels of stress for many bosses. In the long-term, this behaviour is unsustainable and business owners should heed advice to take more time away from their business to rest and recharge as well as get the necessary support where appropriate.”
This was echoed by Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School, who claimed that it was a big problem, “and the smaller the business, the more likely it is”.
Cooper claimed that many business owners are precisely those who deserve to have a break. “Many already work significantly longer hours than others and have tremendous responsibility and pressure to shoulder. I’m a director and part owner of a university spin-off company, so I understand their reluctance to take time off. Not everyone can afford it and many have no-one to cover for them. Naturally they’re concerned about protecting their livelihood and everything they’ve invested in their business, while employees depend on them, too.
“There’s interesting respite research coming out of the US and Israel that suggests that people who take holidays return feeling healthier and psychologically more robust. This is good for their health, well-being and family relationships. Running a business often means not seeing loved ones as much as we’d like. Taking a break enables us to re-engage with them, otherwise marriages and family life can suffer enormously. Investing in relationships is as important as investing in your own health.”