HR & Management

I really shouldn't work on holiday, but…

7 min read

01 August 2017

Robert Drury may be new to the world of running a business, but he does have a firm opinion when it comes to whether or not you should work on holiday.

We all need our holiday, and thankfully in the UK we’re entitled to 28 working days of annual leave each year (including bank holidays), and boy do we need it.

Research by Opinium for Bizdaq showed that 1.3m small business owners were suffering health issues due to the pressures of running a small business, so wouldn’t it be great if we could do something to improve our health?

Well, studies have shown that people returning from holiday are less stressed, more likely to be in a good mood and have higher levels of energy than before they went (seems obvious doesn’t it?). How much better would your business be if everyone was calmer, energised, and happier?

The problem is that the world doesn’t stop turning just because someone is spending two weeks in an all-inclusive resort in the Mediterranean, or diving into a pool somewhere in the south of Spain. Orders keep coming in, customers still need servicing, things still break and need fixing. And this is the thing that creates the challenge for all small business operators everywhere.

Who is going to look after the business if I go on holiday?

The answer to this problem for many small businesses is to simply not go on holiday. Some 43 per cent of small business decision makers won’t be taking a holiday longer than five days this year – which certainly avoids having to answer the question, but it also means that the business won’t benefit from all the positive things that holidays bring and continues the cycle of poor personal and business health.

Another option might be to go on away and work on holiday, which for some is a possibility, but is that really going on holiday? Checking your email around the pool doesn’t sound like it will have the stress busting side effects you’re hoping for. Are you going to be calmer if you’re wondering how you’re going to get package A delivered to location B before the end of the week?

The other option is to simply go on holiday and forget all about the business, but this just seems like such a long way away from achievable for many small businesses which operate with small teams at the best of times and worry about the fairness of leaving a workload with others.

I think the ideal for the small business owners needs to be somewhere between the second and third option, but it needs a bit of planning to make it work.

For any part of your work that is time dependent, such as end of month stock taking, then you need to move your holiday away from these times. For any part of your workload that you control, such as team reviews, you need to move them out of the way of your holiday time.

You’re then left with a window for your holiday and just need to focus on the things that aren’t moveable, or you don’t yet know about. The customer support line needs manning. The new orders need fulfilling. The website needs fixing. For these you need someone to cover it for you, and this might need some advance work to train them in the skills to make the right decisions and perform the right actions, but this also has the added benefit of these people then having the skills to support you all around the year, not just at holiday time.

Let them do the tasks whilst you’re still around so they can get some confidence whist you’re there to advise. Leave behind step-by-step instructions so they don’t worry about having to remember everything you tell them. They’ll be fine.

And in your instructions, leave them some guidance on when and how to get hold of you whilst you’re away. You want them to feel like they have a safety net, but not want to use it unless absolutely necessary.

My approach is to tell them to email me the problem and then send me a text message that there’s an email waiting for me. That way I can check the email at an appropriate time, rather than answering the phone when I’m halfway up the Leaning Tower of Pisa or about to put on my scuba diving mask.

As a small business operator, you probably work ridiculously long hours all the time (typically a small business owners works 13 hours more than the national average) and it’s important to recharge your batteries. You can’t recharge your batteries if you continue to use your batteries.

Research from cloud accounting provider Xero found that almost four in five owners at small companies agreed their physical and emotional health had a direct impact on bottom line profits, which means topping up your tan will ultimately top up your finances, so get lounging.

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This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.