Why Small Business Owners Need To Take Vacations (And How To Do It Successfully)

Occupational Burnout is a term that was coined in the 1970s by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. The World Health Organization defines it as:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

Everyone is in danger of burnout. Due to the 24-hour nature of growing and maintaining a small business, it can be argued that owners of Small-Medium Businesses (SMB) are especially in danger of burnout.

According to a study published by Ondeck Capital, only 57 percent of small business owners plan to take a vacation. This is far from healthy: SMB’s owners and their employees should be encouraged to take a step away and unwind.

However, a report by Xero found that even while on vacation 85 percent of small business owners admit to working, with 60 percent checking in at least daily. A vacation should be an opportunity to step away from your screen and recharge your batteries.

If you are a small business owner, here are some key methods you can employ if you’re seeking a vacation. (And yes, you are allowed to answer work emails on occasion).

Why is it important to take a vacation?

Society has glamourized the idea of consistent work with employees competing to see who can take the least amount of time off work, or companies like those situated in Silicon Valley offering employees enticing benefits for pulling long hours at work.

What is often overlooked is how vacations allow small business owners and employees to recharge their batteries, enabling them to gain some needed down-time and minimize stress. Exhaustion impacts your concentration, making small tasks take longer and diminishing your pride in your work.

By taking a step back with a vacation you can increase productivity and creativity when you return to work. Bring a notepad with you and jot down ideas for your return. It’s often hard to see the big picture or criticize your work when you’re too close to the center. By taking that break, it allows you to catch a glimpse of what might be missing from your work.

Paid vacation is also one of the many attractive perks small businesses can offer to their employees. It helps to increase a small business’ job candidate pool, and once hired, paid vacation increases employee retention and loyalty. Vacations demonstrate to your employees that you care about them and their mental wellbeing.

How to prepare for your vacation?

So now that you know why it’s so important to your small business for you and your employees to take vacation, here are the ways you can prepare for it and know that your business is in good hands.

Firstly, try and plan your vacations far in advance so that you can organize your work around your days off. Plan your work so that it is completed ahead of schedule, or so that there won’t be a lot to do while you’re gone.

If your small business requires you to work closely with clients or customers, let them know about your vacation and that you won’t be available unless there is an emergency. This will help clients realize you’ll be away and/or that your business will be short-staffed.

The most important thing you can do is train your employees for your absence or find replacement management. Cross-training your employees to handle a variety of different tasks helps to ensure that even if someone is away, another employee can take over their work.

Finding replacement management in your absence is also a great way to keep things running smoothly. Either promoting someone internally in the interim, or hiring external management that you can train ahead of time.

Finally, if you can, consider closing your store for your time away. There is nothing like a closed shop that makes for the most relaxing vacation.

When to take your vacation?

The idea of a vacation sounds great, you know why you should take it and the best way to prepare your small business for your departure. The question now is when is the optimal time to take it?

Most small businesses run on an off-season and on-season cycle. The best time to plan your vacation is for during the off-season when your workload is lighter than usual. This ensures that whether you close shop or prepare your employees for your departure, the work won’t pile up or be too pressing.

Another great tip is to align vacation time when the kids are off from school. This allows you or your employees to line up your vacation time with the school breaks and take a much needed family vacation.

The idea of taking a vacation can be scary, but I promise you the place won’t burn down. First and foremost, trust the employees you have left in charge in your absence. However, as a small business owner, if you’re still nervous remember you can check-in between dips in the pool. You have the power of technology at your fingertips allowing you to work remotely.

But, set some rules for yourself while you’re away. Check in during down time like before dinner or while you’re getting ready to head out in the morning. Set a timer to check your emails so you don’t get carried away replying. If your small business requires social media posts, you can set those up ahead of time using apps like HootSuite, TweetDeck or Buffer.

Time off is an important component of a healthy work/life balance and hopefully these tips ease your worries about leaving the office behind for the beach.

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