But taking time off and enjoying holidays doesn’t come naturally to many business owners. When you spend your life worrying about fulfilling orders, keeping customers happy, and making sure that the bills are paid, it can be difficult to switch off, even for a day. And the wonders of modern technology mean that it’s all too easy to check emails on a smartphone or get distracted by work worries rather than engaging fully with family and friends.
Almost seven out of ten people think about work during their Christmas break, according to healthcare group AXA PPP, and more than a fifth check work calls and emails several times a day during the festive holiday. People who run their own enterprises are among the worst offenders, with many business owners believing that disaster will strike if they’re not at the helm. However, more entrepreneurs are planning on taking time off this year than last, perhaps a reflection of the improved state of the economy over the last 12 months.
- Four out of ten small business bosses will shut up shop for a week over the Christmas period, research from business telecoms firm XLN has found.
- Only a quarter planned to take so long a break last year when the economic outlook was more gloomy.
- About 29 per cent are determined to keep their nose to the grindstone this year and will only be closed for business for the bare minimum – at most two days and, in some cases, none at all.
So, what are these diligent souls working at when everyone else is having fun? About ten per cent are planning for the year ahead, but the vast majority – almost two-thirds – are likely to be catching up on day-to-day priorities, such as payroll and finance administration, accountancy software firm Sage has found.
While it’s admirable that SME owners are so hard working, there is an inherent danger that not recharging your batteries could result in longer term exhaustion, meaning that business owners aren’t working as efficiently as they might for the rest of the year. And there’s also the impact that relentless working has on staff. It’s one thing for a boss to decide that they don’t need much time to relax with their family, but another to expect employees to demonstrate the same level of commitment.
A third of Brits start the Christmas holiday already feeling burnt out from the stress of the run-up to the break, AXA says. Its health experts advise that business owners take a few steps to ensure that they and their workforce get the holiday – and rest – that they deserve to ensure that they start 2014 on top form.
Be realistic about what can be achieved ahead of the Christmas break and how likely it is that any business will be conducted over the holiday itself.
If you run the type of company that is not going to be much in demand, be honest about it. A hairdresser may be busy making customers look beautiful in the build-up to New Year’s Eve’s parties, but a gym is unlikely to see much custom until January. If you can, why not take the opportunity to have a guilt-free rest? There are rarely opportunities to do so at other times of the year, so think about closing for the holidays if you don’t think the business will suffer.
Identify the bits of work that are time-sensitive and need to be completed before Christmas and ahead of New Year, and those that could wait to be addressed until 2014 is in full swing.
If something really does need to be tackled, then be strict with yourself about when you will work and when it is time to stop. Equally, if a member of your staff has been chosen or has volunteered to work, then make it plain when you expect them to be in the office – and, importantly, when to it’s time to go home.
Make sure that all of your employees have seen a work and holiday schedule, identifying who is working when.
Identify an out-of-hours contact if one is needed by suppliers or customers. The pre-agreed rota should really have been drawn up and shared with staff some time ago, but double check that everyone knows what is expected of them, so that everything that needs to be done is looked after and those who are on holiday can genuinely relax and forget about work.
Finally, there’s the tyranny of email and the siren call of the smartphone to consider. Tragically, 60 per cent of business owners say that they spend more time holding their mobile device than their partner’s hand, Sage says. Let’s face it, that’s not a formula for a happy family Christmas. Try to switch off your gadgets, at least for Christmas Day itself. Or, if you’re too attached to your technology, at least use it to your advantage. There are apps for everything these days and they should make your life easier. Record Keeper allows you to keep easy track of your finances, tax and expenses. Keep all your passwords in one easily accessible, secure place using Tap Forms, and keep files in DropBox to ensure you can reach them anywhere, anytime. But the most sensible app to use at this time of year may be Remember The Milk, which allows you to create a things to do list. That way you can jot down vital jobs you remember during the holiday, and work through them when you’re back at your desk and the Christmas decorations are safely back in their box.
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