We are now half way through our summer and while many families across the country are enjoying themselves and soaking up the occasional ray of sunshine, there are many business owners shut off in their offices trying to meet the latest deadline.
A recent Simply Business work/life study found a fifth haven’t been able to take a single day off work this summer.
So is it possible for business owners to ever truly take a holiday or is work a constant shadow?
A OnePoll survey conducted on behalf of Xero showed three quarters (76%) of small business owners and entrepreneurs have sacrificed their holidays to power through and keep their business running smoothly.
Despite a statutory right to 20 days holiday each year, many self-employed workers get nowhere near that number, often foregoing it because it could have a detrimental impact on their bottom line.
With such innovative technology around these days, I don’t believe you need to be tethered to your office in order to be productive. From business apps to cloud services, technology allows you to work from anywhere in the world.
For the first three years of SuperStars, I was unable to take any time off. It was extremely hard work to get the business off the ground and I would often work 12 hour days. I didn’t pay myself a salary and worked in the evening as a waiter in order to pay the bills. I sacrificed a lot but it was totally worth it.
But I think after three years, if you can’t leave your business alone then you’re doing something wrong. It’s empowering for my team to know that they’re trusted to make the right decisions – without me ringing in every day to see what everyone’s up to – and it’s great to see my business carry on as normal when I’m not there. That’s how I know I have a successful business.
Since having children things have certainly changed for me. Before this year, when I was away, I’d often work while they are napping or wake up slightly earlier just to reply to any important emails.
This year I’m running a little experiment so that all my energy is fixated on spending time with the kids. I’m going to have no access to my emails or voicemail during the duration of my holiday. It’s called ‘going dark’ and is a concept from Productivity Ninja, Graham Allcott of Think Productive.
Many people find this concept hard to grasp and I must admit I was doubtful and found it difficult at first too because being connected with work is second nature to me.
However, I was finding that I could never truly relax whilst on holiday because my head was on possible problems that could arise in work if I were not able to be contacted. As a result, I constantly checked my emails and my time was ruled by having access to Wi-Fi.
I realised this had to end if I wanted to spend more quality time with my family. The business is mature enough now for me to ‘go dark’ for a few weeks during the summer holidays. I’m lucky as I’ve got a fantastic senior management team who I trust implicitly to run the day to day operations of the business.
If you’re a one-man band where if you’re not working, you are not earning it must be even harder to take a holiday. But sometimes you’ve got to be firm with yourself and force yourself to have some time off, even if it’s just an extended weekend away.
Down time is crucial not just for family life but for fuelling business growth. We can’t expect to sustain the same level of productivity, drive or enthusiasm by working 24/7. It’s well documented that inspiration often strikes when we give our minds time to think about nothing, so don’t be surprised if you have some of your best ideas lying on a beach not thinking about work.
The bank holiday is fast approaching so this is the perfect opportunity to take a few extra days leave and have a break. I’m sure you’ll find that not only you benefit, but the business benefits too.
James Taylor is founder and CEO of SuperStars (www.super-stars.org.uk) and the IOD’s Director of the Year. Follow him on twitter @jamestaylor_SS