Switching off - tips for business owners' holidays

As a business owner, a holiday might seem like a distant, unachievable dream.

A huge proportion of business owners work solidly throughout the year, unable or unwilling to take a break. When they do get away, a recent survey suggests that managers spend much of their time on the phone or checking their email when they should be relaxing.

It is important that you get the opportunity to properly switch off. It is not healthy or productive to work solidly without a break. So how can you ensure that you make the most of your time off – and don’t spend it chained to your laptop?

1. Plan ahead

Forward planning is key to a relaxing break. Generally speaking, the more notice you can give yourself, the less firefighting you will have to do when you get back – or, even worse, when you are away. Where possible, set your break for a time a few months ahead. This will give you a chance to get what you need done in advance. Make sure that your staff are also aware of your plans, and that you co-ordinate your holiday arrangements with colleagues where appropriate.

2. Be realistic

As a business owner, there may well be tasks that you simply cannot avoid while you are away. If you are to relax at all, you need to recognise this – and factor it into your plans.

You might, for example, need to check your emails each morning, either in order to keep abreast of developments or in order to make sure that there is nothing that urgently requires your attention. A quick check-in, and a general recognition that you may not be ‘offline’ all the time, can help to put your mind at ease for the rest of the day.

3. Limit yourself

That said, it is important that you don’t let yourself get trapped in an endless email cycle. If you do log on during the day, make sure that you carefully limit yourself. Only respond to what is absolutely necessary. If you feel it would help, set yourself a time limit – and make sure that you stick to it.

4. Communicate with staff

It is vital that you warn your staff well in advance of your trip, and that you ensure they are properly prepared. The measures you take on this front will obviously depend on the nature of your business, but you should consider things like: who should they contact in the event of a query? Do they have all the information they need in order to complete their work? Do the relevant individuals have all the necessary keys or entry codes to get onto the premises? If your business relies on a website, is there a point of contact with the hosting company in the event of downtime?

5. Make sure invoices are paid

The fact that you are going on holiday does not mean that other businesses will be willing to wait to have their invoices paid. It is remarkable how many business owners think that a holiday is a reasonable excuse for late payment. Make sure that any invoices that will come due during your time away are paid in advance, and that a suitable individual is able to make payments during your break where necessary. Failure to pay your invoices on time is not just bad for your relationship with partners and providers; it could also hurt your business’s credit rating.

6. Remain contactable

Both for your own peace of mind and for stability in the event of an emergency, it is important that you remain contactable. This doesn’t necessarily mean keeping your phone on you everywhere you go – but it does mean ensuring that relevant individuals have either a phone number or an email address on which they can get you if absolutely necessary.

7. When you return

No one likes returning from holiday. It means catching up on the inevitable pile of emails and letters, fixing things that have gone wrong, and generally getting back in the saddle. But you can ease the pain by prioritising. Go through the tasks facing you, and work out which require your attention first. At the same time, make sure that you meet with relevant staff members in order to ensure that you are up to date with any developments that may have occurred while you were away.