Out of office: 6 reasons why business owners should take holidays

8 min read
Thomas Costello

If you’re a one-person band, you’ll know this tune - you work eight days a week, and often into the still of the night. As a solopreneur, the idea of taking a holiday might seem a bit off-beat, so let us take your hand...

You have, no doubt, noticed the recent flurry of bank holidays - because they’ve probably cost you money.

Either, they’re days you have to pay your staff for doing nothing, or they’re days when your clients don’t pay for your services, because their office is closed.

Either way, your business is out of pocket.

Workers do, of course, need holidays. It isn’t just a matter of annual leave being a legal requirement, it’s also a matter of keeping workers motivated and at the top of their game.

That’s true for your staff (if you have any) but - spoiler warning - it’s also true for you.

Need persuading? Then here's 6 reasons why you, as a business owner, should take a holiday.

1. A day in the life

As a business owner, do you deserve a holiday?

Ipse (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) reports that more than 4.8 million people are self-employed in the UK. That’s almost 15% of the total workforce.

At the same time, GoDaddy discovered there has been a 32% rise, in the last decade, of people pursuing a side hustle on top of their regular job.

That adds up to a lot of people running a lot of solo businesses.

Government research has proven that a worker’s sense of ‘Subjective Wellbeing’ (SWB) affects their individual performance. It’s common sense to suppose that happier workers work better, but now there’s evidence to support that.

The evidence goes further, though, by demonstrating that people with elevated SWB work harder and/or smarter and feel more invested in the work they do, which leads to a growth in productivity and, therefore, increased profitability.

So, common-sense and government research are as-one on this issue - a great sense of wellbeing is good for business.

And holidays are a shortcut to that wellbeing. It’s fair to say, then, that businesses can take holidays all the way to the bank!

2. Mental health benefits

You remember holidays - you used to take them, before you were your own boss. Do you have fond memories of them? Apart from that week in a tent in the rain, obviously - but the other holidays? Sure you do. Does thinking about them make you feel happy? Good.

Well, guess what - that’s true for everyone.

Going on holiday doesn’t just make you feel happy and relaxed while you’re there, the memory and general mindset continues for weeks, even months afterwards.

Holidays are proven to help reduce stress, improve sleep, positively influence blood pressure and even strengthen relationships by making you feel friskier. They can also inspire you by offering you a plethora of new life experiences - after all, where do ideas come from, if not from your surroundings? Change your surroundings and get shiny new inspiration.

3. Physical health benefits

But holiday’s aren’t just good for your mental health. Boston University’s Framington Heart Study found, among many, many other things, that holidays can reduce the risk of heart disease. Male workers who didn’t take time off for several years, were 30% more likely to develop heart conditions.

So, if you need an excuse to take a few days off - there it is, right there!

But, of course, when it’s your business, and possibly your only source of income, it isn’t as simple as taking a holiday just because you want to.

4. We can work it out

UK-based research indicates that upwards of one in five self-employed people never take holidays and, of those who do, almost half take work with them.

That’s perfectly understandable, because you’ve worked tirelessly to build up your client list and your reputation - and you know they are going to want some work doing while you’re on holiday. That’s inevitable.

If you let them down, just once, they might go elsewhere - and they might not come back. So, it’s less stressful to just not go away, right?

But, then, our research taught us that 44% of side hustlers have families. So, now you’ve got the additional guilt that every working parent feels - of missing out on quality time with their kids. You remember those all-important holidays you had with your parents, right? Do you want to deprive your kids of that?

5. Day tripper

Debatably, the issue is less fraught when it comes to bank holidays, because they are short national holidays. Even if you do shut-up shop, it’ll only be for a day or two. Also, in many cases, your competitors and your suppliers will be closed for business as well, so put your feet up.

But, if you’re a retail outlet in a tourist destination, for example, the time when your customers are on holiday is the time when you must be open. That also suggests that your business is seasonal and you could, therefore, take a break in the off-season without impacting your bottom line.

Taking a few days off here and there, is one issue - but taking a full-length holiday is quite another.

But panic not - it’s fine. There is a way to make this happen!

6. Here comes the sun

There’s a few simple steps to making sure you can make some you time, some family time.

Book early

Plan your holiday well in advance. If it’s a simple day off for a bank holiday, that’s a doddle because they are fixed points in the year.

Then - once your dates are set - schedule your workload round it.

If your clients give you projects at unexpected times - give them plenty of advance warning about when you’re going to be away. If they value your work, they’ll appreciate the heads-up, and likely give you any pending briefs early.

If you have regular clients - do as much of the work in advance as you can - and, again, give them as much advance warning as you can, so they can efficiently work around you.

If you aren’t able to respond to emails, or answer your phone, make sure they understand that. Won’t stop them calling, but at least they’ll understand why they’re getting your answerphone.

It’s all about managing client expectation.

Holiday cover

If you’re going to be away for longer than a few days, and won’t be able to box off the workload before you go - then you have an opportunity to pick someone to cover for you.

You know your job, so you know what it involves and, therefore, who you can trust to do the world to the standard you’d expect for your client.

If you’re open and honest with your client about this - they should appreciate your expertise in choosing a proxy, and your commitment to providing continuity and great quality for their business!

And, yes, it’s perfectly fine to get the proxy you’ve chosen to agree to give the client back when you return. After all, you’ll be doing the same when they ask you to repay the favour.

Out of office

Even if you are going to be checking your emails from time to time, it’s good practice to set-up an out of office autoresponder email.

Depending on the nature of your business, this can be formal or friendly. Keep it brief, but explain you’re away taking a break with your family (no reasonable person would blame you for that) tell them when you’ll be back, and assure them you’ll deal with their query promptly thereafter.

If you work with someone, or have hired a proxy to look after business while you’re away, you could provide their contact details.

Also - the voice of bitter, hard-won experience - don’t include your mobile number with a “if it’s urgent” note. Because a client’s definition of ‘urgent’ may not be the same as yours.
But it can’t wait

So, if something catastrophic comes up, that absolutely demands your attention - don’t feel at all guilty about limiting your involvement to the bare minimum. Make some phone-calls, write some emails. If you can do this while your family are busy, fair enough - but join them as soon as you can.

Even better if you can limit the work to the evening, when the rest of the family are in bed.

With a little help from my friends

So, you see, it is possible to have a full-length holiday, even if you’re a one-person band. It just takes a bit of planning and a bit of cooperation.

That’s the how and why of vacations for solopreneurs. And you can take that to the bank (holiday).