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How to Unplug: A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Taking Time Off

For many small business owners, the holiday season may seem like the wrong time to even consider taking an afternoon off. Many are contending with a host of special days – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and of course, Small Business Saturday. Others need to take the time to set their business goals for the upcoming year.

But running yourself into the ground isn’t the answer – not during the holidays, and not any time of year. In fact, red-lining yourself and your employees is a direct route to lower morale, careless mistakes and an inefficient business operation.

The following are some reasons why taking time off is so important for small business owners, as well as some tips on how to unplug during holidays and vacations.

You’re Only Hurting Yourself

Just more than half of small business owners take less vacation than they did before becoming entrepreneurs – so says a report from PCMag that includes data from accounting software provider Xero. They even tend to work more during the holidays, according to a Funding Circle study in which almost half of all small business owners said they planned on taking fewer than three days off during the upcoming season.

That’s hardly surprising. After all, if you run a small company with few or no employees, and something needs done … who’s going to do it? And all those somethings add up to more than 40 hours per week, preventing owners from taking more than one or two days off at a time.

But that’s the cost of starting your own business, right?

Not necessarily. In fact, failing to maintain a balance by giving yourself the occasional break can take a toll on you and your business.

From a personal standpoint, taking vacations reduces stress. That’s not just a psychological concept – stress can lead to various physical ailments, from the occasional headache to issues as serious as diabetes, obesity and depression. The Framingham Heart Study – an extremely long-term study of factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease – found that people who only took vacations every few years were more likely to suffer heart attacks.

Taking time off also helps productivity. First off, not loading yourself with stress-related health problems will make you more able to run your business. But also, professional studies show that workers who take time off throughout the year are more productive during the time they’re at work. For instance, research group Project: Time Off reported in 2016 that “Employees who take 10 or fewer days of vacation are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more.”

In other words, if you’re concerned about the state of your small business, you actually owe it to yourself to hike up a mountain or hit the beach every now and then.

How to Unplug

It’s one thing to say you’ll take more time off. It’s another to do it. Here are a few tips on how to get ready for your break, and how to recharge during it.

Before Time Off: You’re not going to enjoy your break if you feel like you left a bunch of stuff unfinished when you leave. Instead, you’re going to spend your vacation worrying about it – or worse, trying to deal with those loose ends while you’re supposed to be relaxing.

If you’re on your own, let all your customers and vendors know when you’ll be out of touch, and deal with any tasks, bills, etc., that you can tackle early before leaving. If you have a few employees, use this as an opportunity for worker development. Spend some time training your employees to handle the responsibilities that will need to be covered while you’re out. This will also teach you how to delegate, as well as evaluate employee strengths and weaknesses.

But emergencies do happen. In the event that something mission-critical breaks while you’re gone, make sure your staff, clients and vendors know who to contact.

During Time Off: Your first instinct might be to boldly declare that you won’t look at texts, check your email or even keep your ringer on while you’re away. It’s a nice thought, but it’s probably unrealistic – and setting that kind of expectation will lead to both disappointment, as well as a slippery slope where one urgent text turns into a few calls which turns into replying to every last email you get.

Instead, set more reasonable limits.

You can, for instance, allow yourself 15 minutes a day in the morning to check email and check in with your employees to see how things are going. You can ask that calls not be forwarded to your cell phone while you’re out, and you can notify employees not to text you unless it’s a particular type of problem, or it deals with a customer that meets a certain threshold of priority.

Limiting social media time has a twofold benefit – not only are you likelier to avoid additional contact with co-workers or your marketing campaigns, you’re also likelier to spend more time actually doing what it is you want on vacation to do.

Are you unsure about how to keep the plates spinning while you go on vacation? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at your small business. Contact McManamon & Co. at 440.892.9088 or contact us online for assistance with outsourced accounting, business consulting and more!


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