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Disconnecting while on holiday

In Family, Leadership, Time - 3 weeks ago - 5 min

Disconnecting while on holiday

Entrepreneurs often find it impossible to switch off from day-to-day business concerns while on holiday. But having a good break is vital.

Holidays have always represented something of a personal challenge for business leaders. On the one hand, everyone knows the value of taking one, two or three days away from the commercial fray and separating yourself physically and mentally from the stresses of day-to-day decision making. Whether it’s a luxury break in the sun or a vigorous hike across a mountain range, a holiday provides an opportunity to recharge batteries, and spark some creative thinking – with nearly one in five small business owners having the idea for their startup while on holiday.

In reality, turning off isn’t easy and the temptation is always there to stay in touch with the office. And if that was true twenty or thirty years ago, it’s doubly true in the age of always-on connectivity when most of us carry a smartphone wherever we go and even the most remote beach café offers a Wi-Fi connection.

The understandable desire to remain in the driving seat – often coupled with the very real pressure of running a business – means that a high percentage of business leaders kick holidays into the long grass. A survey of 750,000 small companies, carried out by insurer Simply Business in 2015, found that a quarter of entrepreneurs have suffered health problems due to overwork. A fifth of those questioned felt they couldn’t take a holiday; 30% said they would only take a break if it was within the UK.

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As Lee Biggins, owner of online recruitment platform CV-Library, observes, this ubiquitous connectivity dovetails the tendency of business leaders to be personally “always-on”.

“Being an entrepreneur has essentially become a 24/7 job,” he says. “Many business owners will put in the hours well beyond the 9-5 working day and even more will tell you how they lie awake at night, with their minds consumed by their company, regardless of whether they’re on holiday or not. It can be incredibly difficult to take a step back, especially when you’re still involved in day-to-day business matters.”

Or, as Lindsay Morrison, a manager at fast growing packaging group Ferrari Packaging, puts it: “It is always difficult to set aside your phone or laptop, knowing that either you are awaiting a response or having to deal with a certain task for the next day of work.”

No guarantee of disconnection

Many business owners do allocate time for holidays, of course, but that doesn’t guarantee disconnection – 44% of Brits admit to working while on holiday. “This is something that I have found difficult in the past,” acknowledges Lee. “I would go on holiday and then spend much of my time away worrying about the business, ultimately resulting in me staying involved in day-to-day tasks.”

44% of Brits admit to working while on holiday

But, as he acknowledges, this can be counterproductive. “I think a lot of business owners feel guilty when they step away from their company, as there’s always a sense that they could be doing more. And while this is great in the short-term, as it can keep you motivated and help you to push the business to the next level, it can also cause you to burn out if you’re not careful,” Lee says.

Taking a break is not just about avoiding the negativity of burnout, though. According to Hitin Patel, client services director at RSVP Media Response, a good holiday can be the key to better performance and better decision-making. “It’s easier to focus when you get back, feeling refreshed and renewed, with an added spring in your step, looking forward to getting started again,” he says. “You’ll perform better and also have a clearer mind when approaching the running of your business.”

It’s important to you team too

We know that successful business owners lead by example and taking a true break while on holiday shows that it’s okay for your team to fully log off while they’re away. The business benefits are clear too, leading to a more motivated, creative and productive team.

A holiday also nudges you to delegate and empower staff, so they’re entrusted to deal with the business while you’re away. “I’ve built up a trusted senior-level executive team and I know that I can step away from the business and leave it in good hands,” says Lee. “I can rest assured in the knowledge that I have a talented team who will continue to keep the business running in my absence. I like to be proactive and hands-on, so I’m still fairly involved in the day-to-day running of CV-Library. But there is a balance to be found.”

Aside from empowering a team to deal with day-to-day matters, business leaders can also take practical steps to lure themselves away from the temptation of checking email every five minutes. For instance, Lindsay establishes lines of demarcation with her technology. “I now have separate email accounts and work phones. Having two different forms of contact, one personal and the other professional, means I know exactly what is needed and when. Meaning, if I am needed [while on holiday] my work phone will be called for a valid reason. This doesn’t leave me flinching at my personal phone when I’m away.”

Lee also lays down some personal connectivity rules. “By leaving the laptop at home and only allocating a set time of day to check in with the office, I’ve found that I can really enjoy my holiday and recharge properly,” he says.

And, sometimes, radical action is needed. “The only way to truly disconnect if you want a break is to disable your remote access on your tablet and phone,” says Hitin. “I’ve reluctantly done this on many occasions when I felt I did need an uninterrupted break, with no work distractions. And although it is hard to do, I’m very glad I did – every time.”

Change the way you work

If you want to build more flexibility into your business to help you and your team avoid burnout, find out how companies like Asana, Dell and Dropbox are experimenting with sabbaticals and unlimited paid time off. And if unlimited paid time off sends shivers down your spine, read what Josh Bayliss, CEO of Virgin Group, has to say about it. If you are looking for support to grow your business please get in contact with one of our team on 08081 722350 or drop us an email: G.Enquiries@uk.gt.com