As evidenced by the recent explosion of articles about phenomena like the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, workers around the country – indeed, around the world – are finally succumbing to the mental exhaustion caused by two years of lockdowns and are defying the expectation to make work their life’s purpose. Or for the less radical, they’re finally using leave accumulated during COVID-19 to go on a holiday.
But in these discussions around the need to regain work-life balance, small business owners and the self-employed have been forgotten. We’re here to remind you that small business owners are people too. Like everyone else, small business owners can benefit from taking a step back from work to relax, recharge, and focus on their own wellbeing. In other words – just take a holiday. The benefits are well documented, from mental wellbeing to increased productivity.
Roadblocks to taking a holiday
Small business owners often work well over full time hours, dedicating all that they must growing or maintaining their business. It’s common for them to fear that they will lose something by going on holiday, whether that’s losing money, opportunities, customers/clients, or even favour with social media algorithms. This is particularly true for sole traders.
Data gathered from the recent American Express Business Class research into wellbeing and benefits of personal travel had the following findings.The research found that the smaller the business, the less likely a business owner is to have a personal trip booked, with 44% of sole-traders not having a trip booked for the rest of the year, versus 87% of business owners with 5 – 19 staff having a trip planned in 2022.
During the pandemic, holidays were even more out-of-the question as many small businesspeople bent over backwards to learn a myriad of new information, enforce government restrictions, navigate support programs, and, for those who employ, keep their staff employed.
American Express Business Class survey data highlights the toll this has taken, with 47% of small business owners reporting that their mental health had suffered because of not being able to take time off for a holiday during the pandemic.
Benefits of holidays
But the survey also revealed the benefits of taking a holiday, finding that:
63% of small business owners believe personal travel helps them make better business decisions.
66% agree they feel rejuvenated after a holiday and consequently take fewer sick days off work.
They also feel more relaxed (60%), happier (57%) and more energised (53%) when returning to work.
53% say that after a leisure trip they return to work feeling more productive or inspired.
72% say personal travel enables them to bring fresher thinking to their business, which helps them innovate and grow, with 26% citing increased creativity.
Small business mental health advocate and founder of Fortitude at Work, Leanne Faulkner, said it was important to spread the message about the benefits of taking a break. In her view, setting defined holiday periods is not only the key to achieving true freedom as a small business owner, but also ultimately an investment in the business. She told us, “We often hear that the reason people own a business is because they love the personal freedom it brings. However, if not careful, that freedom might be simply the freedom to work 24 hours a day!”
“True small business autonomy only comes when the small business owner includes boundaries and feels they have the “freedom” to choose to enjoy down time. Making time for yourself is the ultimate in job flexibility and workplace freedom. That doesn’t mean sneaking in some time off between customers (although that is good too) but rather setting boundaries and recognising that time away from the business is energising for when you are back in the business. Nothing reflects this better than having defined holiday periods.”
Faulkner also stresses to small business owners the importance of viewing themselves as an asset to the business and treating themselves with the same respect they would give to other business assets.
“Many small business owners in Australia (64%, in fact) work alone – they are the business and wear all the hats. This means they are the businesses biggest investment. We don’t let our typical business assets deliberately deteriorate, and the same attention must be given to the business owner – most often the biggest business asset in the organisation. Taking a holiday is a great way to keep the asset tuned up for the benefit of the business.”
So, there you have it. Take a holiday. Don’t be shy suggesting to small business owners you know that they should take a well-earned break.