All of us need to disconnect from work and from our ‘always on’ work culture.
For business owners, this can be particularly difficult. As we plough into August and school holidays, it’s peak holiday time. While staycation is the word of the moment and international travel increases, many leaders will be ready for a break after a gruelling eighteen months.
However, we know that many business owners find it hard to walk away from their business. Even as they lounge by the pool or enjoy drinks at a restaurant, it wouldn’t be uncommon to catch them on the phone or answering a ‘critical’ email. It’s not just the practicalities, but the mental aspects too.
Many business leaders might leave their laptop behind, but their business challenges still whir around in their mind. Rather than a break, the holiday can just become a less intensive version of the day-to-day.
So, how can business owners and leaders get away from their business?
To help, we’ve put together this guide on how business owners can switch off on holiday.
The Importance of Disconnecting from Work for Business Owners
There are several reasons why business leaders disconnect from time to time. It’s important for a healthy work-life balance. Taking time away from the business when you’re overworked means:
- You can recharge your batteries.
- You spend more time with your family and friends.
- You can see how the business runs without you.
For owners of SMEs, work-life balance becomes increasingly difficult blended. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes it’s good to take yourself out.
Simon Hudson, Managing Director, Kinata Ltd describes it as ‘removing himself as the crutch.’
Taking time off will allow you to return refreshed, ready to give your best to your clients and your team.
Okay, so we understand the benefits of why business leaders should rest, but isn’t it easier said than done? We know it is.
Here are our top tips for real rest and how to disconnect from work, properly.
Trust Your Team
There’s nothing more disruptive to time off than anxiety over whether your people are doing their job right. So a key question here is: do you trust your team? And if you say you do, then your behaviour when you’re away should prove it.
If you’re constantly on your emails or texting your team to ensure the business isn’t falling apart, you don’t trust them totally.
It might be time to access why that is. If you feel your team is underperforming, there are ways to manage that. But first, it might be a good idea to check yourself first. Have you set the right expectations?
If your team expects you to be available when you’re off, then they will still rely on you and won’t prepare themselves for it. This not only limits their development but stops you from switching off.
If you’re ready to trust your team, do the following things:
- Agree how it’s going to work whilst you’re away e.g. ‘do not contact me unless it’s absolutely urgent’ and appoint one of your leaders to take the reins.
- Trial it and see how it goes.
- Evaluate the trial and work with your team on how to refine and perfect the process for when you’re out of action.
Be Laptop and Phone-Free
This one depends on your preferences. It might be that you don’t want to completely forget about work while you’re away. Maybe you’re wanting to use it as a time to generate new ideas and strategies, away from the day-to-day workings of the business. If that’s the case, and you feel you can manage it, then, take your devices with you.
However, if you do want to rest completely, try and make yourself as inaccessible as possible.
Start by having a separate work phone to your personal device. This means you can leave it at home, or in the hotel room, or turn off alerts. Another option would be to remove the email app from your phone to avoid the temptation of ‘having a quick look at my emails’.
Plan and Embrace Things to Enjoy
What is your favourite pastime? Maybe you enjoy a round of golf or getting into a really good novel. Whatever it is, try and indulge in these activities while you’re away.
This will not only distract you from your business but gives you the opportunity to enjoy what you love. Plus, many of these things involve spending time with others. It’s a chance to spend quality time with your friends and family that you don’t otherwise get. There are many health benefits to spending time with people who energise you.
The joy, energy and revitalisation from doing things you enjoy with people you love will be a great help when returning to your business.
Be Honest and Ask for Help
Some leaders find it difficult to switch off. Sometimes, it can be so difficult that you need to ask for help.
There is no shame in feeling like work is taking over and that you need help to manage it.
Be honest with yourself and others.
How are you going to manage your rest time? If you’re truly struggling, ask someone to manage your phone for you, for example.
Or as mentioned earlier, make sure to communicate this clearly with your team. “I struggle to take the time to rest, so please only contact me if absolutely necessary.”
You could also create blocks for your time. Prioritise this to what is most important to your life and personal vision. For example, if you’re away but want to stay in work a little, it could look like this:
- 10% working on KPIs and sales
- 50% spending time with family
- 20% exercising
- 20% relaxing with a book
Planning your days like that, with the help of other people, will manage your own expectations for the day. It also gives you some accountability to rest when you said you would.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself
To finish, here are a few questions to ask yourself around this issue:
- “Assuming I’m not prepared to live like this for ever, when am I going to start changing my working life?” and “if not now, when?”
- Ask whether you are happy with struggling to take time off. Are you wanting to change that? If so, is it time to ask for help or seek further advice? How do others manage?
We hope this guide has been useful for you to try and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Business owners should remember these top tips for disconnecting from work when on holiday:
- Trust your team
- Set your expectations
- Leave your phone and laptop behind
- Or stop work-related notifications
- Plan and embrace activities that you love
- Be honest with yourself and others
- Ask for help
- Block out your time
Finally, as mentioned by Simon Hudson earlier in this guide, he went away for three weeks and was unavailable. This then allowed his team to work more effectively as they learnt how to survive without the leader. Working relationships improved as a result and the business could move forward stronger.
Simon’s actions were the result of advice he received at his TAB advisory board. That just shows how leveraging the experience of other business owners can provide more value than first assumed.