Taken a vacation lately?

The kids are out of school and your family’s thoughts have turned to summer activities. With our summer season so short, we look forward to taking a break from our working lives, kicking back and enjoying the warmer weather. While we think about taking a break from our working lives, statistics indicate that fewer people actually take action. Many owners never take extended time away from the business, and employee vacations are becoming rarer.

The kids are out of school and your family’s thoughts have turned to summer activities.

With our summer season so short, we look forward to taking a break from our working lives, kicking back and enjoying the warmer weather.

While we think about taking a break from our working lives, statistics indicate that fewer people actually take action. Many owners never take extended time away from the business, and employee vacations are becoming rarer.

Recent surveys reveal that nearly 24 per cent of employed Canadians do not use all of their vacation days, and one in 10 say they don’t take any at all. Up to 30 per cent of owners never take any real vacation time.

This phenomenon has increased over the past couple of decades. Yet, a familiar thing I hear when working with clients is their wish to take more time away from the business.

There are a variety of reasons why this doesn’t happen: too much work, too many meetings, no time, worries about how work will get done. All are legitimate concerns, and most can be overcome.

It has been proven that taking a break from work is important in order to maintain overall health.

It helps eliminate burnout and provides much needed time to recharge and rejuvenate.

People often return with renewed optimism and fresh ideas, which leads to improved productivity. Statistics show that taking time away from work actually decreases employee sick time.

Being self-employed brings many extra challenges. You’re responsible for your own livelihood plus anyone who works in your company.

Of course if summer is “harvest time” for your company, then staff vacations will be negotiated for other times of the year.

Small businesses tend to have a small core of employees.

Scheduling vacation time takes skilful planning to determine how to maintain work flow and service customers.

The goal is to have key roles and functions followed with minimal disruption to business.

Systematize key processes and cross-train your team so that they can fill in when necessary. A detailed list of procedures or videotaped processes allows everyone to temporarily fill the gaps.

Employee vacations have the potential to impact your business. A viable option may be to implement summer business hours or flexible working hours to avoid the summer slowdown.

Depending on your business activities, it may be possible to compress the workday. Adjust breaks and lunch hours. Close over the noon hour and enjoy a mid-day break, or take shorter breaks and close early on Fridays to give everyone a longer weekend.

These options let you remain open for business with minimal impact to your customers. Set goals with your team; everybody works so everybody plays.

If a summer schedule is implemented, be sure to promote new hours. If necessary, book fewer appointments, but make sure you’re on time and honour deadlines.

Just as your company is dealing with summer holidays, so are your vendors and clients. Tap into the summer slowdown by offering a client appreciation day or barbecue. There may be other ways to make summer time work to your advantage, like special deals and delivery incentives.

Many owner/managers are nervous about taking a break from business. You must develop confidence that things will be handled while you are away. Assign the people that you know can handle priorities and maintain service standards.

Taking a break is an opportunity to stress test your business. This is the time to see how your business systems work in your absence.

It provides opportunities for staff to take on new responsibilities, which builds the trust factor and creates better teams.

Technology makes it very easy to stay connected. But checking your smart phone 20 times a day is not the way to relax and recharge. That defeats the purpose of getting away from it all.

If you must stay connected, shut devices off and check in once a day at a predetermined time that your clients are aware of. Accept there may be some delayed responses, even missed opportunities.

Once you’ve delegated the most capable and reliable person to be in charge, determine when and how you are to be contacted. Define what an emergency is and under what circumstances you are to be contacted while you’re away.

It is more challenging but equally important for the single entrepreneur to take a holiday. Their calendars never indicate free time.

I encourage them to schedule in downtime and then stick to the timetable. Don’t reschedule or postpone the dates. Make it a priority.

Let your clients know at the beginning of the relationship that there will be times that you are unavailable, and clearly lay out how they will handled. Give them a schedule of your vacation dates well in advance.

A healthy business requires a healthy leader. That means taking time away from business.

If you’re not taking steps to care of yourself, you’re not taking proper care of your business.

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.