If you can’t remember the last time you took more than a day off work for fun, you’re cheating your small business.
Say what? It may sound counterintuitive, but taking breaks from work is one of the best ways to keep your business in top shape. According to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the U.S. Travel Association, human resources managers overwhelmingly find that workers who take regular time off are more engaged with their companies, better performers, more productive workers, and happier with their companies.
“Everyone — business owners and employees alike — needs time away from their jobs to regroup and have time that isn’t saturated with work,” says Lisa Orndorff, human resources manager for SHRM. “That also means prying their electronic smart devices from their hands, and making sure they don’t constantly check work email and texts while away from the office.”
Here are four good reasons why taking the breaks you need can benefit you, your employees and your business.
It’s tempting to just wait and just take a spur-of-the-moment day off here and there, when work is slow. But planning regular time off in advance can allow you to coordinate fun activities or outings with friends or family. A scheduled vacation also allows you to let clients know in advance that you’ll be away, so you don’t feel the need to constantly check your work email and phone messages, Orndorff says.
Is there a time of year when your business is traditionally slow? That might be a good time to take a week or more off. Also try to build in a few long weekends throughout the year, so you can refresh yourself on a regular basis.
As a business owner, you may not give yourself a defined number of vacation or sick days. However, it’s not a bad idea to keep track of your days off. If you find that take fewer than 11 vacation days a year — the average amount of vacation time awarded to an entry-level employee, according to the SHRM/Travel Association study — you might want to rethink your strategy. “Do you really want to create your own work culture that values working 24/7?” asks Orndorff.
“Do you really want to create your own work culture that values working 24/7?” – Lisa Orndorff Twitter Icon
Chaining yourself to your office prevents your employees from practicing leadership and decision-making skills, says Orndorff. Workers often do a better job if you empower them to meet with clients and handle problems without you. If you haven’t yet trained other team members to handle certain tasks while you’re gone, now’s the time. “You need to develop a succession/emergency plan anyway, in case you ever get sick or injured,” says Orndorff. “A good time for your team to test it out is while you’re on vacation.”
You don’t want it to become a badge of honor for a worker to try to log the fewest number of vacation hours in the office. Why? Employees who don’t take regular breaks can get sick and cranky and can lose motivation and make mistakes at work, says Orndorff. Tell your always-there employee that while you value her hard work, your company will be more successful if she takes her vacation so she can come back rested and strong.
“Taking regular vacation is all about maintaining the productivity of your small business,” says Orndorff. “You know how when you’re having a stressful day, and sometimes a 15-minute break helps you think more clearly and come back with new ideas? Vacation days or weeks do the same thing on a much larger scale. They’re crucial.”