Finding time to take a vacation can be difficult for many small business owners. But statistics show that time off can make you happier and healthier, as well as help you achieve a better work/life balance. Now that this kids are back to school and summer is coming to a close we wanted to share some helpful tips that will help you before, during and after taking some needed time away.

According to Office Depot’s Small Business Index metric, 66% of small business owners find it difficult to take time off from work during the summer.  And when they do take the time to “get away” only 15% will disconnect entirely while on vacation.  This results in 76% of small business owners checking their email while on “vacation” and 67% checking in with the office at least one day while away.

Understanding that we need to re-charge regularly is important, so let’s look at five things we can do to prepare to be away from the office.

  • Make the decision.  Committing to taking time of comes first.  Block out a week several months before and do not let anything find its way into your calendar during that period.
  • Plan to get ahead. A week or so before vacation, plan to take an extra hour or two a day to clear unfinished projects from your plate, pay bills in advance and cross-train employees to carry out important functions in your absence.
  • Delegate.  Work closely with a go-to person you trust that can make decisions and manage your business while you are away. You may need to consider hiring part-time to help fill the gap.  There are companies that specialize in offering this type of service.  This may include daily monitoring of email and voicemail.
  • Communicate in advance. Notify clients ahead of time so they can plan any important meetings prior and adjust if needed.  Also clarify expectations with your team regarding your availability and their responsibilities.
  • Document procedures. This cannot be over emphasized.  Having SOP’s in place as well as a list of login’s and passwords will provide peace of mind while you are away.  Also, providing numbers of key contacts is a great idea.

Okay, now you are away and you need to make sure that you actually allow yourself to mentally decompress.  It may not be realistic to disconnect completely.  If that is the case it is important to set boundaries that will make sure you vacation stays a vacation.  Here are some tips:

  • Text.  Implement a text first policy.  This is more respectful of your time and will keep the phone from ringing.
  • Limit daily engagement.  Work only one hour a day and do this during non-business hours in order to minimize interactions.
  • Avoid the temptation to check in too frequently.
  • Leave your laptop at home.  If you cannot get it done on your phone or tablet, leave it until you return.

So, you did it!!  You took time away, managed to disengage and your business survived J.  It’s time to plug back into the pulse of things and your inboxes (electronic and otherwise) are overflowing.   Three more tip that will help you get back into the swing.

  • Give yourself a cushion.  Scheduling catch-up time is almost as important as scheduling the vacation.  Clear your calendar from client and sales meetings for the first couple of days.
  • Have a team huddle.  Reconnect with your team to prioritize issues so that those with the highest priority can be handled by you or someone else.
  • Build them up.  Strengthen your staff and reward your team by giving not only a small gift to show your appreciation for their extra efforts, but praising each team member individually in front of the entire group.  We have found that public praise and appreciation is one of the greatest motivators in business.

​Let’ face it, leaving our business can be difficult.  However, it is important to realize that our business can only realize its full potential if we are able to perform at our full potential.  We need to schedule time to rest.  Regular physical, mental and spiritual regeneration is required for us to achieve peak performance.  If you are not able to take a full week off, schedule a four-day weekend once every couple of months.  The most important thing is to schedule time away and while you are away to do your best to unplug.  Both you and your business will be glad you did.