As a small business owner, it can seem almost impossible to take time away from work. You may think that you can't afford to go on vacation when you're in charge of your company's day-to-day operations, but to protect your own well-being, you really can't afford not to.
"Small business owners wear many hats," saidCraig Bryant, founder and product manager of small business HR management software company KinHR. "Many hats means many worries, and many worries bring lack of sleep, exercise and time to decompress. Exhaustion can lead to poor decision-making, and we all know what that means for business."
The good news is, more small business owners are realizing that a temporary break is essential to their physical, mental and emotional health. According to American Express OPEN's Spring 2014 Small Business Monitor, 60 percent of owners plan to take one full week of summer vacation this year, up from just 49 percent in 2013. A recent New York Times article reported that simply planning a vacation can make a person happier.
"I think the mere act of planning to be away from work brings perspective and temporary closure to business owners constantly caught in the surf of their own company," Bryant said, commenting on the article.
Many business owners, however, make the mistake of thinking that a "vacation" means taking a long trip in which they're completely unplugged, said Alice Bredin, a small business adviser for OPEN. This may have been possible when you were a student or worked for someone else, but when you're running a business, the reality is that you might need to check in while you're gone.
"Waiting for that three-week vacation keeps people from actually taking it," Bredin told Business News Daily. "[Business owners] need to redefine what vacation means. Take a four-day trip and check in three times. If you can do a day or two when you don't, that's great, [but] accept that you may have to."
On the other end of the spectrum, some business owners feel that, even if they do plan a trip, they'll need to work the entire time. While you may have to make the occasional call or email during your time away, you should also be able to disconnect and enjoy your vacation.
"If owners need to work during vacation, they need to put up boundaries to keep it in check," Bryant said. "Schedule one hour per day to respond to emails, take a client call and talk to employees. Do it before or after regular business, so the people on the other end know you're making accommodations and, more importantly, they're not creating more work while they know they have your attention.
"Don't check in constantly," Bredin added. "Get up every morning, take an hour or two to work, and take the rest of the day off."
Planning for your time off
So if you're soaking up some rays or taking in the local sights, who's going to handle all the little things that happen at your business? The first step is designating a go-to person as your second-in-command, someone you can trust to make decisions while you're away, Bredin said. It can be anyone who knows the business well, but make sure that your other employees know to contact this person in an emergency.
Bredin also recommended doing as much prep work as you can before you leave for your vacation. Take care of any administrative tasks and meet with your staff to discuss all possible scenarios that could arise while you're gone.
"Let them know what's in play, what will come up and when they should call you directly, for your peace of mind," Bredin said.
Letting go of the reins
If it sounds like it's going to be hard to relax knowing you won't be around for your employees, that's because it probably will be. It takes a lot of trust to let your staff run the business without you, but having the right people on board will make this much easier.
"A primary goal of every owner who believes their company is bigger and more important than they are needs to be to hire people who can run it in their absence," Bryant said. "Owners like to be the decision makers. They need to be needed. It's a challenge, but it's liberating to see a company running itself for a [short time] without their constant oversight.
"You're not the president of the World Bank," Bredin reminded small business owners. "You don't have to have your finger on the button. Just go away and take a break. You can and you have to, to keep respecting yourself."