What. A. Year. On both a personal and professional level, the last 18 months have been unlike any other, and if there’s one thing that we all need it’s a nice relaxing holiday somewhere different and exciting, though with current travel restrictions in place many of us are looking closer to home (or even at home) for a well-earned rest. It’s great to make plans for relaxation and recuperation, but there are unique challenges associated with staycations that aren’t such an issue when you’re halfway across the world, lounging on a tropical beach and being served drinks in coconuts. As a result, here are my 2021 updated ‘top tips’ for a relaxing staycation summer for small business owners.
1.) Set boundaries for yourself. If you are holidaying at home, make a conscious effort to hide/unplug/lock up your work devices, particularly if you’ve been working from home and have a full blown work space within your property (or garden!). Yes, you may need to be on call in the event of an emergency (and it better be for a good reason!), but it’s too easy to fall into the ‘I’ll just check X’ way of thinking, and before you know it you’ve been working for a couple of hours rather than focusing on the work-free down time that’s so important for your wellbeing.
2.) Notify your customers in advance. A week before your ‘out of office’ goes on isn’t really enough time for regular customers who rely on you. If you aren’t planning on providing cover for your work, giving at least a month’s notice of the period of absence is helpful, so that they can work around you to carry out essential tasks. If you normally send a newsletter, for example, at the end of every month on their behalf, and have booked a vacation that very week, they could ensure that they send over the content a week earlier than normal so that it could be pre-scheduled to go out when you are away. Even if you are considering covering the work with the help of an associate, it may be worth speaking to your client (if you haven’t already mentioned this possibility in your contract) to advise them that they will have a different contact for the duration of your holiday who will be assisting them.
3.) Find someone who can act as an emergency contact for you and your customers – it’s always helpful to have a trusted team member available for any ‘urgent’ customer enquiries that come in, and to help categorise them as ‘not actually urgent – deal with on return’ and ‘actual emergency – needs assistance ASAP’. It’s also best to have a ‘worst case scenario’ plan in place; if the worst happens, who can deal with this issue? Can it be referred to a colleague or trusted fellow business owner to deal with, or is it something that needs your attention? Outsourcing is always preferable to ensure that you can have full and uninterrupted downtime, but I acknowledge the fact that, as small business owners, we rely on the satisfaction and continued patronage of our customers, and need to make occasional sacrifices in order to ensure that they remain as paying customers!
4.) Turn your ‘out of office’ on as early as possible (ideally at least a day before you actually go away). Your out of office message acts as a great reminder to customers who may have forgotten you were going away or are trying to sneak ‘a quick job’ in before you went away… trust me, ‘a quick job’ never quite turns out to be as quick or as simple as the customer believes!
5.) Clear your diary for the first day or two you are back. Clearing your diary and leaving your out of office on for a couple of days after you return to work can be useful. It is highly likely that you’ll come back to approximately half a million emails; if you’re dealing with customer enquiries from the second you sit down at your desk too, it’s going to take months to work through your in-tray and establish your to-do list for your first week back at work. Take some time to read and file your emails and prioritise work, getting up to date with important tasks and preparing yourself mentally for the coming week can all really help you to hit the ground running after a holiday.
6.) Turn off notifications when you are away (or delete work related apps entirely!). If you use business management tools (like Slack, for example) on your phone, or receive work emails to your mobile device, consider switching off notifications for these. It’s all too easy to think ‘I’ll just check that!’ and end up, three hours later, embroiled in some minor customer issue that could have either been rectified without you or could be addressed upon your return. This highlights how important and valuable it is to have a trusted team (or even just a single trusted associate) who can provide cover and support in your business whilst you are away. This doesn’t just mean when you are away on holiday, but also if you are unwell or cannot work for a number of other reasons, as this ensures that your valued customers are appropriately supported by professionals during your temporary absence.
A complete break from your business may seem like an impossibility, but it can be done – and should be done – in order to restore and replenish your enthusiasm, creativity and focus when it comes to work. Your wellbeing is so important (your business relies on it!), and taking care of yourself should have the same level of priority (if not higher) as invoicing, business planning sessions and marketing activities.
Happy holidays everyone!