A vacation checklist to help small business owners get the time away they deserve
If you own a small business, it’s probably no surprise to you that less than 50 percent of small business owners take a vacation. And those who do often check in with the office at least once a day. (Sound familiar?) Yet study after study shows that taking time away from work is not only vital to your health and personal life, it can actually improve your performance on the job.
It all starts with recognizing that vacation time is important and then making time off a priority. As a business owner, you need time to step back from the daily whirlwind of running a company, to get away and think about the big picture, to dream and see opportunities you may be missing. You might even have time to read a few business books. But preparing to be away for an extended period may seem overwhelming.
The good news is, there are lots of strategies that can help you. Once you’ve made your vacation a priority, use these helpful tips to take the stress away from being gone!
1. Make a plan for your time away.
- Avoid the busy season and find a week when work is slow. If your work is seasonal and tapers off during a certain point in the year, consider closing your business for a week or two at that time. This will not only give you a needed break but will also give your staff the same benefit.
- Plan a few months ahead so you can schedule projects around your time off.
- Try to clear your plate before you leave, so you won’t have to think about any unfinished tasks during your vacation. When you return, you’ll be ready to address any new business that came up while you were away.
2. Put someone (or several someones) in charge.
- While you’re out of the office, put one trusted person in charge or delegate specific tasks to several reliable people based on their strengths. Either way, it’s important to clearly communicate with your entire staff, so they understand whom to reach out to with questions.
- Before you’re out, go through some common situations that could come up in your absence and get the right people up-to-speed on in-progress work. Make lists of projects, deadlines and any outstanding items.
- Plan for the worst case scenario. This will help your backup person (and you) feel more confident that they can handle whatever happens.
- If needed, arrange a meeting or phone call with your backup person, your customers or any subcontractors, to get everyone on the same page before you leave.
- Use this an opportunity to evaluate your staff to see who might be ready to take on more responsibility.
- Are you a sole proprietor and don’t have staff? Consider finding another person in your line of work and talking with them about creating a vacation coverage partnership. This obviously requires finding someone you can trust.
3. Be clear about your availability (or unavailability).
- Set up a communications policy before you leave. How often will you check in — once a day, once a week or not at all? When is it appropriate for your staff to contact you? When is it not appropriate? What constitutes an emergency?
- If you are planning not to be contacted, set up “out of office” email and voicemail messages that include the contact information of your backup person.
4. Set boundaries for yourself.
- If you take your smart phone or computer with you, commit to not checking work email.
- If you must access your email, pick a time to do it once a day and stick to your schedule. Avoid the temptation to check in more frequently.
5. Let your customers know.
- A month or so before you go, notify clients of your vacation dates, and share the plans for keeping things running smoothly while you’re out.
- Set expectations about your availability and tell customers whom they should contact in your absence.
- Remind customers of your vacation by calling or emailing them a week before you leave.
6. Keep your schedule open for the first few days after you get back.
- When you return to the office, give yourself time to capture and plan all the great business ideas you came up with on vacation.
- Meet with the person you left in charge to get up to speed on what happened while you were gone.
As a small business owner, you work hard and deserve time away from the job. But it’s up to you to make that time away happen. Prioritize relaxation by creating an out-of-office plan and sticking to it.