For most people, the Christmas holiday season is a great chance to rest, relax and spend time with loved ones. For business owners, however, the idea of taking time off can often feel downright impossible. Research by OnDeck shows that just five percent of small and medium-size enterprises (SME) owners take a proper holiday each year, with the vast majority continuing to check emails or manage business affairs even while out of the office.
There’s no denying that running your own business is a task that requires a lot of time, attention and dedication. However, a well-managed business is one that allows employees – and owners – to prioritize relaxation without compromising on success.
If you struggle to take your hands off the wheel long enough to enjoy the Christmas holiday, there are a few things you need to know about the art of switching off and how it can actually benefit your business in the long run.
Ease into it
If you’re the type of person who checks your emails before bed and jumps on a work call first thing in the morning, switching off might not be something you can master overnight. Not only do these habits die hard, but the thought of disconnecting cold turkey is likely to bring up feelings of anxiety and stress for hands-on business owners.
If this sounds like you, easing into the holiday period can make the process of switching off less daunting. In the lead-up to Christmas, try spending a day offline or begin assigning key tasks to other employees, so you can see how they will be handled in your absence. This is a great way to assuage that little voice in the back of your head telling you that everything is bound to fall apart the moment you’ve left the building.
Staff and delegation
Delegation is one of the most useful skills a business owner can have, especially when it comes to navigating a healthy work–life balance. This not only means learning to let go of managing every project or task yourself, but also equipping your staff with the confidence and skills they need to work autonomously while you’re not around.
As difficult as it might be to hand the reins over to someone else, it’s one of the most important things you can do when it comes to building a productive team. Employees who are empowered to problem-solve and work autonomously in their roles are generally more motivated and committed to success. On the other hand, research has shown that micromanagement hinders performance, job satisfaction and employee morale across the board.
Over the Christmas period, delegating your workflow will ensure that staff aren’t calling you whenever they run into an issue. Not only will this allow you to have a more relaxing break from work, but it will demonstrate how removing smaller tasks from your plate can ultimately help you focus on the long-term goals of your business.
Identify your weaknesses
For many business owners, the temptation to slip into work mode whenever you have a spare moment can be a major barrier towards maintaining a healthy work–life balance. To combat this over the Christmas period, it can be helpful to identify what tasks you struggle to let go of and when they’re most likely to interfere with your time off. This could be anything from checking emails when you’re eating your lunch, or checking in on work after hours. These seemingly small tasks can quickly add up to hours of work and adversely affect your time off.
Once you’ve identified the areas you struggle with and have adequately delegated responsibility, try replacing them with more relaxing or leisurely activities instead. Rather than responding to emails before bed, try picking up a book you’ve always wanted to read. Replace calling your employees in the morning with a family breakfast or listening to a podcast. When you replace the habitual behavior with something more enjoyable, it will be easier to stop yourself from slipping back into work mode.
Understand the importance of work–life balance
As most business owners will know, it can be hard to enjoy uninterrupted time off when there is always a task calling our name. Whether it’s an employee who needs help or a crisis that needs managing, the temptation to always be available is hard to resist. As important as growing your business is, it’s also crucial that we acknowledge just how essential work–life balance is across the board.
Taking a break from work doesn’t just help us to relax, unwind and enjoy valuable time off with our loved ones, but it can actually help us to feel more productive in the long run. While it might seem counterintuitive, research by the Corporate Executive Board – representing 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies – has shown that people with a good work–life balance feel they work 21 percent harder than people with a poor work–life balance. The ability to switch off and enjoy their life outside of work helped employees to feel more engaged and even contributed to their willingness to stay at a job.
Having a good work–life balance has been proven to have a positive impact on mood which, in turn, broadens the mindset, improves interest and energizes employees at every level, enabling better work performance. As leaders of the business, we set the tone for a mentally healthy workplace. Work and work-related factors are usually the leading cause of mental health problems. Too much work, too little time off and poor work–life balance are all culprits. Employee productivity is almost invariably affected by these toxic conditions and it can even lead to employees checking out of their work altogether.
With a healthy work–life balance, mental health and wellbeing will improve. Employee productivity will rise when there is a decrease in absenteeism, loss of concentration and poor decision-making owing to poor mental health. This is not only an important lesson to learn for your own wellbeing as a business owner, but crucial to supporting your staff to do their best work. With a high-functioning team who are committed to their performance and wellbeing, you can feel better equipped to switch off over the holiday season.
And if you’re still not convinced, consider the wise words of one CEO who has aced work–life balance: “If this is urgent, take a deep breath, because few things really are.”
Adam Joy is the CEO of Office Brands, the largest independent business supplies dealer group in Australia, encompassing Office National and Office Products Depot and a range of unbranded O net dealers.