There are many things typical small-business owners are good at, but taking time off isn’t one of them.

As reported by the Guardian in August, a OnePoll survey for online accounting software provider Xerox suggests that 76 per cent of small-business owners have sacrificed holidays to ‘keep their business running smoothly’.

The Guardian ran its own online poll, asking small-business owners how many days holiday (excluding bank holidays) they expected to take in 2015 and 29.56 per cent of respondents said they only planned to take between five and 10 days (16.98 per cent said 20-25 days and 15.72 per cent said 15-25 days).

Missing out

Research published by insurance provider Simply Business in August painted a similarly revealing picture of small-business owners’ failure to take time off.

Simply Business’s work-life study found that one-fifth of respondents said they couldn’t afford to take a single day off in the summer, while 30 per cent said they could only if they stayed at home or in the UK so they can ‘keep tabs on their business’.

With parents making up 72 per cent of those surveyed, Simply Business estimates that 750,000 small business owners aren’t able to take ‘traditional family summer breaks’.

Work-related pressures

But the problem didn’t just centre on summer holiday entitlement. According to Simply Business more than 1 million small-business owners in the UK compromise their family and social lives because of ‘work-related pressures’.

Almost half of respondents cancel plans with friends and family at least once a week because of work. And half a million small-business owners don’t make any social plans, because ‘they are too busy with work to commit to them’. Significantly, a quarter of those surveyed ‘admitted to falling ill due to being overworked and stressed’.

Despite these figures, two-thirds of respondents were happy with their work-life balance – but should some of them be more mindful of the possible effect not having enough time off could be having on their health?

Key reasons

So why don’t small business owners take more time off? The SME Risk Index published by global insurer Zurich in August 2014 found that of the 33 per cent of SME owners who said they would take 10 days or fewer holidays in 2014, the main reason was they were ‘worried about being away from the business for too long, followed by concerns about loss of potential business and the expense’.

More than a fifth (22 per cent) said they didn’t have ‘anyone they can trust to take over if they go on holiday’, while 19 per cent said customers expect them to be available every day, which made taking time off impossible. Just below one quarter believed they have to close down their business temporarily to go on holiday.

Refreshed and revived

Simply Business’s study was supported by Mind, the national mental health charity. Emma Mamo, its Head of Workplace Wellbeing, commented, ‘Too many small-business owners aren’t making enough time for their lives outside work, often sacrificing holidays and social activities. Having a good work-life balance, including regularly having time off, is key to staying mentally healthy. Taking proper breaks allows staff to return refreshed and revived – and small-business owners are no exception.’

Mamo accepts that to ensure success, businesses owners must occasionally work extra hours. But, she warned, consistently working long hours and managing an excessive workload can take their toll on our physical and mental health, which can end up damaging your business.

She added, ‘Staff who look after their mental wellbeing are more productive, have higher morale and are less likely to take time off sick. So it’s in the interests of all small-business owners, and employees generally, to ensure that they give as much priority to their personal life as their jobs.’

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