Today is Labor day in the US, traditionally a day when the strengths and contributions of labor unions to the US economy is celebrated. For small business owners though it is rarely a day of rest. Research by accounting company Xero showed that only 14% of them actually completely checked out from running the business during their vacation. That compares to 54% of most American workers (source Glassdoor).
The chicken or the egg
Xero points out that their software enables those same workers to keep in touch. The cloud-based business software enables business owners with a mobile app to be constantly aware of what is going on. In a small business that is a good thing.
However, if it weren’t for those same mobile apps would there be a better benefit from taking a complete vacation from the workplace? Does the fact that business owners are always now in touch mean that they cannot relax completely?
Vacations do matter and research has consistently shown this for employees. In small business it decreases stress levels, decreases the chance of burnout and also mitigates the risk of fraud. Academics Torres and Lechat studied different stress factors and satisfactors for small business owners. Vacations were important but the risk of bankruptcy and a drop in commercial activity were key elements of stress.
Torres and Lechat wrote “The category Bankruptcy is both the least experienced and the most intense of the stressors.” It therefore seems reasonable that small business owners do need to keep in touch with concerns for at least those two key events.
Technology becomes an enabler
The Xero research was completed by 500 small business owners. Interestingly Xero users in that group had taken more holidays than non Xero users, 69% compared to 55%. Of those 69%, 94% stayed in touch with their business. Of the others only 78% did. What isn’t clear is what software the other business users were using. It is fair to say that some competing solutions such as QuickBooks and Sage also have mobile apps.
But can business owners switch off? Every Xero user took either a smart phone (96%) or laptop (75%) with them. This raises the question though as to whether the technology was actually used for business. Interestingly it is the millennials who are both more burned out by work (93%) compared to gen X (84%) and baby boomers (59%). However, they are also less likely to work on vacation (9%) compared to Gen X (11%) and baby boomers (24%).
Keri Gohman, President, Xero Americas commented: “Technology affords business owners more flexibility to stay connected while away, but it also keeps people on the job when they’re supposed to be off. As an industry, we have an opportunity to develop products that can help protect small business owners’ mental health and wellness as they try to keep up at a rapid pace.”
But is technology a problem
As we highlighted earlier, being connected is not always a good thing. The survey revealed that a massive 83% of business owners experience work related stress while on vacation. Despite that, 61% say that they are relaxed, refreshed and ready to return to work at the end of their vacation.
“While small business owners are taking vacation, the number of them experiencing work-related stress during this time is certainly concerning,” added Gohman. “With three in five business owners checking-in on a daily basis, it’s clear that the demands of work are inescapable. Using technology, we need to evolve how we think about vacation in today’s connected world.”
Gohman continued: “While small business owners are taking vacation, the number of them experiencing work-related stress during this time is certainly concerning. With three in five business owners checking-in on a daily basis, it’s clear that the demands of work are inescapable. Using technology, we need to evolve how we think about vacation in today’s connected world.”
So what does it mean
Vacations are important. Business owners need to stay in touch but also switch off. Software applications that deliver alerts rather than require constant supervision seems a better way forward. There are also some basic things that small business owners should consider when booking their vacation. Shawn Achor wrote a blog for the Harvard Business Review (registration required) entitled: When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t. He provides four tips to create a positive vacation:
- Focus on the details.
- Plan more than one month in advance.
- Go far away
- Meet with someone knowledgeable at the location.
While it may be too late to consider what you are doing on Labor day, start planning for Columbus Day (October 9th 2017) or Veterans Day (November 10th 2017).