Step away from the business. Please. It’s de-stress time. Seriously.
If you’re like many small-business professionals, the phrase “Spring Break” probably means little to you. If anything, it simply means spending your typical long hours working, but with new leaves forming on the trees outside your window.
But an enormous body of research shows that there are tremendous benefits to taking vacations from work — not the least of which is that doing so can actually improve your business. As WebMD explains, people who take vacations have lower risks of stress and certain diseases, a more positive attitude, more motivation and a clearer head for work than those who never put down the laptop and get away.
Convinced that unplugging for a bit is a smart idea — for your well-being, and for the good of your business? Glad to hear it!
Here’s a short checklist of things you can do to make your time away the relaxing and rejuvenating experience it should be — rather than an anxious, check-your-smartphone-every-30-seconds withdrawal a vacation could become if you’re not careful.
1. Let go by empowering your team
One of the easiest ways to reduce the stress of being away from your business is to let your staff handle some of the heavy lifting.
A couple of weeks before your trip, start discussing with your team the tasks you’ll need them to manage in your absence. Not only will this reduce your anxiety about leaving, it will also show your employees how much you value and trust them. Another benefit of delegating responsibilities you normally handle yourself is that your team will grow from taking on new tasks.
2. Know when to connect and not to connect
In today’s digital, always-connected environment, you rarely (if ever) fully unplug. Last year’s j2 Global® Mid-year SMB Report showed almost 41 percent of SMB professionals were taking a vacation, but still planning on working for some part of it. There’s nothing wrong with checking in periodically when you’re on vacation — as long as you’re doing so out of an interest in what’s happening and not out of anxiety that the place must be falling apart without you.
A recent study covered in Fast Company finds that 47 percent of Americans report being less stressed on vacation when they stay connected with the office. And an Intuit Small Business study finds 52 percent of small-business professionals are comfortable going on vacation in the first place only because they can use their mobile devices to check in. Also in the j2 Global® Mid-year SMB Report 2013, about 54 percent of SMBs reported that they expected to be able to work entirely from an iPad or tablet in the next year (in place of a PC or laptop).
So go ahead and check email occasionally while you’re away — if that will help ensure that worry and anxiety don’t undermine your vacation. However, before you get pulled back into work mode during your time off, consider this next tip.
3. Allow yourself pre-approved business hours
Okay, you’re probably going to check your work email every so often. Forcing yourself to ignore your business during your vacation may only create its own form of stress, undermining the whole goal of taking time away.
But if you’re going to spend some of your vacation time working, set clear guidelines upfront — with yourself and with your team.
Yourself: Set a rule, for example, that you can check (and even answer) email for 15 or 30 minutes each morning.
Your team: Let your employees, vendors and partners know specifically what times and days you’ll be accessible — and that you won’t be reachable or reviewing any communications at any other times.
4. Keep a file cabinet in your beach bag
Accessing important business documents and printing outside the office is a big headache and not something you want to be doing during your vacation. An online fax service like eFax digitally stores your faxes on secure file servers in the cloud, so you can retrieve them anytime and from anywhere.
An investor wants to sign a deal now? No problem! With eFax, you can receive a faxed agreement by email, add your digitized signature to it and then send it back — all from your smartphone or tablet, wherever you happen to be.
5. Don’t forget to tell people you’re on vacation
This goes along with Tip 3 and may seem obvious, but a lot of people forget to set up an automatic email response or update their voicemail with a vacation message.
If people don’t know you’re on vacation, chances are they’ll keep hounding you and they may even become upset that you haven’t responded to them.
Another option is a virtual phone service like eVoice, which lets you go anywhere without losing touch with your business. Call forwarding allows incoming calls to your business number to be routed anywhere you designate — on your smartphone, in your hotel room, or to another member of your staff. It also lets you screen calls with caller ID and voicemail screening.
Simply letting people know you’re out — and letting a virtual phone system automatically route your calls to your staff back at the office — are some of the best and easiest ways to cut yourself some slack, and enjoy your time off.
Now that you’re equipped with five strategies for giving yourself a true spring break, you’re much more likely to enjoy your time off, and to come back to work refreshed and rejuvenated. Who knows? You might even notice those beautiful new leaves outside your office window.