Two empty chairs on a beach

The Amazing Commercial Advantages Of An Annual Break

If you're a sole contractor or run a small business, it's natural to want to keep working while the rest of the world slows down for the festive season.

By Shell on Dec. 15, 2019

After all, the more you put into your work, the more you get out – right?

Not necessarily. "It's the quality of time at work, not the quantity, that determines ultimate success," says Bryan Worn, a performance coach and Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand who specialises in mentoring small-business owners.

Worn points to Europe as evidence that time off work can actually increase productivity. In most European countries, regular vacations lasting several weeks are the norm, even for small-business owners.

In Germany, for example, many employers insist their most senior staff take a three-week holiday each year. There's even a word for this annual leave: 'erholungsurlaub', which also means regeneration. Meanwhile, in France, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, full-time workers receive five weeks' paid leave every year.

You might expect European countries to suffer reduced productivity as a result of all this time off. But in fact the opposite is true: in 2018, eight out of the 10 most productive countries in the OECD were in Europe (measured in GDP per hour worked).

Recharging your batteries

Worn knows first-hand how taking a holiday can make a difference. "In my first business, an accountancy practice, I didn't take any holidays for several years," he says.

"Then, finally, when I got a couple of partners on board, I decided to take six days off. I went away, and it was fantastic. It was like another world. I wouldn't say I was completely refreshed, but it was significant. I knew then that I had to let go and start taking time off in order to perform."

Worn reckons three weeks is the ideal amount of time to take off over the summer. "It's my experience that when you go away for more than three weeks, things start to fall off the rails a bit," he says. "I've discussed this with a succession of businesspeople and they all agree."

If you run a business with staff, you should allow them to take up to three weeks off at a time, too.

"That's for two reasons," Worn says: "firstly, they become refreshed; and secondly, it gives the members of staff who remain an opportunity to step up, take on other responsibilities, and ultimately become more valuable employees."

Family values

According to Worn, many self-employed people with children come to regret the decision not to take regular holidays.

"They end up in strife, because they devote all their time to their businesses and aren't there for their kids' formative years," he says. "You can try to pick up the slack later in life, but often the kids don't buy into it."

He adds: "I'm very thankful I figured that out early on."

Worn admits taking a significant break from your work for the first time can be daunting. "But if you do it, you'll come back with new ideas and new motivation," he says. "You'll work better than you ever have before."


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