Overworked SME owners too stressed to enjoy holidays

More than half of small business owners think taking holiday is more stressful than it is worth, and almost all remain in contact with their firm while they are away, according to research from Axa PPP Healthcare.

The poll of SME owners found 55 per cent agree taking a holiday is more stressful than it is worth, with 86 per cent continuing to have contact with their workplace while they were on holiday.

The small business owners surveyed said they were putting in an average of 36 hours each week in the workplace and another 17 hours to their business when they got home. In addition to working long hours, 47 per cent of business owners said they felt stressed all or most of the time.

The research found one in five continued to take phone calls and check email as normal while one in ten admitted they had visited their workplace in person when they were supposed to be on holiday. The small business owners surveyed took on average just 11 days holiday in 2014.

Most owners – 82 per cent – took some sick leave last year, but 21 per cent of owners said that working while they were sick had not adversely affected them.

Axa PPP Healthcare SME business director Glen Parkinson says: “Our research tells us that small business owners are positive about growth in the next five years, which is fantastic as they are hugely important to the UK economy. This survey highlights just how little time off these small business owners are giving themselves. It’s understandable that owners want to keep an eye on their businesses, even when they are on holiday, but it is concerning that they take so little time off and that they view their break so negatively. We know the importance of downtime, not just for wellbeing but also for ensuring productivity and good mental health.

“Small business owners have to combine leading their business and securing its future with ensuring the business-essential activities are also well managed. This degree of responsibility is therefore leading to longer working hours and higher levels of stress for many business owners. In the long-term, this behaviour is unsustainable and business owners should heed advice to take more time away from their business to rest and recharge as well as get the necessary support where appropriate.

“Often when it’s your business, you feel the need to work even when you’re not up to it to ensure success. This act of ‘presenteeism’ – working even when unwell – is actually counterproductive and can slow recovery times and prevent people from getting back to health – and back to work. Knowing to log off when sick is essential for our small business owners – not only for their own health but to set the expectation of their teams to do the same, getting everyone back to good health as quickly as possible.”