The holiday season is full of wonder, time with family and, sometimes, a little festive indulgence. But, when you’re an entrepreneur, it’s not easy to take time off during the holidays to find that work-life balance. With increased holiday sales, Small Business Saturday and a rise in customers looking for holiday gifts, finding time for all the work that needs to be done and taking some time off to spend with family and feel restored is a challenge. We asked the experts for their advice on how entrepreneurs can balance their work and life this holiday season.
Establish Clear Boundaries
If you’re an entrepreneur planning to take some time off from your business this holiday season, the number one thing you can do is to set clear boundaries. “If you can establish smart boundaries and communicate those clearly to your team, you'll create an atmosphere of clarity and confidence that everyone can benefit from,” says Tina Hawk, Senior Vice President of HR at GoodHire. “This can look like designating one person to call you when you're on PTO and ensuring that both they and the rest of their colleagues know only to call in the event of a true emergency.”
Having clear boundaries will help your team to respect your time off while making sure that you’re still available at certain times to help the business run smoothly.
Trust Your Employees
One challenge many entrepreneurs face is the belief that only they can run their business the right way. And, yet, according to Gregory Rozdeba, co-founder and President of Dundas Life, “There is absolutely no reason for revenue to drop when business owners are away on leaves. The operations of a business don’t really require supervision from owners in daily tasks and can function well without them.”
If you have hired and trained someone to be on your team, you have to trust that they know how to do their job. Yes, even when you’re not there to oversee what they’re doing. It might also be helpful to recognize that it’s unlikely that there will be an emergency. “It is very rare that something is truly so bad that you and only you can fix it,” says Hawk.
“Also, it is wise to remember that being unable to truly detach yourself from work whilst taking time off reflects back to your employees that you don't ultimately trust them. Often, a display of trust from management can actually inspire the justification of that trust in employees.”
If you hired them and trained them, give them the respect of also trusting them.
If you’re planning to take time off, before your departure, you can delegate your normal tasks to other people on your team. “This makes sure that their work is done in their absence and there are no repercussions of taking time off,” says Rozdeba. “It is important for entrepreneurs and business owners to also take time off from work to refresh themselves and come back to work more productive.” Your time off is important and will ultimately benefit the business.
Time off is crucial to your overall health and self-care and can actually help you to come back to work refreshed and more productive. During your vacation time, especially during the holidays, try to fully disconnect. That means not checking email, not answering phone calls and not taking meetings, even if they’re brief. “However, if you do have to check emails during PTO, try to limit doing so to the mornings and evenings, making sure to spend the best part of the day fully switched off,” says Hawk.
Consider a Daily Check-In
If you’re uncomfortable with being fully disconnected from your team during the holidays, there are a couple of ways that you can take a break while still being involved at work. One way to do this is with a set daily check-in. You can have a “daily check-in from one of their leaders to get an update on the day-to-day happenings,” says Rozdeba. “These updates don’t have to be frequent or prolonged; just five minutes at the end of the workday would be enough to handle any situation that arises.”
Have a Designated Contact Number
Another way to stay involved at work but also have the time and space to take a break during the holidays is to have a separate number just for emergency situations. Lattice Hudson, business coach and founder of Lattice & Co, suggests setting it up like this:
“I only respond to emergency texts when on leave. I have a designated contact number specifically for work-related concerns and I only check it once a day when I am on leave. If needed, I check in with the manager I have left in charge and try to get it all wrapped up within an hour. Learning the art of prioritizing at different moments in life is what will make you a success in the long run.”
When you’re on holiday, a separate business contact number can give you the space you need to disconnect while still being reachable. You can answer texts and calls from loved ones on your personal number without being distracted by work. It's easy to set up a work number through Google Voice, which you can use for free or for added features, a low price.
Cross-Train Your Employees
“The most efficient way to train employees for any foreseeable issues is to delegate important tasks to them throughout the year,” says Rozdeba. “When employees have experience in work other than their responsibilities, they become more skilled and creative. These employees are also more independent and require less supervision, preparing them for a time they will have to function without their boss.”
Cross-training your employees not only makes it easier for you to take time off but for anyone in the company to take time off. It means that if anyone is gone, there’s someone else who knows how to do their job and can fill in the gaps while they’re out.
If you’re hoping to take time off, especially during the holidays, it’s critical that you plan ahead and get it onto the office calendar so everyone knows. And, even though you’re the owner, you’re still an employee of the company and the rules apply to you. “The guidelines for taking this time off should be the same they are for every employee,” says Hudson. “As business owners, we should plan our leaves in advance and make sure there is a secondary ready to take our place to allow for a smooth transition.”
Another great way to be able to take time off as an entrepreneur is to work ahead. Adelle Archer, co-founder and CEO of Eterneva, suggests that “Setting deadlines to have projects completed early, scheduling important meetings weeks in advance and having your marketing set on a quarterly basis, ensuring it will be done in September, will lift the burden off your shoulders, creating a sense of relaxation. By focusing on the responsibility completion rather than just the hours worked, you will create more free time and be able to better enjoy the holiday season.”
If you’re looking to find a little more work-life balance this holiday season, it’s critical to plan ahead, cross-train your employees and set up a plan for what your team should do if there’s an emergency while you’re gone. Having plans in place before you leave for your holiday will make it less likely that your team will need to contact you while you’re gone, giving you the time and space you need to relax and get refreshed. Everyone deserves that, even entrepreneurs and business owners.
Page is a freelance content marketing writer with experience writing about small business, the future of the workplace and health. She also operates a weekly email newsletter where she shares advice on living an authentic, intentional life. When not writing, you can find Page traveling, fostering older cats and working as a sexual assault advocate.