If you are like most entrepreneurs, you went into business for yourself for at least one of the following reasons:
- You wanted a better work situation
- You wanted to be your own boss
- You wanted more freedom and free time
- You wanted more creativity at work
- All of the above
One of the little known facts of small business life is while most of the above certainly is possible, getting more freedom and free time is pretty difficult.
When you worked for someone else, getting a week or two off a year was easy and you didn’t worry too much about the complications of your time away. But when you are an entrepreneur, taking time off can have bigger ramifications (or at least it can feel that way). While it is common for a small business owner to steal an extra few days off here and there, the two-week stay in Hawaii often goes by the wayside.
The thing is we all need time off to recharge our batteries— and the people who know this best are our counterparts over in Europe. In France, people are guaranteed at least five weeks of paid vacation time a year. While that is not how it works here in the U.S., with warmer weather around the corner it would behoove you to re-examine your vacation policies for both yourself and your employees, so that everyone gets some much-needed time away.
Let’s take a closer look at each approach:
Vacation plans for yourself: If you’re your own boss, be a good one. Give yourself a break. Even better, give yourself a long break— you deserve it. Here’s how:
1. Plan ahead. This means:
- Saving enough money so you can get away without financial stress;
- Telling clients and customers that you will be gone and for how long;
- Making a list of essential things that still need to happen while you’re away.
2. Hand off your duties to an employee, a temp or a virtual assistant: Getting away requires having someone around who can keep everything running without you. No, they cannot do everything you do, but you just might be surprised how much they can do with proper training and good communication. To make sure things are running smoothly, consider having a chat every few days over the phone.
3. Get more done early: Get as much extra work done as you can before you go. By getting ahead, you make getting away much easier.
4. Schedule a time buffer when you get back: Here’s another trick to lessen the stress upon your return. Don’t tell everyone you will be back in the office Monday, tell them Wednesday. Then, when you start working again on Monday you can have a few days of uninterrupted time to catch up.
Vacation plans for your staff: Are there any sorts of leave policies that you can adopt that will not only make your employees happy, but will make your workplace exceptional?
Most small businesses have basic time-off policies where employees get X number of sick days, and X number of vacation, holiday and personal days off per year, with the vacation days usually increasing as the years go by. On average, full-time employees in the U.S. usually get about 17 or 18 days off per year (nothing like Europe!), while professional, long-term employees could receive up to 30 days or more.
Why not consider adopting a new trend for employee time off, one that I am seeing more and more of these days. Many employers are pooling all of their employees’ time-off days into a day-off “bank”. Employees may get, for instance, 150 total hours off per year (about 19 work days). The “bank” would add all personal days off, time off for holidays, time for vacation and sick days together. But instead of divvying them up into pre-defined categories, it is up to the employee to take off the days he or she wants, when he or she wants them (within the needs of the business, of course).
The main benefit of this plan is that it allows employees to use their time as they see fit. If they want to take time off for Ramadan or Yom Kippur, or take a personal day to take care of a few appointments, that’s their choice, and they don't have to call in sick or make up an excuse. In fact, they can use the day-off bank for vacation, personal time, sick days or whatever they choose. Some employers even allow employees who bank more than say, 80 hours, to redeem the excess hours by exchanging them for cash or extra time off.
This sort of creative time-off program is one of the intangible benefits that separate great small businesses from the pack, and, maybe best of all, it gives employees a greater variety of options to organize their own time off.
Have you recently updated your time-off policy? Share your story below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.