Take a break: how to take time off at Christmas

Workplace and wellbeing

19 December 2016

Christmas is all about spending time with friends and family. If you're a small business owner it can be difficult or nerve-wracking closing up shop for the season, but it's definitely worth it.

After a bit of time off you can go back to work in January feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the New Year.

Whether you're a self-employed professional or a small retailer, wrapping up properly is important so that you don't feel stressed when you should be enjoying your mince pies and sherry.

Here's how to wind down properly at Christmas.

Don't leave customers in the lurch

Decide which days you're taking off and stick to them. Give your customers a few weeks' notice so that they can make other arrangements. For example, if you own a shop this might mean posting your Christmas hours on the door, and if you work as a freelance professional it'll mean an email to your clients. Send another email a couple of days before you go off, in case your plans have slipped their mind. Don't be tempted to stray from the plan and close up early (unless you're happy to be "on-call").

Be clear about when you'll return

As well as being strict about when you're off, you should also be firm about when you're coming back. If you have social media accounts, update them with information about when you'll be back. Set an out-of-office message on your email account so that any customers or suppliers will know that you're away, and when they can expect a reply from you. Again, don't be tempted to change your plans – this is your very well-earned Christmas break, and people will respect that if you manage their expectations. That said, emergencies do happen, so you might want to include an emergency contact number in your out-of-office message.

Tie up loose ends

For retailers this means locking up shop properly, and checking the property is secure. For example, take precautions so that your pipes don't burst and destroy your stockroom. If you sell food, go through it and remove anything that will go out-of-date while you're off. It's time consuming, but it's better to do it now than come back to a shop full of unusable stock. If goods still have a few days left on them you can spread a bit of Christmas cheer by donating them to a local food bank or homeless shelter (check whether they accept perishable goods).

For professionals, tying up loose ends means finishing all your projects. You don't want anything hanging over you during your holiday. Make sure you have responded to all of the emails that need attention (giving them another quick reminder of which days you'll be unavailable).

Be up front with your staff

If you have staff, try to give them as much advance notice as possible about your festive plans. Some of them may need to travel to be with their families, so draw up Christmas rotas as early as possible so that they can book flights or trains. It also gives them time to sort out shift swaps if they're unable to work one of the days you've asked them to.