Working Holiday

Workplace and wellbeing

10 August 2015

More than three quarters of entrepreneurs go without holidays in order to keep their business ticking over, according to a survey by accounting software specialists Xero.

Taking time off is important, and while small business holidays may seem like a luxury, they provide tangible benefit to you and your enterprise. A holiday allows your body and mind to relax and recharge, which in turn benefits your business.

However, chances are you’ve got a deadline to meet, a presentation to prepare for and spreadsheets to analyse, but the call of the beach is just too much to ignore, so what can you do?

If your business diary looks jam-packed this summer but you'd still like to get away, there's hope for you yet thanks to the working holiday. With some sensible planning and a little discipline, you could be conducting your business from exotic shores in no time.

Plan for the essentials

Considerations you may want to keep in mind include:

  • Compatible time zones – Gran Canaria and Lisbon are both on the same time as the UK, but the more flexible your schedule can be, the more options you have.
  • Internet access and phone line – not just important for emails, but also for using Skype, WhatsApp and old-fashioned landline calls.
  • Desk space – having a dedicated area, preferably in an office environment, helps focus your working time.

Find an office

Checking each potential destination for every item on your list is a chore, but there are shortcuts. Dedicated working holiday spaces like Surf Office and Livit are increasingly capitalising on the desire of independent entrepreneurs and freelancers to combine work and play. Offering office and living spaces as well as dedicated retreats, these companies tick all the boxes.

Co-working spaces are also springing up around the world. Your options will be greater if you speak the local language, but if not, there are still global groups such as Copass, or Airbnb-esque workspace finder Desksurfing to help you land a workspace anywhere you fancy.

If none of these appeal, hotels, local cafes and even the airport could still work out. Many airports have dedicated lounges with comfortable seating and fast internet connections. The Nice Cote D'Azur airport, for example, has quiet lounges that are accessible for €26 per day. Check local websites or ask your hotel or travel company for advice if you're not sure what you'll find.

Adapt to your environment

A working holiday is a balancing act, but it doesn't need to be a constant tussle between getting the job done and enjoying your time off. To get the best of both worlds, we recommend devising a schedule.

Take advantage of planning apps and software that are designed to help you divide your working hours. Harvest is an excellent example of how even free apps can organise your time, by setting dedicated hours for various projects.

You can make the process easier by clearly separating your workspace from your holiday space. Having a desk helps, but if you can at least limit your office to one room and switch your phone off when you're done for the day, you'll enjoy the break even more.

Make yourself comfortable

Most of us spend so much time in our own working environments that we forget just how much we've tailored them to our needs. When you're switching to a new space, even for a short spell, take some time to consider those little extras that will make you more comfortable. For example, portable laptop stands to stave off back pain or extra cushions for hotel chairs.

If you plan for all eventualities, there'll be no stress when you arrive – just plenty of time to settle into a routine of work and pleasure.

If you are lucky enough to take a complete break from everything remotely work-related, there are steps you can take to arrange a holiday where all you’ll have to worry about is your bikini line – not your bottom line.

Trust somebody in your absence

If you really want to switch off while you’re away, you may wish to consider appointing a deputy whose job it will be to steer the ship in your absence. The key here is not to fear delegation – any staff you employ are employed for a reason, so one of them – if not more – is bound to respond well to having more responsibility.

Holiday at the same time as your customers

If you’re a hairdresser, for example, then chances are many of your private clients choose to go on holiday during the summer months. If you find that business is a little slower at the end of July and in August, then this could be the perfect time for a little break of your own – and you’ll be back in time for business to start picking up again.

Consider regular short breaks

If you’re a sole trader and unable to take more than a few days off, then it could just be a case of changing how you holiday. Instead of jetting off for a week or two, you may wish to plan a few shorter breaks over the course of the year. This will be less disruptive to clients and you’ll still benefit from some rest and relaxation.

Check the forecast

It's not just the weather you don’t want to have to worry about during your holiday, it's your finances too. Complete a cash flow forecast for the year ahead to help you identify the quietest and, therefore, best time to book your break. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has an excellent cash flow template and guide to help.

Prepare your team

If you have business partners or employees, make sure they're trained to manage your duties while you're away. Set boundaries, too. Passing on emergency contact details is useful, but let them know they should only be used in emergencies. You could also set a specific time and date to check in. If you work alone, aim to tie up any loose ends before you leave.

Notify clients

Your important clients should be informed about your absence in advance – even if you're only going away for a short time. Touching base like this will make them feel valued, and if you let them know who to contact in case of an emergency it'll also help avoid any unnecessary worries that could interfere and cause you to work on holiday.

Manage your media

Update your voicemail message on your office phone and work mobile, and activate your out of office email notification. Remember to include the date you leave, when you'll return and any alternative contact details your customers may need. If you run social media accounts for your business, you can schedule content to publish while you're away using a like Buffer or Hootsuite.

Protect your assets at home

Before you go, ensure your van is safely parked in a secure, off-street environment, and that all the valuable tools of your trade are safely locked away. Don’t forget to check that your van insurance covers everything in your absence.

What's more, having the right business insurance in place can give you extra peace of mind while you’re away. Then all that’s left is to enjoy your well-earned break!

What’s your view? Is there ever a good time to take a holiday? What are your tips for taking time away from work? Share your tips in the comments below.