Small business owners forced to wait five years for a holiday, with thousands heading for ‘burnout’

Thousands of small or medium-sized business (SME) owners are heading towards burnout, with some going without a holiday for as long as five years, according to figures released today.

The analysis, carried out by Simply Business, one of the UK’s leading providers of SME business insurance, has found that time pressures and money concerns mean that almost one in 10 (9%) SME owners haven’t had a holiday for over five years.

The survey spoke to over 500 small or medium-sized businesses, and paints a worrying picture of a nation struggling with the pressures of running a business alongside commitments outside of work.

There are over 5.7 million small or medium-sized businesses in the UK, making up for

99% of all businesses. This suggests over 513,000 SME owners across the nation haven’t taken a holiday since at least 2014, with the research showing a concerning trend of UK business owners struggling to properly switch off, potentially leading to further mental and physical health issues later down the line, and denting UK productivity.

Barriers to Breaks

There are multiple barriers for SME owners being able to take a considerable amount of time off work.

Money is the number one worry among small business owners in the UK, with three in five (62%) admitting that potential loss of earnings is the main issue that prevents them from taking time off of work.

A third (35%) estimated that taking a holiday costs them at least £2,500 in lost earnings, while one in ten (8%) estimate they’re losing out on a whopping £5,000 or more for every holiday they take. One in five (19%) also admit to finding holidays stressful because they’re not bringing in any money.

The Cat’s Away?

However, for some the prospect of going away doesn’t just raise monetary issues. Half (52%) admit they are reluctant to go away as they worry about missing out on work, while one in 10 (10%) are concerned their employees won’t carry out work effectively while they’re away.

Additionally, one in five (21%) SME owners say they are unable to go on holiday as they don’t have any other employees, proving how difficult it can be for some to take a break.

While on holiday, one in 10 (8%) worry about the business back home and can’t switch off, and a third (35%) only feel ‘slightly refreshed’ when returning home as a result of them still having to work while away.

Unable to escape the daily grind

For many SME owners, being able to go on holiday doesn’t necessarily mean they get a ‘break’ from the daily grind. 61% of SME owners say they continue to check their emails from clients whilst away, and over half (51%) book jobs in so they can work as soon as they return home. One in 10 (11%) also say they are regularly contacted by employees when on annual leave, showing a holiday doesn’t always provide them with the opportunity to switch off from work as it should.

When away, one in five (20%) have had to cancel or move plans for a day or evening because of their business, while a further one in 10 (11%) have had to

cancel or move an entire holiday because of last minute work.

The ultimate impact

SMEs truly are the backbone of the UK economy, so today’s figures make for worrying reading. It’s a real concern that so many small business owners have gone so long without a holiday, and we all need to look at ways of redressing the balance.

“SME owners should look at their available resources and explore every opportunity to take a break. This will allow them to truly recharge their batteries and set them up to drive the next phase of their business’ growth.”

Many SME owners admit they are returning to work stressed and this is having an impact on their work.

One in 5 (21%) say they struggle to focus as a result of returning back to work stressed, and a further 22% admit it takes them longer than usual to complete jobs. One in five (19%) state they don’t complete their best work, and a further one in 10 (9%) even cancel or postpone jobs, or take further time off until they’re de-stressed.

The findings also suggest that SME owners’ inability to switch off is even impacting their family life. 29% of SME owners say their friends and family have voiced their frustration at their inability to switch off from work, with over a quarter (28%) admitting their family feel they put work first. One in five (19%) say their dedication to work has caused family arguments on holiday.

Win a holiday on Simply Business

To combat these problems Simply Business is offering one lucky small business owner the chance to win £1,000 of holiday vouchers to take themselves on holiday to destress and avoid burning out this summer. To enter, visit:

Competition entries close at midnight on 31st August 2019.

Bea Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business commented: “UK productivity has consistently dropped for three consecutive quarters, most recently dropping 0.2% in Q1 2019 compared to the year before. This sustained phase of declining productivity represents a continuation of the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’, with productivity since the economic downturn in 2008 growing slower than during the long period prior.

“SMEs make up for 99% of all UK businesses and contribute a combined £2 trillion to our economy, which makes the findings of our recent research even more concerning. While a number of factors contribute to the ‘productivity puzzle’ we find ourselves in, this inability to switch off is having a huge consequence. If self-employed people reach burnout, it has the potential to have a real impact on the wider UK economy. Ultimately, their mental and physical health is on the line and productivity isn’t going to shoot back up when we have a nation of employers feeling burnt out.

“Taking a break from time to time to recharge the batteries is vital, and can be the catalyst for future growth. But, as our survey results show, this isn’t always easy for small business owners – with finances often a major blocker. That’s why we wanted to offer one lucky self-employed person the chance to win a holiday on us – to relax and avoid burning out this summer.”

Guidance/advice to small business owners who fear they may be at risk of ‘burning out’

Bea Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business added:”There are a number of simple steps small business owners can take to prevent burning out. Firstly, assess what resource is available and take time out whenever possible. Even a day here and there can make a big difference when it comes to recharging your batteries. If you’re a micro-business owner with 0-5 employees, try to ensure someone is on hand to help out with the business while you’re away – even if it’s just managing your emails. It can be tempting to check your inbox or book jobs in for when you return, but when you’re away, try to have at least one day where you completely disconnect from your business back at home.

“Our research show that finances are often a major blocker to taking time off. So when budgeting for the year, ensure you plan for time away, and slowly work towards saving up for a holiday. Setting a small amount aside each month can build up quickly, and help to cover any time spent not working. We know that monetary issues is one of the main problems that SME owners face, which is why we wanted to offer one lucky self-employed person the chance to win a holiday on us – to relax and avoid burning out this summer.”

Author: Yash Hirani

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