People & Human Resources

A quarter of Aussie small business owners will work on Christmas Day: Three tips to put your feet up

Kirsten Robb /

There will be little Christmas cheer for thousands of small businesses in Australia next week, with research showing a quarter of small business owners plan to work through Christmas Day this year.

Three quarters will be working between Christmas and New Year, with half of those averaging five hours per day, according to a survey released this week by freelancing service provider Elance-oDesk.

The research comes amid concerns sustained stress affects the mental health of small business owners.

The survey of 210 business owners, most with less than 20 employees, also found half of respondents feel guilty about working over the holiday period, with 17% revealing it was a significant issue when it comes to the impact on personal and family relationships.

Small business operators also said they generally step-up to cover employees who take a holiday for Christmas, with 70% of bosses surveyed saying they work longer hours to compensate for employees who are away.

Only 17% of business owners said they can effectively switch off from work during holidays.

Small business owner Toby Jenkins, co-founder of Bluewire Media, agrees it is hard to relax over the Christmas period.

“It’s hard to leave the business and go to beach and not think about it, as much as I’d love to,” Jenkins says.

He says he has found some solace in sharing the burden with his business partner by scheduling different times to be on holiday over the break. He also recommends outsourcing some of your tasks for the period.

“We have definitely bulked up our assistance over this time. The things that chew up most of my time over the holidays are responding to emails and social media. With social media, the expectation you’re on call all the time is pretty high, so we’ve got [an external] social media manager and we’ve upped executive assistance as well,” says Jenkins.

Jenkins, who competed for Australia in water polo at the Athens Olympics, says he is a big believer in taking time out for recovery.

“I am a huge believer in taking time off,” he says. “It was drummed into me throughout my athletic career. The importance of recovery is crucial in any sort of performance environment. Without recovery you just break down.”

“You actually learn more when you have time to sit down and expand your horizons, rather than being stuck in a forest of business all the time,” Jenkins adds.

Meanwhile, Will Irving, group managing director of Telstra Business, has this week urged small business owners to take crucial time off over the Christmas break.

SmartCompany takes a look at three of Irving’s tips to switch off over the holidays and put your feet up

1. Put boundaries in place

Irving recommends committing to the time you believe you will spend on work over Christmas, letting your team know, and sticking within those boundaries.

“It’s all too easy to be consumed by work and allow it to eat into personal time,” says Irving.

“But it’s amazing what can be done when you only have a set window to achieve results.”

Having pre-determined business and family time, which is communicated clearly to both your team and your loved ones, can help alleviate some of the stress on relationships, Irving says.

2. Switch off technology

Irving says having technology-free time is important for any business owner looking to start the new year with a fresh perspective.

Turning off your smartphone or laptop and focusing on your family and friends for a day or two might be enough to help you press reset and tackle 2015 with fresh outlook, he says.

“Don’t let technology own you,” says Irving.

3. Consider mobile business apps and the cloud

Irving says mobile business apps and cloud computing technology can make doing business easier when out of the office, enabling you to operate ‘business as usual’ regardless of your location.

“Cloud computing technology has come a long way in recent years, which means it can now be a seamless process to accessing and editing documents remotely,” Irving says.

So, if you feel you have to check figures or do paperwork, why not do it poolside?

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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