Entrepreneurs are known for working long hours, so it's no wonder they have a hard time stepping away from their business long enough to take, much less enjoy, a summer vacation. This is especially true in America, which has developed a reputation as the "No Vacation Nation," as nearly 60 percent of people admit to feeling vacation-deprived.
What many people don't realize is the work that keeps them from escaping the office is the very reason they need -- and deserve -- a vacation in the first place. Numerous studies have found that time off not only improves a person's mental and physical health, but also fosters creativity and productivity in the workplace. The more time a person spends away from the office, the more noticeable these effects become, according to an internal Ernst & Young study, which found that for every additional 10 hours of vacation, employees' year-end performance ratings improved by 8 percent.
While going out of town may be more difficult if you're running your own company, it's certainly not impossible. Here are some simple steps you can take to get away and avoid experiencing entrepreneurial burnout:
1. Travel when business isn't busy: If summer is your busiest season, consider a fall, winter or spring getaway. Traveling during off-peak months will not only reduce your stress, but also allow you to avoid the crowds and, if you're lucky, snag some better travel deals. If a week seems too long, start out by treating yourself to a long weekend and working your way up from there.
2. Create a plan: Before scheduling a trip, talk to your employees and figure out when they will be taking vacations of their own to prevent any overlap. You'll also want to check in with clients and make sure they don't have any major events taking place while you're away. After selecting your dates, identify tasks that need to be completed during that time and delegate accordingly.
3. Spread the word: Give your clients as much notice as possible -- no less than a month in advance -- and, if possible, provide an alternate contact who can handle any immediate needs. You'll also want to set up out-of-office messages on your phone and email accounts to let people know you'll be unavailable.
4. Use your resources: If you don't have employees who can look after your business, consider working with a shared office or office services provider whose staff can answer calls and receive packages while you're away. Having a live receptionist field your calls will make your absence less noticeable to customers. The receptionist will also have your emergency contact information if something urgent comes up.
5. Follow through: One in 10 Americans say they can never relax while on vacation. This is understandably hard to do if your phone is constantly reminding you of missed calls and emails. If you say you're going to be unavailable, make yourself unavailable by leaving your phone in your hotel room or turning it off when you aren't using it. If necessary, set aside time in the morning or evening to check messages, which will also save you from coming back to a full inbox. Be warned, however: Not all vacation destinations have phone and internet service, so make sure clients and employees are prepared for you to go off the map.
Whether your vacation involves sitting on a beach, going on that long-planned ski trip, or simply hitting the road with family or friends, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should enjoy yourself. Think of your time off as an investment in the long-term success of your business that will allow you come back refreshed, reenergized and armed with new solutions to old problems.
- - -
Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago's largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. For more information, visit www.amataoffices.com, or connect with Amata on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.