13 August 2014

How to reduce your post-holiday workload

Are you self-employed think you can't go on holiday? Here's some suggestions on how to make a break possible and how to reduce your post-holiday workload.

There are many perks to take advantage of when you work for yourself – you set your own work hours and decide where you work and what you do. However, one of the downsides is that it’s harder to take a proper break or holiday from your business. After all, unlike employees, you don’t get paid for annual leave and while you’re on holiday you won’t be generating new customers (unless perhaps you run an online business).

A recent study from Glassdoor discovered that many staff don’t take all their annual leave because they don’t want to come back to a mountain of work. The figure for self-employed workers is probably much higher.

However, whatever your line of work, it’s important that you do take the occasional break, even if it’s just a long weekend. Studies have shown that having time off helps to avoid burnout, reduce your stress levels and improve your sleep patterns.

Here are some suggestions on how to make that holiday a reality and to reduce the amount of work you have to come back to.

Plan in advance

Unless you’re booking a holiday on the spur of the moment, make the most of planning in advance. If you have a team, identify tasks that they can do in your absence and make sure you hand these over adequately before you leave.

If you don’t have employees you can leave work with, consider hiring a virtual personal assistant to answer your calls and respond to emails while you’re away. You would need this for a period either side of your holiday, but this type of service ensures that your business has a professional presence while you’re on your break and that customers aren’t left waiting until you return. This may well be worth the money if it allows you return from holiday and get back into the swing of things without the stress of hundreds of enquiries to greet you.

If you’re working on projects or work with timelines, plan your leave into these schedules and allow an extra couple of days afterwards to give you time to catch up.

You can also identify the tasks that will be priority on your return and set up ways to deal with these more effectively. This might involve setting rules for your emails so that it’s easy to identify the most important emails you need to deal with, or simply creating a checklist to go through when you’re back at work.

Manage customer expectations

Let your regular clients know when you’re going to be on holiday and what sort of service (if any), they can expect during this time. This gives them time to plan their schedule around you rather than finding out when they get your out-of-office email or when they try to place an order. If your business is online, it may just be a case of notifying customers that delivery time will be longer or delayed until a certain date.

Alternatively, you could consider suggesting alternative contacts. If you have a good relationship with a competitor, you could come to an arrangement where you both refer customers to each other when you are on leave or cannot pick up the work.

Be realistic

When you return from your holiday, you won’t catch up with everything in one single day, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s often this expectation that makes you feel stressed and wondering if the holiday was worth it.

Work reduced hours while you’re away

If you decide you can’t stop working altogether, give yourself set periods to do your work. This may be a couple of hours each day – whatever the timespan make sure your family or whoever you are on holiday with knows the timeframe, so they can help you to stick to it. It may help to work at a regular point during the morning or evening.

To make working while on holiday as stress-free as possible, refer to your priority tasks and get through them first. Make sure you have somewhere where you can work undisturbed; with access to decent WiFi and that you sync your apps and online accounts before you go away and that all your vital documents are accessible e.g. saved on the cloud.  

Consider the best time for your holiday

If there is a traditional slow period for your business in the year, this may be a better time to go on holiday. Alternatively, you might benefit most from a break after a particularly busy period.

If you have employees, make sure there’s sufficient cover – you don’t want to go on leave at the same time as several other members of staff if you’re a small team.

Hold onto the memories

The direct effects of a holiday decline very quickly after you get back. So make sure you have something to remind you of your holiday and that helps to motivate you at work during the first few days back. It could be a picture of why you run your own business, an inspirational quote or maybe a picture from your holiday to remind you why it was worth taking the time away.