A fifth of small business owners can’t afford to take a single day off work this summer, and traditional summer breaks won’t be happening for 750,000 people.
Research from Simply Business, supported by mental health charity Mind, looked into the plans of small business owners. It found that despite a statutory right to 20 days holiday each year, many self-employed workers don’t get anywhere near that number.
Around one million people running micro firms compromise family and social life due to work pressures, according to the survey, while 750,000 miss out on the traditional summer breaks with their children. Some 72 per cent of those surveyed said they were parents.
A further 30 per cent will have a summer holiday if they stay at home or within the UK to keep an eye on their business. Elsewhere, almost half of those surveyed said they cancelled plans with friends and family at least once a week due to work, with half a million not making any social plans at all.
Despite these figures, two-thirds of small business owners felt happy with their work-life balance, partly due to flexible working. Almost half of micro businesses benefitted from adjusting their own hours to fit around family life in a way that was convenient for them.
Jason Stockwood, CEO of Simply Business, said: “Setting up and running your own business demands a huge commitment that many employees would never want to undertake. It requires more than your expert skill and knowledge in your field and unending perseverance to get your business off the ground.”
He pointed to the numerous roles those at the helm of a micro business need to take on – “they have to play every important role from finance director to chief marketing officer”. “The time and effort needed to survive can be punishing so it is all the more important for small business owners to ensure they balance their work with a social life to prevent getting run down and ultimately putting their business in jeopardy,” he said.
The improvement of technology has meant firm owners are more accessible than ever and can work at any time during the day, should they choose to do so. The study said this meant the three quarters who are parents can work unconventional hours to juggle commitments like the school run or being home to tuck their children into bed. The majority of those surveyed agreed that technology had been an assistance rather than a hindrance in terms of the work–life balance here.
The head of workplace wellbeing at Mind though, warned that not enough small business owners were taking enough time outside of work. Emma Mamo said they were regularly “sacrificing holidays and social activities with family and friends”.
She added that regular time off was “key to staying mentally healthy”. While those focusing on getting their firms up and running will want to ensure it is a success and putting in extra hours from time to time, “but consistently working long hours and managing an excessive workload can take their toll on our physical and mental health, with the potential to negatively affect business performance”.
Staff who look after their mental wellbeing are more productive, have higher morale and are less likely to need time off sick. Mamo feels it’s in the interests of “all small business owners and employers more generally, to ensure they give as much priority to their personal life as they do their jobs”.
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