‘Worrying’ trend as SMEs shun breaks – risking burnout

The survey 'paints a worrying picture' as bosses struggle with work and personal commitments. Picture: contributed.
The survey 'paints a worrying picture' as bosses struggle with work and personal commitments. Picture: contributed.
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Owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are being urged to take a break – to avoid burnout and wider disruption to the UK economy – after a new survey has found bosses are going without a holiday for several years.

Simply Business, a provider of SME business insurance in the UK, has today revealed that time pressures and money concerns mean that 9 per cent of SME-owners – equivalent to more than half a million – haven’t had a holiday in as long as five years.

The firm said the survey of 500-plus such firms “paints a worrying picture of a nation struggling with the pressures of running a business alongside commitments outside of work”.

Simply Business said there are in excess of 5.7 million SMEs in the UK. “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.”

Money was the top worry, with nearly two-thirds of respondents admitting that potential loss of earnings was the main issue preventing them from taking time off work. About a third estimated that taking a holiday costs them at least £2,500 in lost earnings, while 8 per cent estimate that they’re losing out on £5,000 or more for every holiday they take.

The survey also found that more than half of respondents admit they are reluctant to go away as they worry about missing out on work, while one in ten fear that their employees won’t carry out work effectively while they’re away. Additionally, 21 per cent say they are unable to go on holiday as they don’t have other staff.

Bea Montoya, chief operating officer at Simply Business, said SMEs are “the backbone of Britain”, accounting for 99 per cent of all UK business, and contributing a combined £2 trillion in annual turnover.

She also said that even when SME-owners do take time off, “they’re still stressed, unable to relax, and often still working or booking jobs in for when they return” – with 11 per cent saying they are regularly contacted by employees when on holiday.

This inability to switch off “is having a huge consequence”, Montoya added.

As for suggestions, she said even a day here and there can “make a big difference when it comes to recharging your batteries”, and when budgeting for the year, “slowly work towards saving up for a holiday”.

She highlighted a backdrop of declining UK productivity, stating: “If self-employed people reach burnout, it has the potential to have a real impact on the wider UK economy. Ultimately, [SME bosses’] 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.”