Why taking a break matters...
With all the focus on mental health in the workplace, Dean Kennett shares his perspective on taking breaks, and how it’s great for the mind, the body and the business!
Around 5 years ago I met up with my doctor. I had a health check that was needed for the 'key man insurance' for the business. I was worried over silly things when I went in, and after a full hour of top to toe peering in, pinching, weighing and a number of questions, he gave me a green light. Relief.
What he said as I was leaving didn’t register well until some months later. The doctor said “you’re in good shape, need to lose some weight but gathering by your life style of working ridiculous hours and commuting, I suggest next year you take a full month off work”
A month? A million thoughts ran through my head – you’ve got to be joking – I’m running a busy company and they need me, everything will stop, nothing will happen and everything I’ve worked for will be easily snatched by my competitors.
Six months later – after suffering fatigue & anxiety – I decided it was time to take that time off – more because I felt my mind and body needed it. But just to be able to justify it to myself, I started looking up stats. I came to realize, that we in Britain work the longest hours in all of Europe – a study by Eurostat in late 2017 found that the average UK full time worker spends 42 hours 18 mins at work. So, it was time to take the doctor’s advice seriously.
I didn’t exactly take a month off, but added one week of reduced workload to my two-week holiday at each end and made sure I did only 40% of what I’d normally do. I cut out the 4-hour commute and instead spent time in the garden, beach hut & with my daughter/family.A two-week holiday is great but with a business to care for, there were about 3-4 days in that slot where I could truly unwind. Adding a buffer at each end, meant I could wind down slowly, clients could still contact me and importantly the business could still hear me, but didn’t have to see me.
Since then I’ve added 2 weeks each side of that break and this year as a family (in case some of you don’t know, Sam, my wife, is the HR & Finance Director at JH) we took 3 weeks away from the business. I don’t feel at all embarrassed in admitting - it was exactly what we needed as a family.
Anyone that runs their own business with family or partner will tell you this - it never ever goes away. But letting the business back into personal lives is harmful - before you know it you’ll be debating things over a garden BBQ – not cool at all!
Stepping back into work this year after our break was great – I was excited to hear of all the great things the teams did while I was away, everyone was pleased to see me and best of all, no dramas awaited - things were pretty good. Even my neighbor remarked yesterday that my lawn looked healthier, greener and fresher since I’d been away. The irony!
That really made me summarize this advice to any fellow entrepreneurs:
- The team I have that lets me do this. Successful delegation is real and it’s an important tool for any manager. To be able to run a successful operation and not lose sleep over it, you need to employ skilled people you trust and the have the right processes in place.
- Take that time off - it gives you the time to see the business objectively, plan for the future – all while your judgement is not clouded by daily issues. It gives you that all important perspective.
- Spend time with your family – honestly and free of devices. Your kids may just give you innocent insights on matters, which you may never have expected. And they grow up too soon!
I studied art for a while, and was always taught never to finish a picture completely without taking time away from the canvas. When you come back in to see your work, you will suddenly see things you hadn’t before, the good strokes you made may need no more attention. And just some touching up or a few extra stokes may just enhance or complete your picture.
Next year I want to channel some of my ‘away’ weeks into a meaningful and charitable sort of project. I haven’t decided where or what just yet, but I have a hunch that being involved with something out of my comfort zone, away from all the problems of the modern world and hopefully being of benefit to someone needier than I, will pay dividends to my own self-worth & mental wellbeing.
Take a break, then take another one. It is worth it!
Do you have a perspective to share? Tweet to us on @JustHospitality