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Holidays, are they important?

Like most business owners these days, I find one of the biggest challenges is actually taking time off for annual holidays.

I imagine it is not so hard for business owners who employ several staff with a reliable manager in charge, but for a small to medium enterprises like mine it can be an anxious decision organising any time off at all.

Things to consider include the timing of the break, and for how long. Will you be contactable or rely on a messaging service. Will you go off shore or stay local.

To some, the decision is easy. Some small shops will use the standard holidays like end of year and mid year breaks, and join the rabble like everyone else.


 Shane Drew has been involved in the sign industry since 1992.
 Before that he had a very successful career in sales, winning several Sales Awards before deciding on a career change in his early 30's.
 Shane has been writing freelance articles since 2002 and is a sign industry mentor for sign shops both in Australia and Europe, is a regular contributor to Europe's biggest sign industry forum, and is well known in local circles for his passion about the Australian Sign Industry.
 Shane is Managing Director of Drews Sign It Pty Ltd, a family business who are supporters of several major charities and not-for-profit organisations, donating over $30,000 in signage in 2008 alone.
 A recent highlight is his appointment as a Green Guardian for his support of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, on Queensland's Southern Gold Coast.
 He is an avid photographer of animals and landscapes, and also loves a chat, so be warned!

Others though, decide to take off in the quiet period that they may experience during the year. Each business is different.

The issue of holidays is one that we should consider in terms of our own client base. Having a good relationship with our clients  helps, giving plenty of notice is also good idea too.

Are holidays important though. Do we really need to take any? Why not just work 7 days a week, and worry about holidays when we eventually decide to retire?

A recent article at states ‘recent studies have revealed holidays are imperative for physical and mental well-being. Apart from being an important bonding time, holidays also diminish the risk of heart disease and other stress-related illnesses by up to 32% in some cases.

Holidays are really the only time during the busy year the family can spend quality time together, share exciting experiences and create new memories that will last a lifetime.’

I’m sure we all agree with that.

But when we do go away, do we take the laptop, blackberry/mobile phone with us everywhere “just in case”? If you are like me you probably do. It is usually accompanied with the wife and kids complaining that its not a real holiday because I’m always worried about getting a ‘signal‘. I can’t deny it was the case several years ago, not so much now though.

I was interested then to see the article go on to say ‘There is little point in going on holiday if one is constantly in touch with the office. This simply elevates stress levels to new heights purely because one is so far away from the action and can really do nothing about a problem should one arise.’

If I didn’t know better I’d say the article was written by my wife.

Further, ‘leading psychotherapists claim a holiday away is as important as sleep. Studies have shown that people who do not go on holiday have difficulty thinking clearly, acting decisively, absorbing information effectively and exhibit an inability to see a situation in its totality.

The physical impact is also worrying. People who fail to make full use of their vacation time have a lower resilience to disease and are often unable to ward off infection.

A study conducted in the USA in 1992 revealed women who took time out only every 6 years or so were eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who enjoyed a holiday at least twice a year….. In another study conducted in 2000, men who failed to take an annual vacation were found to have a 21% higher risk of death from all causes and were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack.’

And a report published by the Association of British Travel Agents found 66 per cent of people get an emotional high from a holiday, while 50 per cent think they are essential in order to help them escape from the woes of the credit crunch.

In addition, holidays were ranked as being three times more important than pay rises by British employees.

Interestingly, psychotherapist and life coach Christine Webber says "Having something to look forward to like a holiday often helps us focus more on current tasks." ’

I wish I had known this a few years ago. It was only recently that I have started taking a 2 week vacation. Up until then, I was constantly worried that being away from the office for 10 working days would leave my business vulnerable. The business is essentially me, and I found it very hard to let go.

By 2005 I was displaying a classic case of burn out; loss of motivation and increasing frustration in my day to day activity. My own Doctor was expressing real concerns as to the direction of my mental and physical health. The writing was, it seemed to everyone, on the wall.

Finally being convinced to take time off away from the business has been a revelation as I never valued the importance of recharging the batteries.

Its important to remember that the wide format print industry is one that is largely based on creative thinking and design, thinking outside the box, usually making the mundane appear new and exciting.

Clearly if we haven’t learned to switch off, or we don’t have new influences occasionally, we’ll end up running up and down on the one spot.

Taking a break is more than just a rest for the mind, escaping the everyday. Its often seeing things in a different light. It allows us to stop and smell the proverbial roses. It lets us stand back and see the bigger picture, to use a few clichés.

Sampling different environments, whether it be a close neighbour like New Zealand or a distant neighbour like England or America, gives us a greater sense of life, of colour, and of cultures.

From a sign makers point of view, seeing how our peers in another part of the world approach a design can be enlightening. For instance, a small country like New Zealand has had some absolutely brilliant examples of vehicle wraps, long before they were main stream here in Australia.

So, even though we need to leave the work at home, it is the nature of our industry to notice a good or bad example of the wide format printing industry. Being observant is also the nature of our industry. It comes with the territory I guess.

So, what about plans for this coming holiday?

For me, this year I’m taking a ‘real break’. For the most part I plan on camping inside my air conditioned lounge room, watching the TV and perhaps having friends over if they promise to only talk in the commercial breaks. The obligatory beers, peanuts and junk food will be accommodated there somewhere, and I might even go for a bike ride or two with the kids. I have to be careful though, because exercise is already starting to sound like hard work.

What about you? Tell me about your best holiday spots and we might be able to share experiences in a future article…..

Shane Drew

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