Chris Jones looks at the value of the annual holiday

“Been anywhere on holiday, sir?”

That familiar enquiry, usually made by the person cutting your hair who is probably not overly curious to hear your reply, isn’t always the spark that elicits a particularly interesting conversation, but it seems that the small talk is all the more likely to run dry when chatting to plumbers and heating engineers.

According to a recent survey, the amount of time that a typical installer takes off work is significantly less than the national average.

A sample of 300 professional tradespeople were asked about their work-life balance and the results suggest that they only take 18 days holiday a year, compared to other UK full-time workers who are entitled to a minimum of 28 days paid holiday.

When asked about the reasons they didn’t take more holiday, over 30% said that it was down to their busy work schedule.

Packing your bags for a week or two away is not necessarily going to be stress-free

Chris Jones PHAM News Chris Jones Editor of PHAM News

Health and wellbeing

Most people would agree that having a break from work and routine is good for our health and wellbeing, but it seems that many self-employed tradespeople and company owners feel unable to get away for any length of time.

A separate study of 500 micro-business managers has revealed that 44% of respondents believe it would be difficult to take a week or more’s worth of holiday at any one time.

As well as the fear of letting down existing business customers, there is the fear that potential opportunities may be missed and competitors could take advantage of any time spent relaxing by the pool. 

Even when contractors and installers are able to escape, there is still the pressure to respond to emails and keep tabs on ongoing projects.

A recent survey by Simply Business revealed that 61% of self-employed and small business owners check emails while on holiday and 51% said that they try to book jobs so they’ve got work to do when they get back.

Call that switching off?

In today’s ever-connected world, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of regularly dipping into online correspondence, giving up on the opportunity to fully unwind in favour of being seen to be on top of issues and – so the reasoning goes – avoid having to address potential problems on the return to working life.

It’s not uncommon now for some holidaymakers to sacrifice an extra hour in bed in favour of grabbing a coffee and tackling a bunch of enquiries from colleagues and customers before the rest of the family and friends join them for breakfast.

But is that really switching off?

Some would argue that a complete break from everyday work concerns is essential if we are to clear our minds and recharge our batteries.

A better work-life balance

However, the amount of time that is really needed to refresh and reboot will clearly vary from individual to individual, reflecting different personality types and pre-holiday stress levels.

Despite working longer hours, many self-employed would argue that they enjoy a better work-life balance than workers who are answerable to their employers.

Two weeks in the sun may sometimes be hard to justify, but the ability to down tools at short notice and work flexible hours would be the envy of many employees.

Equally, while some people might spend an anxious 14 days worrying about the work that will await them on their return from hols, others need only a few hours on the golf course to forget about their cares.

Rising blood pressure

For those who feel unable to take a holiday, there may be some comfort in recognising that packing your bags for a week or two away is not necessarily going to be stress-free.

Blood pressures have been known to rise during slow moving traffic, airport queues and cancelled flights, and the enticing prospect of a relaxing break with loved ones can quite quickly turn into a nightmare when the thought of returning to the daily grind might start to sound so much more appealing.

We all need to get away from work from time to time, but there’s no guarantee that you will return in a better state of mind!

Chris Jones is editor of PHAM News