The ‘workation’ generation? UK small business owners admit to spending their holidays switching between business and leisure

  • New research reveals that the overwhelming majority of small business owners can't switch off from their work while on holiday
  • Over 90% check work-related emails or do work-related admin when they are taking a break from their business
  • One in nine (11%) freelancers and small business owners will take only a week - or less - of holiday in 2018

The UK’s freelance and small business sector is packed with workaholics who are increasingly choosing to combine their holiday time with business admin, new research has found.

A new poll from cloud accounting company FreeAgent has revealed that over 90% of small business owners admit to checking work-related emails or doing work-related admin while they are on holiday - with nearly two thirds (61%) saying that they do so “regularly”.

In a survey of nearly 600 freelancers and small businesses about their experiences of self-employment, 38% of respondents said they work more than 48 hours in a typical week - while 7% said that they typically work 64 hours or more per week.

And the hard-working reputation of the UK’s small business sector was further cemented with the revelation that one in nine (11%) respondents will just take a week or less of holiday in 2018 - including 5% who do not expect to take any time off at all from their business this year.

However, FreeAgent believes that freelancers and small business owners are actually becoming increasingly adept at dealing with the challenges of self-employment. And it highlights the prevalence of ‘work-ations’ - where people spend some of their holiday time to keeping on top of their business admin - as a key reason for micro-business owners being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, said:

“It’s often tough for small business owners to take holidays and get some proper downtime, as many feel they’ll either be abandoning their work or that their business won’t be able to cope if they take a break. But by not taking time off, they also risk their health as they’re not able to properly recharge their batteries.

“The positive news, however, is that we seem to be seeing a shift in how small business owners view their holiday time. The greater availability of reliable wifi and 4G networks mean that it’s easier than ever to manage business tasks on the go - even when you’re overseas - and this is leading to more people taking ‘work-ations’ where combine their holiday with work-related tasks that they can do in the hotel, at a cafe or even on the beach.

“That’s a really positive development for small business owners. Rather than risking burn-out by staying tethered to their home office or business premises, they’re able to take a holiday and relax but also keep an eye on their business, manage important admin and respond to any emergencies.”

Research results

How much holiday time off do you expect to take from your business during 2018?

3-4 weeks (34%)
1-2 weeks (28%)
5-6 weeks (17%)
More than 6 weeks (10%)
Less than a week (6%)
I don’t plan to take any holidays from my business this year (5%)

Yes, regularly (61%)
Yes, sometimes (31%)
No (7%)
I don’t take any time off from my work (1%)

How many hours do you personally work in your business during a typical week?

32-48 hours (44%)
48-64 hours (31%)
16-32 hours (13%)
More than 64 hours (7%)
0-16 hours (5%)

Figures, unless otherwise stated, are from FreeAgent. Total sample size for this question was 594 owners of UK small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The survey was carried out online between April 6th - May 24th 2018.

About FreeAgent

Born out of the frustration that doing the books is just too damn hard for most of us, our award-winning accounting software is loved by over 150,000 small businesses and their accountants and bookkeepers.

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