For Small Businesses, Holidays Never Come Work-Free

Even as I enjoyed a great holiday vacation with my family, I checked my e-mail multiple times a day. Friends asked repeatedly why I couldn't just relax and let it go. And of course, it would have been nice to have a work-free, stress-free holiday vacation. But as a small-business owner, completely checking out isn't a realistic option for me.

So I took great comfort when one of the messages I received between Christmas and New Year's revealed new survey results from Staples, indicating that I'm hardly alone.

Turns out, half of U.S. small-business executives work during holidays, and more than one-third could not readily remember their last vacation. The majority of those who could recall their most recent "retreat" admit to working during some portion of the trip. And almost half said that work has encroached on their time with family. We're giving up once-sacred personal time to cope with 24/7 jobs.

The Staples telephone poll explored the balance between work and life for 300 leaders of companies with fewer than 20 employees, a group representing nearly 90 percent of all U.S. businesses, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

"This survey validates what Staples has long heard from its small-business customers: Time is an especially critical resource," John Giusti, vice president of marketing for Staples Small Business Delivery, told me. That's because "these leaders possess a larger stake in their company's success and often lack the support and infrastructure of bigger businesses."

For most of the executives surveyed, the standard work week does not apply. Nearly two-thirds work well beyond a 40-hour week, and more than one in five (21 percent) work a double week, logging an extra 40 or more on-the-job hours. I count myself among that group.

It's not healthy for us or our businesses if we don't create opportunities to relax and rejuvenate. Even though none of us can add hours to the day, all of us can learn to work hard and play hard if we're more mindful and selective of how we spend our time. That's a resolution all of us can proudly focus on in 2007.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor for "Good Morning America" and the CEO of WomenForHire.com.

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