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Need a holiday? Relax, take the work with you

More than half of Australians check work while away, writes Christopher Niesche.

More than half of Australians check work while away, writes Christopher Niesche.

Every Easter Katrina McCarter and her family go camping at Ningaloo Reef, 15 hours' drive north of Perth. After her husband and three children have gone to bed, McCarter pulls out her laptop, attaches her internet dongle and does a couple of "really intense" hours of work on, her family deals website.

"I'd be putting in at least two hours in every day," says Ms McCarter. "The business keeps going and I need to have three deals ready every week. None of my clients are any the wiser that I'm 15 hours north on a family holiday."

It's a scene familiar to most small-business owners, who spend their holidays making sure they have phone reception or hunting down a wi-fi connection so they can monitor what's happening at home.

An increasing number of Australians are taking work with them on holidays, according to a survey this month from Jive Software. The survey showed 51 per cent of workers do some form of work while on holiday. For small-business owners, who often don't have anyone else to fall back on, the figure is likely to be much higher.

Ms McCarter says she doesn't mind working on holidays because it's still a break. "I feel refreshed because I've had the day doing stuff with the kids and I've had a bit of relaxation time around dinner.

Warwick Marx, who owns the six-person engineering software reseller Compumod, says checking into the office helps him enjoy his holiday more. "The best way to be able to relax is to make sure everything's going all right," he says.

"I'd be wondering what was going on if I wasn't in touch. So I think it's easier to look at your emails and say 'nothing's happening', and go on for the day."

Mr Marx says rather than get away for two or three days and switch off the phone and email, he prefers to stay in touch with the office and go away for longer.

On a family trip to Europe a couple of years ago, he rose at 7am each day and attended to emails and accounts before going out with his children for the rest of the day. Once or twice a week he held meetings with his sales team via Skype.

Rosemarie Dentesano, principal consultant at Right Management, a talent and career management practice within recruitment firm ManpowerGroup, says it's crucial to re-energise and recharge during a break. "Quite often people come back from holidays quite re-energised but also really clear about what they want to achieve over the next three to six months," she says. "It's that ability to stop and reflect."

She outlines a couple of strategies that could help small business owners switch off on holidays. First, try to clear your desk by identifying and dealing with all the crucial things that you would otherwise worry about while on holiday, even if it means working longer hours before you go away.

"If you've got a brief to do that you aren't able to complete, you'll find yourself continually thinking about it as the plane's taking off to Hawaii," she says.

Second, ask somebody to manage and take responsibility for whatever is left on your desk.

Nerida Gill is a rare small-business owner, one who can leave the business in someone else's hands and turn off the phone and email when she is on holiday.

The owner of Admin Bandit, which sells accounting software to volunteer treasurers, Gill went to Europe and the US for a month a couple of years ago and left her one-woman business in the care of someone she'd previously employed as a contractor, who had to contact her only once with a problem.

"I came back like a new person. It was an amazing experience to switch off for that time," she says.

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